For the Sheer Joy of
A Harp Journey
In 1983 Alison and Stephen Vardy
were "tramping" (NZ hiking word) on a volcanic
peak on the North Island of New Zealand where we met
this bearded character with his backpack stuffed with
musical instruments. Soon enough, this very accommodating
Rigby, hosted us for a number weeks at his home
in Melbourne, Australia later that year.
It turned out that Andy
was a "muso" of the first order who played
almost any stringed, wind or percussion instrument very,
very well. An instrumentalist of major proportions.
His latest acquisition was a Celtic harp and Alison
was smitten just as he was with this instrument as she
continuously experimented with this harp in his front
room. So began her passion for solo Celtic harp music.
After emigrating to NZ
in 1984 Alison acquired her first harp on Andy's recommendation,
a 30 string Celtic made by Kim Webby (see image below
on left). This was Alison's only instrument for eight
years pending Andy's next visit.
Webby Celtic - Alison's Paraguayan
Came the Paraguayan Harp
In 1992 Alison first
saw and played a Paraguayan harp for the first time
which by then Australian professional harper and harp
luthier Andy Rigby performed on during his then NZ tour.
Andy also played with Australia's foremost harp trio,
"Moving Harps". Andy made all the instruments
for the trio. Later that year, Alison built her first performance instrument under
Andy Rigby's tutelage at his workshop in Victoria, Australia.
It is a 36 string Paraguayan style harp with a tone
that is rich and warm, well suited to Alison's sensitive
arrangements and expressive playing. (see image above
on right) The Paraguayan is featured on all three of Alison's
Sandpiper Nova Celtic Harp
One of Alison's more recent
harps is a 36 string Nova Celtic lever harp from John
Westling of Sandpiper Harps in Oregon which is the most exciting harp
yet! Having literally test played hundreds of lever
harps in NZ, Australia, Canada and the US - this is
it! A gorgeous performance lever harp with rich deep
notes and a bright sparkle that plays with effortless
ease. It literally has a bass sound to die for! The
Nova is the large harp in the image below on the left
and is featured on Alison's CDs Island
Suite and Apasionada.
Sandpiper Nova Celtic - Bresch
Celtic - Webby Celtic
- Alison's Paraguayan -
Walter Bresch Celtic/Lever Harp
Alison also plays
on a number of other harps including a black 33 string
Celtic lever harp in the middle, above made by Walter
Bresch of British Columbia which has great volume and
tone throughout. The clarity of its "voice"
makes this a great recording instrument. It is featured
in Alison's CD Apasionada.
Alison also still has the 30
string gut strung Celtic blade harp crafted by Kim
Webby of Whangarei, NZ. (see above image on the right)
This harp has a more traditional soft Celtic sound.
This harp along with Alison's Paraguayan harp are
featured on the CD Harping
On. Kim now makes extraordinarily beautiful, professional
concert pedal harps which he sells worldwide.
Alison With her Nova
Alison has recently
purchased a Paraguayan harp shipped from Asunción, Paraguay.
To be continued.....
It is inevitable where anybody can hear the live harp - some are touched more deeply than others. After hearing Alison's proficiency on the harp others often wish to emulate. So Alison became a teacher of the harp - no ordinary one mind you but rather a teacher that taught independence on the harp along with a good base of skills and technique. Eventually her students become proficient and self-directed with Alison being their occasional mentor. This is a very enjoyable path into musicianship.
Alison currently provides harp lessons and either teaches or hosts harp workshops from Victoria British Columbia.
Alison has also started a new enterprise
with West Coast Harps Online sales. Harps are now available to Canadians
from coast to coast to coast.
If you live in the Victoria BC
area Alison has several rental harps available for
those considering playing the harp. Renting is an
excellent way to find out if harping is for you. You
can learn the "feel" and sound of a harp
so you are informed when you purchase your own. A consultation lesson may start you on your own path of harplust.
Lessons & Rentals
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