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Queen Mary Harp (Clarsach)

My clarsach is very similar to this medieval ‘Queen Mary harp’, but with less carving!

Well, before my lovely clarsach arrived, I purchased DVDs and instruction books, learned specifically about wire-strung technique on YouTube and when she got here, set to work doing it all ‘right’.

That was fair enough while she was still drying.  With all the time it took to thoroughly tune her twice a day, I did very little beyond some finger exercises and figuring out a pretty accompaniment to  the melody of “We Three Kings”.

Since Christmas holidays, she got less attention than she should have.  I didn’t keep up the tuning as I brought her up to the regular hz.  But when I again approached her, somewhat abashed, she welcomed me.

I tend to approach things very intellectually.  Books are my friends, and I automatically turn to them for assistance.  But my lovely clarsach is wooing me to go about it a different way for once.  After tuning, I practice rolled and broken chords with both hands.  I long since gave up on thirds – they hold little appeal to me.  I note which fourths and fifths particularly delight my ear.  Then I pick out a little melody to go with a chord I like, or sometimes a single ‘drone’ note in the left hand.  I missed out on capturing these little themes the first times I came upon them, but tonight I recorded (just letter names, not on staff) the pretty composition that came to me, about four bars worth that repeat nicely.

I get the feeling that one day I will look back on these little compositions the way one looks back on love letters from long ago.


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