Frequently Asked Questions about Hiring a Harpist
What type of music can be played on the harp?Almost any type of music can be played on the harp, but not every song or piece of each type is possible. For example, music like "True Love" by Cole Porter is easily playable on a piano, but difficult on a harp because of the number of accidentals (places where a harpist must change the pitch of the strings from natural to sharp or flat). Even with the harpist's feet making the changes on the pedals, only so many changes are physically possible within a specific span of time.
Classical, baroque, renaissance, medieval, folk, rock, jazz, show tunes, music from movies, and new age music can be played on the harp. However, if you have a specific song in mind you would like played, it is best to check with the harpist first to make sure that song is playable on the harp. And if you would like a specific type of music, check to make sure the harpist you are hiring has that type of music in his or her repertoire. Please see the Wedding Repertoire List for types of music Alice Freeman usually plays.
Does a harp require amplification?
The short answer is no, the harp does not need amplification. The pedal harp is intended to produce a large sound capable of being heard with an orchestra in a concert hall. The sound of the harp carries well even from one room into the next and people have commented that it is nice to have an instrument which can be heard, carries well throughout the space, but is not overpoweringly loud.
Some events, however, may be held in spaces and in circumstances which are not friendly to the harp. For example, very large rooms with heavy carpets and drapes, or events with a guest list of several hundred people all conversing (or often a combination of both). Another common problem situation is an outdoor wedding in which the wind is carrying the sound away from the guests.
If you are looking into hiring a harpist, but worrying about whether the sound of the harp by itself will be enough, ask the harpist if they have their own amplification system and whether or not they need to be situated near an outlet to plug it in. In addition, you might ask your venue if they have a house system that can be used to amplify a harp and they are familiar with amplifying acoustic instruments.
Alice Freeman has her own battery-powered amplifier, pickup and preamp for use in appropriate situations. Nearby access to electric power is never needed.
Will a harpist be willing to play for my event if it is not indoors?
That depends on the harpist. Playing outside is hard on both the harp and the harpist, and some harpists choose to not accept outdoor gigs. Other harpists will add an extra fee for playing outdoors and/or specify conditions under which it can be done.
For example, Alice Freeman charges an extra fee for remote locations, asks for a flat, level place on which to play (which must be out of the direct sunlight), requires temperatures no less than 60-degrees Fahrenheit, winds no more than 20 mph, and will not play in any kind of precipitation. Depending on the music selected, she may recommend using the Celtic harp instead of her pedal harp.
How does a harpist move their harp to an event?
Harpists frequently use a large harp case or trunk to truck or ship their harps to distant locations. Locally, the harpist moves the harp him/herself by putting a soft padded cover on the harp and strapping it to a specially designed furniture dolly. Then the harp can be easily wheeled to the event location. Gigs out in a field or up in the mountains provide more challenges for the harpist, including some locations which are simply inaccessible for a large harp.
Harp-moving vehicles include station wagons and minivans. Alice Freeman has a small pickup truck and slides the harp in the back on a foam pad.
Do I need to provide the harpist with anything, such as a chair or music stand?
Most harpists will bring everything they need. That includes the harp, harp stool, music stand, stand light, music books, amplifier, microphone or pickup for the amplifier, and preamp (plus extra strings, repair tools, water, etc.). The harp stool or chair usually has to be a specific height. Providing a music stand is sometimes welcome, since it means one less thing for the harpist to unload.
The things on the above list that a harpist might be less likely to have would be the amplification equipment. See the discussion above concerning amplifying the sound of the harp.
Alice Freeman does not bring a light for her music stand to every gig. If the lighting will be low or dark, please mention it to the harpist so he/she can bring a stand light or ask you to arrange for a lamp to be nearby. Otherwise, she brings everything else she will need.
This FAQ has been adapted from information provided by Kari Gardner, harpist in the greater Chicago, Illinois area. Please visit her Web site at http://blackandgoldharp.com/index.html.