This blog will chronicle my own experiences of learning the harp and learning about the harp and folk music traditions of my Italian forebears. My last name and one quarter of my family hails from a town in Basilicata, Italy called Marsicovetere that is known for its folk harp traditions. (The other three-quarters of my family is from Abruzzo, which also has its own unique strong folk music traditions.) My grandfather played harp as did his father, and last names from that area of Italy continue to be found among harpists.
If you, like me, have roots that reach back to the small towns of Basilicata and the Apennine Mountains that cradle them, you may well recall hearing that one or more of your grandfathers or great-grandfathers played the harp. It may have struck you as strange due to any of a number of common myths, and you may have had trouble understanding how a harp — an instrument exclusively of the wealthy, of women, or of the Irish — could have had anything to do with your Italian family and its peasant heritage.
In truth, the harp — like the lira calabrese (fiddle), the tamburello (frame drum), the ciaramella (shawm), the organetto (accordion), and the zampogna (Italian bagpipes) — has been a folk instrument in Italy for many generations and was and is played by men and women alike, many of whom became classical harpists in North America after the Great Migration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I hope to include some information about these instruments as well, although most of the focus will be on the arpa popolare and my own harp adventures.
I invite you to join me in my own learning process and exploration of my harping heritage.
My Musical History
I began piano when I was young, and studied it classically for eight years before departing for college to get my degrees, which are not in music. I still play and compose but have diverted some of my attention to the harp, perhaps as a means of moving beyond self-achievement and making it about something of value larger than myself. Currently, I am writing and arranging short learning pieces for myself as learning/technique tools.