Buying the Daphne

You know, when I first saw that little Daphne at the VA Harp Center website, I noticed it because of its relatively low cost, but it wasn’t until later that I realized that this was pretty much my one and only chance to own a pedal harp. It cost $6,950 total — structurally sound but well-used, with a dinged finish and only 40 strings.

It wasn’t until maybe a few weeks after I spotted it that I realized that I would never again find a pedal harp for under $7,000 and that I either bought this one, or I’d lose what was probably my only chance to own a pedal harp. I distinctly remember coming to that realization while I was lying in bed: “This is it: now or never. You get this one, or you don’t get one at all.” In that moment, I decided to buy it.

But even though it was a (relative) bargain, that is still a frightening amount of money to spend on any one object. And I’m semi-relieved and quite pleased that I’ve really taken to it and enjoy spending time with it. (There really is a lot of pleasure to be found in being right up against the sound.) It’s the most I’ve ever spent on a musical instrument, but it’s (nearly) the most certain I’ve been that buying it was a good idea.


Okay, so there we have it.

My Salvi Daphne 40

So there we go, then. And this is a very different instrument. There must be a point where a harpist switches to a pedal harp, even a small one, and suddenly realizes that they can’t actually play “the harp,” they can play their harp — and only their harp. I think it’s a bit like taking a foreign language class, doing well, and thinking that you can speak it when really, all you can do is understand your teacher.

The harp in my music room

I’m at that point. This is a radically different beast. It certainly sounds beautiful, and much richer, but the pedals change everything. Even the hand position has to change, because the location of the action below the neck takes out a lot of string “real estate,” and suddenly I’m much more constrained in how I can approach the strings. Even the feel of gut under my fingers is different, although this only has an octave and a half of gut on it (which pleases me since gut is unstable in pitch).

But I’m thrilled with it. 🙂 I can’t wait to get to the point where I can at least play a titch of something. For now though, it’s mostly Friou exercises with the slightest hint of “Vaga luna,” which only has one pedal change in it.

BTW, you have no idea how fun the Friou exercises are in freygische. 🙂

All righty, then.

Just put down a deposit on a little Salvi Daphne 40 at the VA Harp Center and will go to try the thing out on April 1st. I should have my head examined, but it’s a nice little harp, and slightly dinged on the finish, which has dropped it to just under $7,000 — and I don’t think I’ll ever find a pedal harp that inexpensive ever again. Besides, I don’t give a damn about the finish. If it gets me a good little pedal harp that doesn’t weigh as much as a corpse for just less than $7k, you can ding it to within an inch of its life as long as it still sounds good, has good action, and is structurally sound.

I hope it sounds good and feels good under my hands. I’d love to be able to really get to work on things like the B theme from “Dove sei,” Schubert’s “Breit Uber Mein Haupt,” and Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” and other opera stuff like “Una furtiva lagrima” … and maybe even some piano things like Joplin’s “Bink’s Waltz,” which I think would sound fantastic on a harp, Grieg’s Elegaic Melodies, and even Ginastera’s second Argentine Dance, which would need some narrowing down since I will only have 40 strings (and which might not even be doable).

But it will be nice, provided the thing is in good shape and feels good, to be able to play what I want without constantly bumping into the limitations of a lever harp.

I want to hold onto my Ravenna, but I’m also thinking about how I might be able to consign it to them as well, although I hate to think in those terms. It feels disloyal. But if I’m going to be on the pedal mostly and will neglect the lever, then it would make more sense to consign the Ravenna so it will be used. If the little Daphne works for me and I end up getting it, I guess I’ll have to see how it goes with the Ravenna and whether I end up neglecting it.