|Other names||Welsh triple harp, telyn deires|
|Nansi Richards, Ar Log, Llio Rhydderch, Robin Huw Bowen|
The triple harp is a type of multi-course harp employing three parallel rows of strings instead of the more common single row. One common version is the Welsh triple harp (Welsh: telyn deires), used today mainly among players of traditional Welsh folk music.
The triple harp originated in 16th-century Italy. To enable chromatic playing required by late-Renaissance music, a second row of strings containing the pentatonic scale (the accidentals) was added in parallel to the first row, which contained the diatonic scale. These harps were called arpa doppia or double harp and allowed for fully chromatic playing for the first time in the history of the harp. Later, a second diatonic row of strings was added on the other side of the pentatonic row of strings, creating the arpa tripla or triple harp. Double and triple harps continued to be the norm throughout the Baroque era in Italy, Spain, and France and were employed both as solo and continuo instruments.
The most famous surviving example of an Italian triple harp is the Barberini harp. The instrument was built between 1605 and 1620 for the Barberini family and was played by Marco Marazzoli.It features prominently in Giovanni Lanfranco's painting Venus plays the harp .
The triple harp appeared in the British Isles early in the 17th century. In 1629, the French harpist Jean le Flelle was appointed "musician for the harp" at the court of King Charles I. Flelle played the Italian triple harp with gut strings.
The triple harp was quickly adopted by the Welsh harpers living in London during the 17th century. It was so popular that by the beginning of the 18th century the triple harp became generally known as the "Welsh harp". Charles Evans was the first mentioned Welsh triple harpist. He was appointed harper to the court in 1660, where his official title was ‘His Majesty's harper for the Italian harp’. As late as the 1680s, Talbot was describing the triple harp as the English harp, and the Welsh harp he describes appears to be a large, diatonic gothic-style harp, with bray pins.
A description of the Welsh triple harp is given by the harpist John Parry (Bardd Alaw) (1776–1851) in the preface to the second volume of his collection, The Welsh Harper (London 1839):
The compass of the triple harp is about five octaves, or thirty-seven strings in the principal row, which is on the side played by the right hand, called the bass row. The middle row, which produces the flats and sharps, consists of thirty-four strings; and the treble, or left hand row, numbers twenty-seven strings. The outside rows are tuned in unison, and always in the diatonic scale, that is, in the regular and natural scale of tones and semitones, as a peal of eight bells is tuned.
When it is necessary to change the key, for instance, from C to G, all the F's in the outside rows are made sharp by raising them half a tone. Again, to change from C to F, every B in the outside rows is made flat, by lowering them by a semitone. When an accidental sharp or flat is required, the performer inserts a finger between two of the outer strings, and finds it in the middle row. Many experiments have been made, with a view of obviating the necessity of tuning the instrument every time a change in the key occurred. Brass rings were fixed near the comb, but those rattled and jarred. Every attempt failed until the invention of the pedal harp.
The skill of harp making in Wales had all but been lost for some 60 years until John Weston Thomas (MBE), a talented wood and metal worker, revived the craft, making Celtic, chromatic and triple harps until his death in 1992. A memorial prize, "Tlws Coffa John Weston Thomas" was subsequently instigated at the National Eisteddfod, to encourage competition in the traditional folk style. He passed on his skills to three apprentices: Allan Shiers, Brian Blackmore and Alun Thomas, his son.
Alun still makes triple and Celtic harps in his workshop in Fishguard.Brian Blackmore no longer makes triple harps, but Allan Shiers has continued the tradition in Wales and founded Teifi Harps in Llandysul, Ceredigion.
Among the most important and characteristic playing techniques for the Welsh triple harp is that of unisons or "Split doubling". The effect of unisons is obtained by playing the same note on both the outside rows using the right and left hands in rapid succession. Thus a progression of e.g., C-D-F-E, is achieved by playing CC-DD-FF-EE.
From medieval times Welsh harpists played with the harp placed on the left shoulder, contrary to continental practice.
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After the early 20th century, triple harps were almost completely abandoned in Wales in favour of the modern pedal harp. Preservation of the instrument and the playing style has been attributed to Nansi Richards (1888–1979), who learnt to play from Gypsy harpists in the Bala area at the turn of the century.
Subsequently, Nansi Richards was the harp teacher of the brothers Dafydd and Gwyndaf Roberts. The brothers went on to become founder members of Wales' most prominent folk group, Ar Log. While both brothers are proficient triple harpists, it became customary in the Ar Log line-up for Dafydd to play triple harp (and flute), with Gwyndaf playing the knee harp and clarsach (and bass guitar).
Today's leading exponent of the triple harp include Robin Huw Bowen, who was influenced by the music of Ar Log to the extent that he switched to the triple harp. Llio Rhydderch, another of Nansi Richard's pupils, has concentrated on teaching a new generation of as many young harpers as possible.A triple harp group called Rhes Ganol (Middle Row) was formed in 2000.
Other triple harpists include Rhiain Bebb, Huw Roberts, Gareth Swindail-Parry, Steffan Thomas, Wyn Thomas, Eleri Turner, Elonwy Wright, Carwyn Tywyn, a long-standing street busker, Sioned Webb and Bethan Nia. The triple harp is also played by a minority of classical harpists in Wales, including Angharad Evans, Elinor Bennett, Meinir Heulyn and Eleri Darkins.
Some non-Welsh players perform on the instrument, freeing it from total connection with the Welsh repertoire, which actually consists of 'art music' variations on Welsh tunes. These players notably include Maria Christina Cleary,Cheryl Ann Fulton, Maximilian Ehrhardt, Frances Kelly, Mike Parker, Robin Ward and Fiona Katie Roberts, who has worked with the BBC on some special projects including different designs for the harp and the design and manufacture of a quad harp.
Modern composers have displayed an interest in the triple harp; e.g. Richard Barrett, who includes the instrument in the diverse ensemble of his massive multipartite work, Construction.
The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps can be made and played in various ways, standing or sitting and in orchestras or concerts. Its most common form is triangular in shape and made of wood. Some have multiple rows of strings and pedal attachments.
The hammered dulcimer is a percussion-stringed instrument which consists of strings typically stretched over a trapezoidal resonant sound board. The hammered dulcimer is set before the musician, who in more traditional styles may sit cross-legged on the floor, or in a more modern style may stand or sit at a wooden support with legs. The player holds a small spoon-shaped mallet hammer in each hand to strike the strings. The Graeco-Roman dulcimer derives from the Latin dulcis (sweet) and the Greek melos (song). The dulcimer, in which the strings are beaten with small hammers, originated from the psaltery, in which the strings are plucked.
The chromatic scale is a set of twelve pitches used in tonal music, with notes separated by the interval of a semitone. Almost all western musical instruments, such as the piano, are made to produce the chromatic scale, while other instruments capable of continuously variable pitch, such as the trombone and violin, can also produce microtones, or notes between those available on a piano.
The hurdy-gurdy is a string instrument that produces sound by a hand-crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents—small wedges, typically made of wood—against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board and hollow cavity to make the vibration of the strings audible.
An autoharp or chord zither is a string instrument belonging to the zither family. It uses a series of bars individually configured to mute all strings other than those needed for the intended chord. The term autoharp was once a trademark of the Oscar Schmidt company, but has become a generic designation for all such instruments, regardless of manufacturer.
Wales has a strong and distinctive link with music. Singing is a significant part of Welsh national identity, and the country is traditionally referred to as "the land of song". This is a modern stereotype based on 19th century conceptions of Nonconformist choral music and 20th century male voice choirs, Eisteddfodau and arena singing, such as sporting events, but Wales has a history of music that has been used as a primary form of communication.
Nansi Richards Jones was a Welsh harpist, sometimes known as the "Queen of the Harp" or by her bardic name "Telynores Maldwyn".
Ar Log are a Welsh folk band. They have performed since the 1970s and are recognized as the first professional Welsh folk band. They perform instrumental music and songs in Welsh.
The saung, is an arched harp used in traditional Burmese music. The saung is regarded as a national musical instrument of Burma. The saung is unique in that it is a very ancient harp tradition and is said to be the only surviving harp in Asia.
The guitar zither is a musical instrument consisting of a sound-box with two sets of unstopped strings. One set of strings is tuned to the diatonic, chromatic, or partially chromatic scale and the other set is tuned to make the various chords in the principal key of the melody strings.
Catrin Ana Finch is a Welsh harpist, arranger and composer. She was the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales from 2000 to 2004 and is Visiting Professor at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the Royal Academy of Music in London. Finch has given recitals at venues throughout the world.
The Celtic harp is a triangular frame harp traditional to the Celtic nations of northwest Europe. It is known as cláirseach in Irish, clàrsach in Scottish Gaelic, telenn in Breton and telyn in Welsh. In Ireland and Scotland, it was a wire-strung instrument requiring great skill and long practice to play, and was associated with the Gaelic ruling class. It appears on Irish and British coins, the coat of arms of the Republic of Ireland, Montserrat, the United Kingdom and Canada as well as the flag of Montserrat.
The cross-strung harp or chromatic double harp is a multi-course harp that has two rows of strings which intersect without touching. While accidentals are played on the pedal harp via the pedals and on the lever harp with levers, the cross-strung harp features two rows so that each of the twelve semitones of the chromatic scale has its own string.
Robin Huw Bowen is a player of the Welsh triple harp, known in Welsh as Telyn Deires ,. He was awarded the Glyndŵr Award in 2000.
The pedal harp is a large and technologically modern harp, designed primarily for use in art music. It may be played solo, as part of a chamber ensemble, or in an orchestra. It typically has 47 strings with seven strings per octave, giving a range of six and a half octaves.
Diatonic and chromatic are terms in music theory that are most often used to characterize scales, and are also applied to musical instruments, intervals, chords, notes, musical styles, and kinds of harmony. They are very often used as a pair, especially when applied to contrasting features of the common practice music of the period 1600–1900.
The harp is the national instrument of Wales, with an unbroken line of harpers reaching back to at least the 11th century. Little is known of the origins of these early instruments, although small details such as poems are recorded, decrying the use of the new-fangled gut strings, as opposed to the traditional strings of plaited horse hair.
Clera is the society for traditional musical instruments of Wales. It was founded by a group of musicians including Stephen Rees, Robin Huw Bowen, Andy McLauchlin, Wyn Thomas, Huw Roberts, Llio Rhydderch, Elonwy Wright and Frances Môn Jones. Stephen Rees is the current chair.
A multi-course harp is a harp with more than one row of strings. Harps with two rows are called double harps; harps with three rows are called triple harps. A harp with only one row of strings is called a single-course harp.