The first touch
As mentioned in "About me", my father played bassoon (Niederrheinische Symphoniker). When rehearsing chamber music in our living room with Gertrude Endrödy, harpist of the Niederrheinische Symphoniker orchestra, this huge black concert harp (Lyon & Healy Style 30) seemd to be an incredibly spectacular, exciting instrument. As a result of this fascination, Gertrude Endrödy provided us with a lever harp, on which I practiced a children's song in the following weeks and played for her (certainly very bumpy). In response to the subsequent statement that this was not so bad and whether I would like to take lessons, I was very happy to say, but on the condition that I would be able to start on the pedal harp.
So I was able to start taking lessons on a loan instrument until I acquired my own harp. This instrument even had an amusing connection to our family:
It stays in the family
My father studied in Tokyo with Kaoru Yamahata (formerly NHK Symphony Orchestra) bassoon, whose wife and daughters played the harp. From Kaya Yamahata, one of the daughters, we bought a Lyon & Healy Style 15. This harp had a very nice sound, for which Lyon & Healy harps are still known and highly appreciated. Unfortunately, musical instruments usually do not grow with you, which is why it became necessary to look for a larger model after some years. The problem was the high register, I no longer fit comfortably between the body and the neck with my right hand when I played very high, which made relaxed, controlled play impossible.
The transition to the "adult world"
The choice was a Lyon & Healy Style 23, which no longer offered the "old tone", but was much more playable and more balanced. On this harp I was able to play everything and was well equipped for all requirements.
If it hadn't been for a manufacturer in the north of France to develop things.
Awakening to the future
Joel Garnier, originally an electrical engineer in the French Navy, began harp construction and after some time discovered the potential for improvement of his instruments. From his experience in technical work, he began to question the construction of the instruments and also opened the door for new materials in the construction of concert harps. The complex mechanics of the double pedal harp have also been reworked and implemented with unprecedented precision.
After I also was lucky to get to know Jakez Francois better (since the death of Joel Garnier he runs the company), I decided to take a closer look at these instruments. I was fascinated by the "Big Blue 47" model, a concert harp with already built-in pickups, which promised new possibilities and also had all the improvements developed up to that point on board.
Due to the exemplary hospitality of the entire staff in Mouzeil, I was able to put several instruments through my paces for several days directly in the factory and played all the literature that would not otherwise be associated with electric amplification on this Big Blue (Faure Impromptu, Britten Suite, etc.).
Finally, the decisive factor was the unplugged sound of the instruments, which for me was without a doubt the future:
The harps were extraordinarily balanced and brought a very bright, almost sharply clean sound. Controlling this is, of course, a task, but even then I had noticed that this is achievable and provides me with many more possibilities than a traditional concert harp, where the focus is more on volume and softer, full sound.
I owe it to Jakez Francois to be able to implement my idea of bringing a pitch-black harp with silver instead of golden mechanics to the stage.