Harrari Harps: preserving the instrument in its biblical form

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By Selena Puente
Contributing Writer

 

 

In modern music the harp can be heard in everything from the pop style of Florence and the Machine to the music of less orthodox and very bizarre indie artist Joanna Newsom. But the more I heard the harp in modern music the more I wondered about the other way it is being used today. A couple that knows a lot of the harp’s rich history is Shoshanna and Micah Harrari, located close to the Raziel hills in Jerusalem. They have taken it upon themselves to craft the same sort of harps that would have been played by King David. Their business, named House of Harrari, exudes simplicity, but their small mission surpasses all other harp endeavors. Not only do they run a small and profitable family business, but they are the first people in 2,000 years to make harps to such ancient specifications.
The materials customers can choose from for their harps include rosewood, cherrywood, mahogany and a more classic choice for harps, bubinga wood. All of their woods have dried for at least five years, and Micah Harrari claims that this means any instrument bought should last 1000 years. If the craftsmanship was not impressive enough, they also inscribe a Hebrew letter under each of the 22 strings so that musicians have the ability to play words, meaning they could be playing a melody and the lyrics of a hymn simultaneously. The entire look of their harps greatly differs from our current understanding of a harp. Whereas most concert harps we see nowadays are single action pedal harps, whose enormous size only adds to the majesty of the instrument’s sound, the Harrari harps are about the same size as traditional medieval harps. This gives any eager musician the chance to master the Harrari masterpieces. The couple also makes 10-stringed lyres that are based on descriptions from the Torah, cave-drawings and ancient coins, showing that their commitment to preserving history reaches above all bounds.     As a graduating senior, most things make me more sentimental than they should, but discovering a couple who humbly does what no one else has done, with love and concern for preserving tradition, is especially touching. It brings me back to what Diogenes said about the link between doing good things and only talking about good things, “Those who have virtue always in their mouths, and neglect it in practice, are like a harp, which emits a sound pleasing to others, while itself is insensible of the music.” Eloquence of speech, which is easily learned at the University of Dallas, only shines with beautiful action, just as this couple is doing.
If this story inspired you to search out more harp music and imagine yourself in the Harrari’s dusty little shop abroad, I recommend Derek Bell’s “Ancient Music for the Irish Harp” and Marcel Tournier’s “Sonatine for Harp, Op. 30.” If you’re feeling experimental, Joanna Newsom’s song “Sprout and the Bean” is strange and wonderful, and is relatable for college students, as she croons “And I slept all day… should we go outside?”

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