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(Above) 20-year-old Fredericksburg harpist Emily Jumes is turning to the community to help raise funds for the restoration of her 88-year-old Lyon & Healy Gold harp. She plans to use it to continue teaching harp students, starting a community ensemble, and recording her original compositions.

(Below) This small crack is one reason for the extensive repair required for Emily Jumes’ harp. Master Harp Makers at the factory in Chicago hope to restore the instrument to its original beauty and sound.

Harp Crack


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The Pied Piper

by Phil Houseal
March 25, 2015

 

All plinkers and pluckers have had to deal with fixing guitars, dulcimers, banjos, and fiddles when they pop a string or sprout a ding. It’s costly and inconvenient.

Emily Jumes is facing a similar situation, except her instrument is a 1927 Lyon & Healy Style 22 Gold Semi-Grand harp. It is showing wear from almost a century of use, sports pedals that clunk and wobble, and most concerning, has developed a crack that threatens to compromise its structure.

Emily is looking at a $15,000 repair bill to ship it back to the factory in Chicago where it will undergo six months of repair and refinishing. The 20-year-old Fredericksburg resident is turning to the community for financial support.

Read how Emily fell in love with the harp at age 4

This is not just any instrument. Like a fine violin, the provenance makes it more special. The vintage harp belonged to her harp instructor at Schreiner University in Kerrville. Dr. Charlotte Marrow has been the sole owner.

“She was retiring and moving, and thinking about what to do with her harp,” Emily said. Dr. Marrow decided to gift it to Emily, so that it could continue to be played. “I was just blessed to be in the right place at the right time.”

Stephen Fritzmann, with Lyon & Healy Harps in Chicago, is a Master Harp Maker who will supervise the restoration. He sees his goal as nothing less than “saving the soul” of the instrument.

“We will need to look more closely at it to determine the extent of the damage,” Fritzmann said. “Some is just old age, and will simply be a restoration of the mechanical and internal workings. From the wood standpoint, there is a serious crack there, and it needs to be evaluated. We won’t really know until we see it in person.”

Emily sees her role more as caretaker rather than owner of the instrument, which is still recognized as “Charlotte’s” harp and will have a value of $45,000 when restored. “As it was a gift, I see it more as a community instrument than mine. I want to share it.”

Her vision goes beyond performing at weddings, concerts, and events. Her real dream is to start a Fredericksburg harp ensemble made up of her students and other harpists in the area. Part of that is working on her own compositions to put on her own album of harp music. Another project is a tribute to one of her harp idols–Harpo Marx. She calls it “Harpo Sings.”

“Most of the arrangements he played in the films have never been notated for harp,” she said. “I am going to notate his arrangements and publish them for other harpists.”

Meanwhile, during the six-month wait for repairs, will she get a “loaner” harp?

She laughed. “No, I do have a backup harp,” she said. “It is a smaller instrument and has some limitations, but I will still be able to do weddings and play with the chorale.”

Even in its current condition, Fritzmann is impressed with the instrument, which features handcarved wood and 24-carat gold leaf.

“It is a beautiful harp, with curly maple decorative veneer,” he said. “It is kind of cool that it has been owned by one person all its life.” He is thankful to be in a position to sustain such instruments. “We are a part of a lot of these stories. We are thankful these instruments are passed down to good caretakers like Emily, who will continue to use them and someday pass along for others to enjoy.”

Fritzmann is happy to hear the harp will continue to be used for the public to enjoy.

“There is always interest in the harp, simply because it is one of man’s oldest instruments,” he said. “It is also one of the instruments you can pick up and it literally grabs you so you can’t put it down. It is the ‘Pied Pier’ of instruments.”

It certainly captivated a young lady from Fredericksburg, who first fell in love with harp when she heard it during a concert at age 4.

“I am so grateful to be playing this instrument,” Emily said. “I never would have dreamed of having one as fine as this Lyon & Healy. Once it is completely refinished it will be a fabulous instrument. It will practically play itself. I am really very excited about getting it into top shape. The sound will be tremendous and I am looking forward to that.”