"It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold."
Yes, the harp is a heavenly instrument. Many artistic renditions of angels throughout the ages have showed them playing harps.
One of the best-known biblical stories is about David and Goliath. But David was also an accomplished musician, and many of the Psalms were attributed to him. As a youth, he played his harp to calm his father's flocks of sheep, and to soothe King Saul's madness and troubled mind. He became king after Saul, and reigned from 1010 to 970 B.C.
King David is generally depicted playing a harp in stained glass windows of cathedrals and churches. If you see a harp player (other than an angel) in these glorious windows . . . it is almost certain to be David.
Turlough O'Carolan (sometimes called Carolan) was one of the best-known of the Irish harpers. He lived from 1670-1738. After being blinded by smallpox in his teens, he learned to play the harp. For the rest of his years he traveled throughout Ireland as an itinerant musician. His compositions, numbering over 200, are popular with harp players as well as other Irish musicians. You'll find his name throughout our website. If you'd like to play music written by O'Carolan on the harp, or any other instrument, see Sylvia Woods book 40 O'Carolan Tunes. Many of the Celtic books we sell include tunes by O'Carolan. Type the word carolan in our search box to find some of these products.
Harpo Marx was probably the best-known harpist in modern history. Yes, he actually did play the harp. He's known and loved by people of all generations. Even kids today know of him, particularly through the re-runs of his appearance on I Love Lucy which is shown periodically on Nick at Night on TV.
Here are some vintage clips from Harpo's movies and TV appearances.
In this clip from the Marx Brothers' movie Go West, Harpo pretends a weaving loom is a harp.
The I Love Lucy episode featuring Harpo is a classic gem of vintage TV. It originally aired on CBS on May 9, 1955. In this excerpt, Harpo plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".
Harpo played his own composition, "Guardian Angels" in the 1945 War Bond Drive.
Here's Harpo playing "Eveyone says I Love You" from the classic Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers.