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How to Hire a Harpist

This page gives tips and advice on hiring a harpist for any event. Although this won't cover every element of a harpist's contract, it will provide guideline regarding things to expect and things the harpist will probably need to know. It also provides some guidance for choosing the right harpist for your job.

Style of Music

First, consider what type of music you want at your event. If you desire contemporary/pop music, you will want to hire someone completely different than if you desire traditional or ancient music. Ask the harpist what type of repertoire they play, and use that as a guide to whether this is the right harpist for your event. For example, my repertoire is almost exclusively Celtic music, plus Christmas carols and a few hymn and other folk tunes. I do not play classical music on the harp, and would not be a good choice for a harpist at an event where classical music is desired.

Type of Harp

Harps come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are two main types of harpists you can readily hire in this area -- folk harpists and pedal harpists. Folk harpists frequently will call themselves "harpers" not "harpists," but not all of them follow this rule. The type of harpist you hire will determine the appearance of the harp. If the appearance of the harp is important to you, look for someone who plays the type of harp you imagine working best for your event. If you can find a picture of the harpist with their harp, you have a good idea of what will show up at your event.

The pedal harp is the type of harp you typically see in orchestras. Most pedal harps look like the harps on this page: pedal harps.

The folk harp comes in a wide array of sizes and shapes. I play a Celtic harp, and am pictured here with one of my harps.

photo of Jo Morrison

Information Required by the Harpist

You must provide the harpist with information they will need in order to quote a price. They will need to know:

Some Things to be Aware of

If a harpist is hired to play for more than one hour, expect them to take a 10 to 15 minute break every hour over the first hour.

The harpist will probably need to arrive at least a 1/2 hour before the event, to tune and set up. They will need to be informed of where to set upon arrival, and the facility must be available at that time for them to set up.

The harp cannot be located on a slanted or unlevel surface, or in any precarious position. It also cannot be located in direct sunlight (for very long), near a fireplace, or in front of an air-conditioner duct.

If the event is outdoors, and the harp is not located under adequate cover, don't expect the harpist to play if it is raining, even if the rain is only a light mist. You should be prepared with alternative sites for the harpist in the event of rain. If you have specific desires regarding the harpist's attire, you should address them beforehand. (I.e. if you want Renaissance dress, or don't want them to wear black.)

Some Special Information About Wedding Ceremonies

You will need to make certain that the type of music (and the harp itself) will be allowed at the location of the event. Some churches and ministers are very particular about this sort of thing, and won't allow non-approved musicians or instruments to play at their churches.

Typical places within a wedding for music include:

Be sure to specify all of the places within the ceremony where you want music when you first discuss the event with the harpist. Adding new points for music at a later date could add to the price of the service. Also be sure to specify if another musician will be providing some of this music, so there won't be any confusion about who is covering which parts of the service.

If the harpist is playing processional and recessional music, they will need to be located where they can see when people are ready to begin and end these parts of the ceremony, or have someone to tell them when to begin and end. Be sure to tell them how many mothers/family members are being seated, how many attendants (male and female) are processing, and other information that will help them know when to begin the processional music for the bride's entrance. They will also need to know their exact cue to start the recessional. (Frequently the end of a prayer or the announcement of the couple.)

Give the harpist as much information as you can, and the service will go more smoothly. Ideally, provide them with a complete order of service for the ceremony.

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