Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

BC Harps October 19, 2010

DSCN0447Once upon a time, way back in the 90s, Shawn was really involved in the world of the harp here in BC.  She played at churches, weddings, funerals, schools, attended workshops and was a contributing editor to the BC Harps Newsletter.  Since moving from Northern BC and picking up new hobbies, she’s let her harping slide (gliss?) and no longer performs publically.  Lately,
however she  has had people asking her again for harp related information, so as a public service, she offers the following links to people and companies she knows and trusts within the harp world.   This is not an exhaustive list, and is not meant to be so.  Enjoy the links to the music and the talent of people who are far more dedicated to their practising than Shawn was ever able to be!

She is also pleased to say that she has begun practising again, and may haul her harps to a writing venue near you.  Probably not, but you never know!


.(highlighted names are clickable links to websites)




Caroline MacKay– Westbank  Caroline runs High Spirits Music with many recordings, performances and teaching responsibilities.  She is also 1/3 of Anamcara.  She also coordinates a harp workshop in Naramata each May. Here is a YouTube clip that features her singing and playing:

Debi Johnson– Peachland is a teacher and performer (with Anamcara).  She is a certified Harp Therapy practitioner.  You can reach her at

Kate Gibson-Oswald – Lake Country performer and harp teacher.  1/3 of Anamcara Harp trio.

Linda Khandro – Salmon Arm (and Washington State)

Alys Howe–  Vancouver.  I first met Alys when she was a talented high school student.  Now she has a masters in Scottish harp and performs around the world!  Delightful and talented young lady. 

Elizabeth Volpe Blighe – Vancouver Symphony harpist and UBC Music faculty member.

Lori Pappajohn– Vancouver.  Her Winter Harp concert series is a staple for many each Christmas season.



Island Mountain Arts International Celtic Harp School held annually during August in picturesque Wells, BC.  (HIGHLY recommended!)



These people aren’t from BC, but they come to BC to do workshops and they’re amazing teachers.  I’ve studied with them and would recommend them both as teachers and performers if you have the opportunity to see them.

Sharlene Wallace– Toronto area harpist Sharlene is my guru.  I play her CDs all the time, and look forward to every opportunity she’s in BC.   She trained on a pedal harp with Judy Loman at University of Toronto and plays in the Hamilton Symphony, but a trip to Wells to explore folk harp with Kim Robertson changed her life!  We are all the better for it. 😉  Here is a clip of someone driving her horse, but the music is Sharlene- and better yet, it’s “Moving Cloud” a tune I am still working on whenever I find myself in need of a challenge.  I love to hear whenever I can!

Kim Robertson– she is impressive!  Her “Moving Cloud” duets with Sharlene at Wells still make me beam!  Here’s a lucky thing- I found a YouTube video of Kim playing “Moving Cloud” Although the same tune, and  I think even the same arrangment (I think we all learn from Kim’s book “Treasures of the Celtic Harp”)  it’s quite different from Sharlene’s version- faster for one thing.

Harper Tasche – of Washington.  A gentle spirit and a talented man.  He specializes in small harps and cross strung (fully chromatic) harps.  My little double strung Brittany never sang as sweetly as when she was nestled in his lap.  He also has a collection of lovely CDs and music.  His “Michael’s Crossing” is the most difficult piece in my repertoire, and capitivates all who hear it.  Harper on You Tube (not playing “Moving Cloud” believe it or not. lol)


Sharlene Wallace and Kim Robertson have a duet album out!  It includes Moving Cloud! 😉  Check it out here:



Washington Area Harp Society

Puget Sound Folk Harp Society



Thormahlen Harps– Oregon.  Dave Thormahlen is the builder. Not a BC outfit, but I’ve met Dave’s wife Sharon Thormahlen,and my raving critique of her Thormahlen Swan is still on their website!  Very drool-worthy sound and beautiful instruments.  As well, Sharon composes the most incredibly beautiful tunes for folk harp- simple yet really lovely.  I have always received lots of compliments whenever I’ve played her tunes!  (Her book “Rose in Winter” is my favorite).

Dusty Strings Harps– Seattle.  They are a full service harp related retailer and often host concerts and workshops in the store as well.

Northwest Music– Vancouver, BC.  Not a harp specialty shop, but they’re the closest big store for most BC musicians.  They sell harps and harp music.  Their catalogue is quite exhaustive with titles, but provides no/little detail about the music.

North Arts Heritage Music– Salmon Arm  Harp builder and repairs, music, and ecoutrements.

Josephus Harps– Duncan, BC (Vancouver Island)  Marilyn and Joseph have been involved in the BC harp scene for years.  They used to live in Wells, and Marilyn is instrumental in the development of Island Mountain Arts’ harp school.  Their Dayspring harps are well respected, and they have a string program.  Their thorough website provides links to the Canadian harp scene.

Sylvia Woods Harp Center – US  Sylvia’s “Teach Yourself to Play the Folk  Harp” is still the standard guide, and her harp centre website is a lovely place to explore.  (Nice music plays while you surf, as well!)

Melody’s Traditional Music and Harp Shoppe – Houston Texas – does a thriving mail order business in harps and all related paraphernalia.  Their rating system for music books is phenomenally useful, and if you email them with specific info about your playing abilities (“I can’t change levers on the fly, but I can play most Sylvia Woods books” for example) and your harp (full levers tuned in Eb, no levers and tuned to C, etc) they will recommend books for you or tell you if a book you’re considering is something that is appropriate for you.  They’ve never been wrong yet!  Their catalogue is a thing of beauty- entertaining and informative.  I still read 15 year old versions for the information!


If you scrolled this far, you might be wondering if I have any tunes for you, now that I’m practising again.  As it happens, I do. 🙂   Here I am, with an arrangement I made of The Skye Boat Song.   😉  If you go to YouTube you can even find a few more. 😉  I’m only recording with the camera and mic on my little notebook computer, so I apologize for the quality.



13 Responses to “BC Harps”

  1. That’s so cool you play the harp! I wanted to learn but couldn’t find a teacher so I eventually sold mine…Maybe I’ll get back into it one day 🙂

  2. Leonas Lines Says:

    Nice! I love harps and their music. I was fortunate to attend our local symphony orchestra’s “Winter Dreams” concert before Christmas and got to meet the harpist and take a picture of her beautiful harp. It was a great experience and even inspired me to write a poem titled “Ethereal Beauty”. You can view the poem and picture of the harp on my blog if you like: Blessings, Leona

    • A lovely poem, Leona. They are heavenly to hear, and lovely to play, but not so fun to tune! I have one that’s 33 strings and one that’s 44 strings. Arg. 😉

      There is a really great harp maker in Corvallis Oregon- Thormahlen harps- his instruments are just beautiful- and wife Sharon Thormahlen creates gorgeous, simple, harp tunes and teaches. If you’ve ever considered learning (harp is one instrument that sounds great even with a rank beginner!) you should look them up! Tell them I sent you! 🙂

      PS I have an Aunt Leona- a rare name!

  3. teasingnotions Says:

    And, in addition you play a harp … remarkable!

  4. Your harp music video, the one of a cover of an Outlander so SO soothing, an absolutely breathtaking talent. My spine was instantly starting to free up from stress. Amazing ^.^

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. If listening was soothing, you should try playing. The sound vibrations align cells and offer therapeutic properties. Many music stores offer rentals to explore the instrument. I recommend Island Mountain Arts; they have beginner workshops (and usually some rentals) each August.

      • I never even thought about a rental, that is such a great pondering to have. I play by ear and definitely like what you said about it soothing you while playing. Thank you ^.^

      • Tune B to C and F down to E and put the harp into pentatonic scale- then even if you have never played before, you can make lovely music plucking or strumming. It’s impossible for it to sound bad. 🙂

      • Very beautiful 🙂 Thank you for the tip..I will keep my eyes peeled for the opportunity to do this ^.^

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