Tribute from Janet Harbison and the ‘Janet Harp’ on Joel Garnier’s 20th AnniversaryJanet harp

I’m fairly sure that my first meeting with the charming Joel was on my first visit to the ‘Festival Internationale de l’Harpe Celtique’ at Dinan in 1985 where I competed in the ‘new compositions for harp’ competition. From this triumphant beginning, over the next 20 summers, I came to perform and teach at various Breton harp festivals, at Quimper, Lorient and Dinan making life-lasting friendships with fellow harpers and falling deeply in love with Breton music, culture, revelry, singing with binou and bombards - and the great bagadoux! The vitality and vibrance of Breton music inspired and invigorated me – and what a chapter this was in my life!

I started with the Japanese, 34 string Aoyama 120A (the first harp with the up-down levers), which had certainly lead to the great resurgence of Irish harping in the 1970s. For us, this was the harp that could change key more reliably, that was sturdy and portable as we, in Ireland, went everywhere with our harps – camping at festivals, into pubs, folk clubs, ceili dances, to the beach, everywhere there was any kind of festivity!

But, it was evident that great harp making developments were happening with ‘Camac’ in France and almost all my peers were playing on the Camac ‘Melousine’. This was a big and beautiful harp – but too big for me to fit in the back seat of my Morris Minor or squeeze into a crowded folk-club! I watched the developments with interest –
Then, in 1994 or 5, facilitated through the Festival Internationale in Dinan, Joel desired to gift me ‘the harp of my dreams’ – it could be made by anybody from anywhere in the world to whatever specifications…. but no-one was yet making the harp of my dreams – I liked this and that of these and those harps – but none had all my dream wishes …

A great sheet of white paper was spread on the floor and with a black felt pen and an Irish 10p coin (with Brian Boru’s harp on it), I drew the outline of how the harp should look – and Joel’s engineer would make it all possible. It would have a swooping neck over the rounded bow, with the Irish traditional string spacing and light tension, - and, of course, the silver head-plate – just as on the ‘Brian Boru’ – to flash lighting back into the audience as the harp moved with me… I was so pleased and promised to compose Joel a tribute for him in gratitude. But before the harp was finished, Joel became ill and I thought the dream went to heaven with him. However, some years later, Jakez contacted me saying he found the ‘Janet harp’ plans on a Camac computer and he would like to finish it. My heart leapt for joy.

justharpsSo, my dear Joel, from having composed your tribute and performed it on ‘the harp of my dreams’ at your 10th anniversary concert, it has been my joy to release it on your 20th anniversary on my first album of fully original Celtic harp solo music. ‘Farewell Joel’ and thankyou from my heart.


Farewell Joel is now available on "By Strangford Water CD" and the sheet music will be available within the
"By Strangford Water - The Music Collection"