I've previously declared my devotion to Latin harp style, technique and repertoire, and particularly ARPA LLANERA, the regional style associated with lowland Colombia and Venezuela. That devotion is what brought me yesterday, to Bogotá, to Academia Llano y Joropo, with renowned teacher and performer Hildo Ariel Aguirre Daza. More, in days ahead, but just now I want to reflect on my conversations with Hildo last evening about levers.
Hildo, like others in this tradition, alters individual notes with a fingernail at the soundboard. He is very proficient and with this technique can render tricky Paraguayan tunes (e.g. Quinta Anauco in three versions - by Hildo then by Fernando Guerrero on pedal harp, then by Nicolas Castaneda with good view of the hands. (My brief search did not find a good example with levers.) A llanero favorite of mine is Apure en un Viaje, sung here by Francisco Montoya
When I asked him about levers, he said "I have a harp with levers, but it is not here now, I lent it to a friend." So he does not think levers are required for chromatic music.
However, switching keys is another matter.
Levers are great for switching from one key to another, but Hildo says levers are generally NOT the best way to get "alterations" on individual notes. Even with levers, he would use the fingernail technique in many cases. Note, particularly, a lever switch requires two moves (engage then disengage) while the fingernail method requires just one move. The ideal, then, might be to have levers but not to use them for every alteration, picking the better approach depending on circumstances.
A llanera harp with levers is recently introduced by Camac, in collaboration with Colombian Edmar Castañeda, bringing new vigor and evolution in Latin American music. Here's hoping.
I came to Bogotá yesterday, to boost my harp licks at Academia Llano y Joropo. Hildo and his family are wonderful hosts; the school and residence are together. There are 25 harps lined up in the rooms of the first floor. Hildo and I see hopeful signs that the harp world will begin to pay more and broader attention to the Latin American sources.
I will likely have more to say in days ahead, in pursuit of my own personal mission in life,
Harmony and community, locally and globally, through harp music.