It seems the harp is having a moment. After Florence Welch brought 12 harpists to The Brits, American harp-playing folkie Joanna Newsom sold out the Royal Festival Hall for two nights and has received rave reviews for her enchanting album Have One on Me. It has taken a while for a British exponent to give the instrument a similar profile. Lancastrian solo artist Nancy Elizabeth uses the instrument in her beguiling work, but only the smaller Celtic version.
Lucinda Belle, though, plays the mammoth 47-string, seven-pedal version. It has taken 30 years for her debut album to arrive. The Londoner started aged six, enchanted by the harp after trips to the Royal Festival Hall. "It's like a part of me now, I can't imagine not having it near me," she says fondly, notwithstanding the trouble she has carting the beast around. "It's not just the size, it's the weight," she explains. "The worst was on a coach, when they tried balancing it across four seats – that was terrifying."
Belle and her harp survived intact, so we can enjoy her album My Voice & 45 Strings (she counted wrongly, apparently) that sees her plant both the harp's delicate tones and her own vocals in a Parisian café-bar milieu. "The harp is getting more recognition," she says, "But I still play places where people don't realise it can take centre-stage."
The Lucinda Belle Orchestra play Wychwood Festival on 5 June; single 'Dodo's Blues' is out on 7 June on First Rule/Island Records