Classical Musicians and Their Instruments
Photo Essay by Bret Brookshire
Delaine FedsonDelaine Fedson is principal harpist with the Waco Symphony and performs with the Austin Chamber Ensemble. She has also appeared with the San Antonio and Austin symphony orchestras, and with popular musicians such as Dave Brubeck, Willie Nelson, and Henry Mancini. She and flutist Barbara Mahler comprise the Mahler/Fedson Duo. They recently released the CD Enchanted Dawn.
Fedson's harp, built in Chicago in the 1920s by Lyon & Healy Harps, is the same model and vintage of harp that Harpo Marx played and is intact with the original sounding board and neck. "It is uncommon, but not unheard of," Fedson says, "for a harp that old to have all its original parts, because the tension on the strings tends to warp the neck and pull the sounding board up until it cracks, or until the instrument can no longer be tuned properly.
"The original owner of the harp retired to Oklahoma after a career of playing in pit orchestras on the vaudeville circuit in the Southwest. The wooden trunk is full of colorful stickers from old theatres. My dear friend David is a very fine harpist and harp luthier in Dallas. He somehow finds out about all of these marvelous old instruments in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, takes them to his shop, and very carefully restores them. When the owner of this harp entered a nursing home, her family asked David to help them sell the harp. David knew that I was looking for a smaller gold harp with a really big sound and called me right away. I've been its most fortunate and happy caretaker for the past six years."