BackgroundThis the instrument of the Anglo Saxon Minstrels/Bards (in Anglo-Saxon times they were called scops, pronounced as shops)
The name used for this instrument in Germanic tongues is a Hearpe.
In the last Century in countries like Sweden a Harpa was still the word used as a generic term for any stringed musical instrument.
These instruments are mentioned in Beowulf the 10th century epic poem, and fragments have been found at many Anglo Saxon sites In England, including Sutton Hoo, Taplow, Abingdon, Bergh Apton, Morning Thorpe, Snape and more recently Prittlewell.
The Sutton Hoo Lyre in the British Museum is the most widely known model.
I made my first Lyre when I was 19 years old, though I didn't understand how to play it or even tune it back then, it represented some yearning for the past I felt at the time, Living in London I visited the British Museum often and spent a lot of time staring into the glass covered Sutton Hoo exhibits, with great longing. It wasn't until 12 years later that I re-approached the Lyre again, this time with the perspective and experience of the Finnish Kantele. Just as Tolkien was inspired by the Cultural heritage of the Finnish I too found a way to approach the Lyre. In Finnish Kantele traditions there are ancient runic Songs, traditionally sung by Men with their home made Kanteles, this is connected with a rich Mythological tradition the Kalevala. These older traditions rearly died out, the kanteles strings increased over the to play newer music, becoming more a concert Zither but thanks to a revival in the last century and today Children in Finnish schools learn to play the ancient 5 string kantele, just like some of us in the UK learned the Recorder, though as long as the teacher holds the tuning Key, perhaps more Harmoniously! Finnish Kanteles now represent the cutting edge of playing and development, You can get semitone levers on 5 and 10 string instruments as well as electric versions complete with playing strap to play standing up. In the Finnish playing traditions alongside the older strumming style there are complex two hand plucking, where the instrument is plucked and strummed at the same time. This way of playing called Block and strum, was mechanized in the 19th Century zither to create the Auto-harp, or Chord-Zither.
With the Anglo Saxon Lyre tuned as it is like a 6 string Kantele I am able to play in two distinct modes, (g major and A minor) On a 5 string Kantele I have to retune the middle string to change from major to minor but on the 6 string instrument I just change keys and hand positions. This means as a strumming instrument you have quite a bit of versatility, without any retuning.
For my First Lyres I chose the Bergh Apton example which was more likely the burial possession of an actual Musician rather than a kingly Lyre such as the Taplow and Sutton hoo examples, I have followed this with interpretations of the Snape Lyre.
I am now able to offer copies of the Royal Lyres as well.