Classic Harps Northwest was founded by Majolaine L Bethell. She was a career musician who became interested in the harp after becoming an accomplished pianist and string bassist. She performed with the " Hour of Charm" Orchestra in the 1940's and later with the Portland Symphony. Successfully merging her roles as a homemaker, mother, and professional musician , Mrs. Bethell recruited the prestigious Japanese Harp manufacturer, Aoyama Harp Co. to market their superior instruments through her company. Classic Harps Northwest became the sole importer and distributor of Aoyama Harps in the United States. She continued to be active in this business until her death in June 2003.
Marni Bethell Williams is the current owner of Classic Harps Northwest. She has worked in the business with her mother since 1969. She also operates George Bethell Distributing, her father's business, at this same location. She has been a harpist since childhood, though the demands of two businesses and raising three children have limited her practice time. Marni is a past president of the Portland, Oregon chapter of the American Harp Society and has sponsored many harp events in this area over the years. She has exhibited at the AHS national conventions since the early 1970's. Currently she is focused on expanding Classic Harps Northwest with the addition of Bow Brand strings and new and used music from many sources. Also she hopes to add a full workshop and performance schedule soon.
The love of the harp was passed from mother to daughter to granddaughter. It was Mrs. Bethell's beleif that if you had a harp in the living room someone would always play it and she believed that everyone should have a harp in their living room! Marni Williams and her daughter Marni Davis, studied the harp with Sister Emerencia of Marylhurst College and Sister John Therese of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Marni Davis continued her study with Patricia Wooster while she attended University of Puget Sound. She has now completed Law School and the Bar exam. Marni has always felt that the discipline of musical performance contributed greatly to her success in college and law school. Marni is now a licensed attorney in Oregon and California. She practices in Albany, Oregon for the Law Office of Daniels & Ivers.
The Aoyama family business dates back to the 1880's. Jitaroh Aoyama was the pioneering head of the family two generations ago when the family specialized in the repair of musical instruments such as violin and organ. He founded the "Aoyama Musical Intstrument Manufacturing Company" to manufacture stringed instruments including vioin and cello in the region of Fukui in 1897. When his descendant Masao Aoyama, who had an overwhelming love of the harp, assumed control of the business, he was able to dedicate himself to building this charming instrument. Masao Aoyama, with his skills and inspiration, started the production of Aoyama Folk Harps.
Kenzo Aoyama, the present successor of the business, by his own efforts began the production of Concert Grand Harps and brought the family company world wide recognition as one of the few international harp makers. In 1992, the new Aoyama harp factory was completed, including a concert hall and a museum of antique harps. The family ethos of "Be honest and do your best work", combined with fine dedicated craftsmen in the factory, enable new harps to be produced in harmony with both tradition and new techniques. The experience of making musical instruments for over a century, combined with a close association with musicians, has kept Aoyama in the forefront of musical technology. The family intends to keep this position into the next century.
Factory Showroom - Fukui, Japan
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