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John Marson Papers

John Marson (1932-2007) was a prominent British harpist and composer who also co-founded the UK Harp Association. He composed music for the harp, many combinations of chamber music, string quartets, and several musicals. His music manuscripts and personal papers were donated to the International Harp Archives at BYU at his passing in 2007.

Marson was born in Derby England and took piano lessons at a young age, but soon discovered the harp for himself. A few years after his first harp lessons he was accepted into the Royal College of Music in London. There he studied with Marie Goossens, whose influence he later recalled as the turning point in his career. He auditioned for the London Symphony Orchestra and became principal harp. He soon left the LSO and began to freelance. For the next thirty years performed with noted artists such as Stravinsky, Sinatra, Boulez, the Beatles, Copland, Chaplin, Malcolm Arnold, and Julie Andrews. He also performed with noted ensembles such as the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Derek New Sextet, and the Laurie Johnson Big Band.

In 1964 he was co-founder of the UK Harp Association and edited their journal for many years. In 1982, he returned to orchestral playing and became principal harp of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Two years before his death, John Marson wrote Book of the Harp (2005), a charming ragbag of little known facts, serious scholarship, pleasant anecdotes, and witty, perceptive observation. He also wrote, early in his career, The Complete Guide to Harp Glissandi, which was a study analyzing all 2,187 possible pedal settings.

The Marson archive includes musical manuscripts, concert programs, press clippings, and extensive correspondence. In addition to his personal papers, Marson donated his private collection of scores and sound recordings of harp music totaling more than 1,000 items.

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