Midwest Harp Festival underway

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Day 6

Today was the final day of the 2017 Midwest Harp Festival. This morning, those of us who had stayed in the dorms on campus checked out of our rooms, and prepared ourselves for our concert. We had a brief rehearsal, and then at 11 this morning, we played the concert. All the ensemble groups did so well, and the audience seemed to enjoy a program rich with diversity: there was classical and baroque, ragtime, blues, and pop tunes, all wonderfully arranged for harp ensemble. While the bulk of the concert was the works played by the individual ensembles, we opened and closed the concert with combined ensembles pieces, Jean-Baptiste Lully’s March pour la Cérémony des Turks and the ever-famous Triptic Dance by Pierre Beauchant.

After the concert, it was time for everyone to pack up and part ways. Looking back over the week, it was a period of immense growth and learning for everyone attending, and even those who were joining us for the first time this year seemed like old friends by the end of the festival. As this year’s festival comes to an end, I’m already looking forward to what next year’s festival will hold.

Day 5

This morning was full of activity, as all the ensemble groups began to move their harps to the large stage in Gussman where the ensemble concert will be. After getting the harps in place, each of the faculty members ran through their pieces with the individual groups on stage, and then we rehearsed, all together, the combined ensemble pieces led by our guest conductor, Drew Crane. During lunch, Lorelei Barton invited attendees to play music – they could play as little, or as much as they cared to, and several people got up to play. The afternoon workshop Fun with Faye, led by Faye Seeman, had a refreshing twist. We spent the workshop playing little games, trying to choreograph movement to music, and improvising skits using prompts given to us by Faye. Most everything she would try to get us to relate back to music in some way.

The annual banquet was held this evening, and following dinner, Lorelei proceeded to give out her thank-yous to all the faculty and staff. There were raffle drawings, and the students from the Fun with Faye workshop even got to present the skits they came up earlier, and there were many great acts, and lots of laughs. Many of us turned in early to sleep well before our final concert in the morning.

Day 4

Today, during morning ensemble rehearsals, Drew Crane worked with the Vivace group. During lunch, and in lieu of Hear it Played we had the pleasure of getting to know our guest harpist, Erin Hill, a singer-songwriter/actress, and she share her story, her life as a performer, and took questions throughout the course of the session. The afternoon workshop Stellar Student was led by Mary Bircher, as she gave us advice on how to maximize our practice time, cultivate and maintain positive attitudes, and little tidbits about basic improvisations, listening to different interpretations, and memorization – all the things that help make students successful as they further their harp studies.

At the evening concert, we watched Erin Hill take the stage in Gussman. She spent the evening interacting with the audience, talking a little about her pieces as she played them, and played everything from classical, like Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria, Beatles hits, popular pop and rock hits from the 70s and on – she even took requests from the audience near the end of the concert. Many of the works she also sang along to, and the combination of beautiful harp playing and her singing made for an exceptional experience.

As day four comes to a close, it’s hard to imagine how quickly the week has gone by, but it’s also been rich with new experiences.

Day 3

Day three’s pace relaxed a bit from the bustling activities from the previous two days – a welcome bit of rest for many of us. Morning ensemble rehearsals met as usual. During the lunch hour, we were treated to the sounds of live music provided by the Tulsa-based Fellowship Lutheran Church Harp Ensemble, which showcased the arrangements of Vicki Smith and Linda Paul. After the Hear it Played session, Elizabeth Richter led a workshop titled Special Edition, in which she shared her tips on how harpists can more efficiently mark their music and how to alter music to be more playable if need be. The rest of the afternoon was left free for individual lessons with the faculty, which began today, and practice time.

After dinner and a few more lessons, all the youth attending the festival were invited to go out and play a couple of games of laser tag, an annual outing here at Midwest. Everyone who went had a great time, and it was great way to end the day. Tomorrow, the pace will pick up again, as we get to meet our guest harpist, Erin Hill.

Day 2

Day two at the Midwest Harp Festival has come to a close, and what a day it was. Following the morning ensemble rehearsals, and a special Hear it Played session featuring arrangements by David Ice, the afternoon was devoted almost entirely to the Solo and Salzedo competitions. Held in Meinig Hall at the Lorton Performance Center, this year marked a record in turnout, with 22 harpists competing in total between both competitions. The Solo competition was comprised of five divisions: Novice, Intermediate I, Intermediate II, Advanced I, and Advanced II, and each division had one piece that was selected for competitors to learn. In the Novice division, performing Alphonse Hasselman’s Petite Berceuse were Alena Wang, and Ainsley Lafferty, who placed first and second, respectively. Placing first and second in the Intermediate I division were Elysia Strauss and Madison Jacoway, performing “Pistache” from Bernard Andres’ Epices. The Intermediate II division piece was Claude Debussy’s First Arabesque, with Melody Tzang in first, Lauren McCombe in second, and Elise Coughlan receiving honorable mention. In the Advanced I division, competitors performed Marcel Tournier’s Au Matin. Linda Goodman placed first, Elizabeth Shepherd placed second, and Katherine Deitch received honorable mention. In the final category, Advanced II, Sonia Wagensteen placed first, performing Marcel Grandjany’s Rhapsodie. The Salzedo competition, Midwest’s second annual, was broken into two age categories, Level 1 for harpist up to 22 years, and Level 2 for competitors age 22 and above. This year, there were only contestants in Level 1, and they performed Carlos Salzedo’s La Desirade, with Elizabeth Shepherd taking first place.

After the results were posted, the winners of the competition then performed their works in concert in Gussman Performance Hall, and they were presented with their awards onstage at the end of the concert. It was truly awe-inspiring to watch the competition and then watch the winners perform that same evening – the performances at both the competition and the concert were fantastic all around.

It was an exciting and busy day for all those involved in the competition, and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the week’s activities hold.

Day 1

The Midwest Harp Festival, held in the Lorton Performance Center at the University of Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, began its week-long run on July 17, and the first day was full of activities. Following a brief orientation session, the harpists in attendance broke off into their respective ensemble groups for the first rehearsal of the week, led by faculty members Mary Bircher, Elizabeth Richter, and Faye Seeman. Following the lunch break, the afternoon offered a variety of sessions and workshops for all to attend. The first, Hear It Played, offered a unique opportunity for festival goers to hear samples of works before purchasing them, with all works presented could be purchased at the Midwest Festival Store, which is open various hours during the day. Day one’s Hear It Played was particularly unique, as it presented samples of chamber works played by Midwest Director Lorelei Barton, and two of her colleagues. The next session, Harp Maintenance Nuggets allowed attendees to interact directly with Peter Wiley, harp technician, and former technician for Lyon and Healy, and ask questions about how to care and maintain their harps. Stage Presence and Etiquette, led by Barton and Assistant Director, Jaina Krueger, gave harpists competing in the Solo and Salzedo Competition the chance to perform parts of their pieces in front of an audience, while offering insight and advice on proper stage etiquette, in preparation for their performances the next day.

The opening concert, held in the Gussman Performance Hall, featured Mary Bircher, Elizabeth Richter, and Faye Seeman, as they performed works ranging from classical and romantic works to jazz and ragtime, and in both solo and chamber settings. The concert opened with harp trio arrangement of Red Sequins, a jazzy piece by Joyce Rice, followed by an arrangement of Franz Lizst’s Liebestraum. The faculty members also played solo works, including selections from Carlos Salzedo’s Suite of Eight Dances and Reinhold Gliere’s Impromptu. Joining in the concert also were other instrumentalists; Stuart Deaver on piano, Marcia Thompson on Horn, and John Rush on flute, performing with each of the faculty members, on works by John Rutter, Maurice Ravel, Dave Brubeck, and Georges Barboteu. The concert concluded with a lively three-harp arrangement of Elite Syncopations by Scott Joplin.

As day one closes, day two will bring a great of a excitement and activity with the Solo and Salzedo competitions being held in the afternoon

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