CNU hosts third Harp Festival

Saturday’s Department of Music event featured speakers, masterclasses, contests and concerts

Saturday afternoon, students, musicians and community-members attended the third annual CNU Harp Festival to celebrate an instrument known intimately to few but widely to many. Hosted by the Department of Music, the day-long event offered participants a variety of informative lectures, masterclasses, concerts and the opportunity for High School students to compete in a contest for a cash prize.

With a notably diverse turnout of age and gender, participants played harps ranging from a few feet tall to a larger height of the concert grand. Speakers and performers included principal harpist with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Barbara Chapman, Riverside Performing Arts Medicine Program representative Paul McLendon, jazz harpist Charles Overton, Venezuelan harpist Angel Tolosa, CAMAC Harps international technician Lisa Jensen and CNU Professor of Harp Anastasia Pike.

Accounting for the number of speakers and participants this year, sessions were held simultaneously for the first time in the festival’s history. In addition, the festival’s High School contest premiered with winners from two categories of juniors (ninth and tenth graders) and seniors (eleventh and twelfth graders).

Winners Elizabeth Johnson (Richmond) and Lauren Twombly (Maryland) performed at the closing concert, followed by Overton’s prepared solos. Contest participants were expected to prepare a suggested repertoire and register by March 10.

According to Pike, the contest and variety of performance guests were some of the ways the festival has grown since its conception. In the past, they hosted a Celtic harper and the American Youth Ensemble. Notable sessions this year included Lendon’s wellness workshop, attended by students of Norfolk public school program, “Harps on Fire.”

Set up in the Pope Chapel, the festival also featured owners of “Marini Made Harps,” based in Philadelphia. The father and son couple designs and builds custom harps for musicians across the country.

In addition, the festival featured composer Melvin Loff’s own composition for the Harp Festival specifically. Closing out the day, Overton played four pieces for his audience in Peebles theater, receiving wide applause. Originally from Richmond, Overton is an extra in the Boston Symphony Orchestra and usually plays five-six concerts per year. Despite his experience, his participation in the Harp Festival was fairly unique.

“I loved playing this concert, mostly because I don’t get to play solo very often,” Overton said. “Also, I’ve never adjudicated a competition before, and it’s cool to be on the other side of the competition.”

 Despite the festival’s focus on the unique instrument, Pike emphasized her objective in a larger scheme. 

“We just want to make the harp accessible to everyone, and show that everyone can play the harp,” Pike said.  “We have those small itty-bitty harps and then the concert grand, we basically want to introduce them to the wonderful world of music and all we have to offer at CNU.”

~Kristen Ziccarelli, A&E Editor~

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