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Thursday December 2nd

Five harpists will play together at the UNC Harp Ensemble’s upcoming fall concert

<p>The UNC harp ensemble who will be performing at their fall concert. Photo courtesy of Cat Zachary.</p>
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The UNC harp ensemble who will be performing at their fall concert. Photo courtesy of Cat Zachary.

One of the main incentives for Naomi Sutherland, a harpist of ten years, to come to UNC-Chapel Hill was to be a part of their unique harp ensemble. 

“The harp is really pretty and light,” said student Kalyani Manian. “It’d be cool to see how harps play as an ensemble because I’ve only seen them as solo instruments in the past.” 

The harp concert, directed by Laura Byrne, is on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. in Person Hall through the UNC Music Department.

“It is always a unique opportunity to play with other harpists,” said Sutherland, a harpist in the UNC Harp Ensemble. “Once you leave the University environment, it is incredibly difficult to find other harpists to play with unless you establish yourself as an ensemble.”

The fall concert is free for students and the general public. 

“It's such a rare experience to hear, not only a harp, but five harps playing together,” said Samantha Horn, a harpist in the UNC Harp Ensemble. “It isn't really a sound that you hear anywhere else.” 

Concert pieces will include music by Bizet, Debussy, Haydn, Salzedo and others. 

Some portions of the concert will include musical pieces that were written specifically for a harp ensemble.

Horn said she is especially excited to perform a piece by Carlos Salzedo, a harp ensemble composer from the 1920s. 

“It’s a piece I’ve been wanting to play for years,” Horn said. “It's kind of like figuring out a puzzle.”

The ensemble practices once a week for two hours. It usually takes around 10 weeks for them to prepare for a concert, Sutherland said. 

“This is pretty standard for professionals, but since we are still a college group with varying levels of playing in an ensemble, it is actually a slim timeframe for rehearsals,” Sutherland said. “Usually, you would have six months to prepare a full concert if you have people of different ranges.”

In addition to weekly ensemble practice, each individual harpist is expected to devote time to practicing the harp every day. Sutherland said she attempts to fit in three to four hours of harp practice each day. 

“Being a musician has helped me manage my time more than anything else I've encountered in my life,” Sutherland said. 

The harp requires coordination from the hands and feet. As the fingers pluck the strings, the harpist must use their feet to press pedals that change the pitch. 

“It's an unusual instrument so you're able to get a lot of really cool musical opportunities,” Horn said. “It is physically really fun to play.”

However, many universities do not have the money, time or interest to create a harp ensemble. Sutherland said the possibility of being part of a harp ensemble was a large incentive for her to go to UNC.

“What is just so wonderful about the harp is that it can imply so many different characteristics,” Sutherland said. “It can sound like a harp, it can sound like a guitar, it can sound percussive.” 

Horn said the ensemble will occasionally use percussive instruments in their fall concert to add to the performance.

“We have worked really hard putting this program together,” Horn said. “I think we have some really exciting pieces and it will be fun.”

arts@dailytarheel.com

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