Saratoga County

Review: Annual harp festival closes with intimate finale

The 9th annual Saratoga Harp Colony & Festival gave its final concert Saturday afternoon at Skidmore

The 9th annual Saratoga Harp Colony & Festival gave its final concert Saturday afternoon at Skidmore College’s Filene Recital Hall before a large, supportive crowd.

The intimate hall was especially suited to the instrument.

Director Elizabeth Hainen, who is spending her 19th summer at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center as the principal harpist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, said she chose pieces that conjured up ideas of nobility, grandeur and the dance in royal courts of the 17th century. Of the 17 harpists, most of them of high school age, five got to play solos. Everyone later joined for a group concert.

Anna Lorenz of Livermore, Calif., played Handel’s Theme & Variations in G minor. After a stately, pretty theme, there were two variations that Lorenz performed nicely. She made a strong finish.

Megan Kruitbosch of Reno, Nev., opted for a more modern work in Bernard Andrés’ “Absidioles.” Shimmery notes, glissandos and rippling passage work were a contrast to the baroque counterpoint of the Handel. Kruitbosch was assured in the strongly pulsed outer sections and paced the slower inner passages well.

Cindy Qin of Hudson, Ohio, had some memory lapses in her left hand part in the famous first movement to Handel’s Harp Concerto. After setting a spirited tempo, Qin faltered, but like a pro she kept going with her right hand and handled the slight mishap with aplomb. By the end, she’d found her notes, was in full spirit and ended stylishly.

An arrangement of Liszt’s “Le Rossignol” was the perfect vehicle for Helen Gerhold of Landsdale, Pa. The short piece is full of trills, cascading scales and a beautiful melody. Gerhold created a dramatic atmosphere with a strong, focused and very musical performance.

Anna Dunlap of Severna Park, Md., in a terrific long, black dress, played Gabriel Piernè’s romantic “Impromptu Caprice” with strong rolling arpeggios and much attention to harmonics and pacing.

As a group under conductor Nancy Lendrim, the entire ensemble played four tunes. There’s something about hearing so many harpists together that brings a smile to people’s faces. All those harps sound so sunny and happy.

They began with Turlough O’Carolan’s “Carolan’s Concerto” with its sweet tune. An arrangement of Handel’s famous Hornpipe from his “Water Music,” which is usually performed by brass, had some unclear technical passages. Another arrangement of Rameau’s “La Joyeuse” had a lot of cascading scales, and here, too, the ensemble was a bit off. But everyone pulled together for Jacques Press’ “Polka,” which was buoyant and peppy.

Hainen said after nine years she was especially gratified not only by the increased number of participants, some of whom come from as far as China, Korea and Austria, but also by the huge support from the community and the college faculty.

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