So I decided to add a new feature to my blog this month, and it is called - Harpist of the Month! Each month I will pick a harpist to interview (or beg a harpist to let me interview them) and they will be featured on the blog.
My first harpist of the month is Ms. Christina Brier! Christina is a second year master’s student at the Eastman School of Music and will be graduating in May.
The first thing I asked Christina was, of course, the question all harpists are asked - why the harp??
Christina said, “I played violin. I started violin in kindergarten. I played in youth orchestra when I was in third or fourth grade and I saw harps there. And I thought, I would much rather play that! So I started asking my parents for a harp, and they said no. And then I kept seeing harps. I would see them in symphonies, on tv, in recordings, etc. And then this random lady in my dad’s choir found out that I wanted to play harp, and she said oh, we have a lever harp that we don’t use, you can use that. And then they knew this lady who was a harp teacher.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
With the help of a generous aunt, Christina got her pedal harp when she was twelve. After graduating high school, she majored in music at the Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin. Because she was their first harpist, the school created the harp performance major for her and made her harp teacher, Jeanne Henderson (who was also my harp teacher’s teacher… I think this makes Christina my harp-aunt or something), an adjunct professor. Christina would travel an hour to her harp teacher’s house on the weekends for lessons and attended studio class with the violinists. Christina talked about the advantages and disadvantages to being the only harpist at the school.
Christina: Advantages are if they want a harp, they use you for everything, and they think the harp is amazing. Disadvantages are, the program has only about sixty people, so I didn’t get to play that much. I had to play percussion a bunch.
Christina: Oh, another little known fact - In 5th through 9th grade I played percussion in band, and I took lessons. So I can sort of play percussion. I don’t claim that as any great skill.
I asked Christina if she had played any cool gigs or concerts that really stuck out in her memory, and she said, “Playing Mahler was awesome.”
We’re definitely agreed on that.
Christina recently performed her master’s recital and it was spectacular! The Program included Benjamin Britten’s Suite for Harp, Gabriel Faure’s Une Chatelaine en sa Tour, a duo for two harps (which I played in!) called “Parvis” by Bernard Andres, Saint-Saens’ Fantaisie for harp and violin, and Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro. When we talked, I asked her to share why she picked the pieces she played.
Christina: The Britten I heard for the first time several years ago, and when I heard it I thought, I really want to play this piece. So that’s always been on my to do list, so when it came time for my recital, that was the first I asked if I could do. And then Faure - before I started playing the harp, my dad bought me some harp cds. One of them had the Faure on it, so I’ve always wanted to play that, too. I also wanted to play duets, and she (Ms. Bride, our harp teacher) said, “How about Parvis?”
So, I definitely learned a few things about Christina - not only does she play the harp, but she has also played the violin, piano, and percussion. Thanks for talking to me, Christina!