I know this is coming pretty late in the month, but my harpist of the month of March is Rosanna Moore! Rosie is currently a graduate student at the Eastman School of Music and comes to us from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. Her interests include playing the harp (of course), contemporary music, and acting.
First I asked Rosie the obvious question - why did you get into playing the harp?
Rosie’s short answer - “Oh, it was big and expensive and awkward.”
Rosie’s long answer - “When I was four or five I went to a music school in the UK and we had an assembly in the morning. There was a boy from higher up in the school, I think he was about fifteen or sixteen, and he brought his harp in and played for us. And I sat there going, "he has a harp!! It’s so beautiful!!” And I went home that evening and said, “Mummy, I want to play the harp.” She turned around and said, “No you don’t, don’t be silly.” I pestered them and pestered them and pestered them for a few years, and eventually when I was eight or nine they rented a clarsach for me, and found a teacher. They said don’t worry, she’ll give up in six months, but I didn’t. So my dad’s decided that I’m going to be world-famous, so I need to keep him in his old age because he’s been my chauffeur to youth orchestra and concerts and all that.“
Let’s not give my dad any ideas.
I also asked Rosie how she got into acting.
"I always acted when I was little, I loved doing it. I used to do little skits for my parents - I’m an only child, and I had loads of stuffed toys, and I used to make my parents sit down and watch these little acts that I put together with my toys. I was a very cool child. It just kind of went from there. I did musicals for a little while, and I chose to do theatre as one of my options in school. I nearly went and did acting instead of music, but I decided I’d miss the harp more than I’d miss acting, and it’s easier for me to combine it this way.”
I got Rosie to admit that she can sing, too, but - “Not in public anymore. But yeah, I’ve got a weird, sort of folky jazz voice that comes out once in a while.”
We also talked about how she has combined her passions for harp and for acting. Her undergraduate dissertation was about using theater practice to enhance your musical performance. She makes a good point that it’s not only singers that need to do this, but instrumentalists, too. She also talked about starting her final undergraduate recital with “Tea Ceremony” by Catherine Kontz, a piece which is all about the art of drinking tea. "I did a very dramatic version of that, I sort of based my interpretation on Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, and also the differences between eastern and western tea ceremonies. A friend of mine happened to have spent some time in Japan, and she had a geisha kit, so she dressed up and did a Japanese tea ceremony whilst I played.“
Rosie is a person of diverse interests, which is why, she says, she wants to be a freelance musician. "I change my mind constantly, what I want to do, it’s just the type of person I am. If you’re attached to an orchestra rather than freelancing, it’s like having the equivalent of a nine to five job, and I can’t do that. I need to do something different every week. One week I’m doing a theatrical sort of thing with a mime, next week I’m doing solo concerts, the next week I’m playing in a jazz club in London, next week I’m playing a ballet orchestra - that keeps me going.”
Rosanna has recently organized ten harpists from the Eastman studio to play “Anthill,” also by Catherine Kontz (www.catherinekontz.com) for what will be its US premiere (we think)! I asked Rosie about her interest in contemporary music, and how she became involved in Catherine Kontz’s music in particular.
“The main reason I got into contemporary music in general was, as a wee little freshman in 2007, my teacher said, we’re going to talk about this concert that we’re going to do at the Huntersfield International Contemporary Music Festival. It’s all pieces for twenty harps, but there’s one piece that’s being written specifically for the festival that’s for ten harps, and all the harpists at the Northern are going to do it. She produced this massive graphic score, and we were like "What the heck is that?” And that, of course, was “Anthill.”
So Rosie played in the premiere of Anthill at Huntersfield. The harp ensemble from Royal Northern was then invited to play at European Music Day, held in London in 2010, where they played “Anthill” under the dinosaur bones in the Natural History Museum - which I think is just the coolest image ever.
You can come and hear the Eastman Harp Ensemble play “Anthill” by Catherine Kontz at the opening concert of the Women in Music Festival on March 25th - TOMORROW - at noon in the Eastman main entrance hall. Ten harps with huge graphic scores - how often do you get to see that?
(I will also be playing Caroline Lizotte’s “Odyssee” for the Women in Music Festival on Wednesday, March 27th at noon in the Sproull Atrium!)
Thanks so much for talking to me, Rosie! Happy spring everyone, warm weather is coming soon!