Each day, students flock to practice rooms in the basements of Graves Hall and the Cochran Chapel to improve their music skills. With the exception of one, each practice room contains a piano, mirror and music stand. The room that differs from the rest is in the Chapel and contains a six foot, 47-stringed concert grand pedal harp. The primary users of this room are Charles Stacy ’16 and Makenna Marshall ’18 who are taught by Emily Lewis, Adjunct Instructor in Music.
“Harp is such a vastly different sound in the orchestra than every other instrument,” said Stacy. “Your winds and brass have their own sonorities, and strings have their own sonorities… Harp, there’s nothing else like it. When you’re using a [glissando, a continuous slide between notes], for example, in orchestra, [the harp] can just create a lot of cool effects that other instruments can’t. I think that’s what separates it.”
This month the Music Department relocated the harp to a larger room in the Chapel, giving harp students more space to practice in. In addition to the main harp, there are also five small lever harps available for students to play in their rooms. The number of students using these harps fluctuates between two to six students each year.
Christina Landolt, Chair in Music, said, “Our harp program is fairly dynamic and depends a lot on the students who happen to be at Andover at any given time. While some students do start the harp during their time here, many others have had some experience with it before matriculating.”
In addition to harp lessons, students can participate in the harp ensemble. This group is open to students of all levels, the only requirement being that each student must have at least one half-hour lesson with Lewis each week.
“[Harp ensembles] offer a place where you can put forth your best effort and, with your peers, create something better than you could have done on your own,” said Landolt. “Add to that an instructor who listens, reacts, guides, and then steps back to allow you to flourish together, and the experience is quite powerful. Even people who are quiet in class can find their voice when they have an outlet for expression like a music ensemble.”
Student harpists also have the opportunity to perform with the Academy Chamber Orchestra as an ensemble member or as a soloist, depending on the repertoire chosen for the year.
“The harp has an absolutely exquisite sound and can create beautiful colors, but it’s not the loudest instrument, so when paired with an orchestra, it can get buried,” said Landolt. “That said, its subtle power in such a large group is also worth noting. In a John Williams film score, the moments that are most likely to sweep you away into the action or into a great melody are the parts with harp. The harp can make Harry Potter fly.”