What's better than one harp? Fourteen harps. This past weekend I saw (and heard!) 14 harps played by some of the most talented young harpists in the country. It was a performance of The American Youth Harp Ensemble, based in Richmond, Virginia. The AYHE is internationally known, and has performed throughout Europe and the US - including performances at the White House and Carnegie Hall and appearances on public radio and television.
Their music is amazing. The holiday concert, entitled "Harp! The Herald Angels Play!", included traditional harp pieces, jazzy renditions of familiar favorites like The Pink Panther theme and Scott Joplin's Entertainer, and Christmas standards like Carol of the Bells which seemed to be played by a complete orchestra.
One song I particularly liked was Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. It's one of those songs that's familiar, but you possibly can't name it. (Listen to a snippet here.) The song is from Handel's Solomon oratorio, and captures the excitement of the Queen's visit to King Solomon. This painting from the National Gallery imagines her departure. She brought the wise King great riches, including several tons of gold, but, the verdict is out as to whether she's the romantic subject of the Song of Solomon . . .
I think Handel himself would have approved of AYHE's rendition. It was joyful, energetic, and beautiful. If you have the opportunity to attend an American Youth Harp Ensemble concert, you should! You'll enjoy the wonderful music and perhaps see the harp in a whole new light.
I'm off to listen to a little Handel while I wrap presents - three guesses which songs!