Atlantic Harp Duo

Elizabeth Jaxon & Marta Power

Dutch Harp Route

17 April 2012

Our performance at the Dutch Harp Festival earlier this month took place within the context of the “Harp Route” on the final day of the festival. The idea was to completely fill the city of Utrecht with harp music, by giving harp concerts in various venues throughout the day. There was almost too much going on to even be able to see everything, but audience members who participated in the Harp Route Tour had a guide to lead them to each location in time for the next concert.

This was the first time we had ever encountered such a treasure-hunt-like concert format, and we were curious to test it out. Though we wouldn’t be able to experience all the variety of the Harp Route from the perspective of the audience, it was a unique experience from our perspective as performers. We would remain in one venue and play our 30-minute program three times in a row while different groups of listeners passed through. Until now, we had been limited to just two concert flavors – one short hour, or two 45-minute halves with an intermission – as if the only choices in the ice-cream shop were Chocolate and Vanilla.  What would it be like to play a shorter program multiple times?

We arrived early afternoon at the Paushuize, situated just behind the Dom Cathedral in the city’s center. This beautiful brick Renaissance building was built by Holland’s only pope, Adrien VI. Today it is used as a conference center, and headquarters for the royal representative. Not only is it a beautiful building, but it also has its very own ghost! (Our first haunted concert!) We were met by an extremely helpful staff member who served us tea on a platter, and ran around the palace looking for a carpet to alleviate slipping harps and a little table for Elizabeth’s castanets.  We were given an absolutely sumptuous dressing room, complete with silk wall coverings, antique furniture, and a chandelier.

Atlantic Harp Duo at the Paushuize in Utrecht, NL

At 14:00, our first 30-minute concert began, followed by two others with only a short break between each one to catch our breath. The experience of playing three times in a row was somewhat reminiscent of when our duo played incidental music for a theatrical production of fables by Jean de la Fontaine which ran for several weeks, back in 2009. Each representation must be fresh and enticing for the audience, even as it becomes routine for us. For the first performance, all the excitement and nerves of a normal concert are in full play. By the second time, we were more warmed up and were feeling more comfortable with the whole setting. The third time, nerves ceased to be a factor at all, but we were starting to run out of steam, and so the new challenge was to maintain concentration. A fourth time would have been too much, so we were happily exhausted once our last group of listeners had cleared out of the hall.

The 30-minutes of music which we played in Holland was a sample of the complete program of Spanish music we have been constructing over the last year. We finally aired the entire program at a concert in Paris on April 11th, and we are excited to take it on to Brazil now, where we will perform during the harp festival in Rio de Janiero, May 8th and 9th!

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