IU's International Harp Competition opens July 7 following PBS debut of 'Harp Dreams'
The 8th USA International Harp Competition begins July 7 at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Ind., culminating in a finals concert with the IU Summer Festival Orchestra in the Musical Arts Center on July 17. The triennial event is regarded as one of the most prestigious classical music competitions in the world.
The competition was preceded on June 23 by Harp Dreams, a nationally released PBS documentary about the 2007 competition by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Susanne Schwibs, a lecturer in the IU Department of Communication and Culture. Narrated by actress Blythe Danner and featuring an original score by Jacobs School of Music alumnus Cary Boyce, the documentary was produced by WTIU.
The USA International Harp Competition was founded in 1989 by Jacobs Distinguished Professor of Music Susann McDonald, who also serves as chair of the Jacobs School's Harp Department and is the competition's artistic director.
McDonald founded the competition with the goal of establishing an international harp competition in the United States that promotes and fosters the careers of gifted young harpists from all over the world. The competition strives also to promote the harp as a concert and solo instrument and to encourage composers to write new works for harp as well as fostering friendship and understanding among harpists worldwide. Since the first competition in 1989, more than 300 harpists from 19 countries have come to Indiana to compete.
"As the USA International Harp Competition evolves into the largest and most significant of harp competitions, we are reminded of the influence Susann McDonald is having on this field of music, international harp activity and generations of students," said Jacobs Dean Gwyn Richards. "We are, indeed, fortunate to have her daily in our midst and at the center of international music activity."
This year's festival will field 44 harpists from 16 countries, who will perform before a jury consisting of respected harpists and musicians including Patricia Wooster, Ayako Shinozaki, Anna Verkholantseva, Daphne Boden, Patricia Tassini, Ernestine Stoop, Jean-Marie Panterne and Ann Yeung.
In addition to receiving a new harp from Lyon & Healy Harps worth $55,000, the 2010 Gold Medalist will perform during the international winners program in Vancouver at the World Harp Congress in July 2011 and play debut recitals in New York City and Chicago. These performances, along with a recording contract and artistic management, provide the winner with transformational tools to forge a meaningful and rewarding career.
"Since its founding in 1989, the USA International Harp Competition has become one of the foremost international music competitions, attracting some of the finest harpists from around the world," said McDonald. "We are grateful to the Jacobs School of Music and Dean Gwyn Richards, who continue to host, support and encourage the competition in many ways. With the largest collegiate harp department in the world and excellent facilities, the school provides an ideal venue for the event.
"One of the competition's goals is to foster appreciation of solo harp playing to a broader public and to encourage composers to write for the harp. Every year, we host a composition competition and, this year, American composer Michael Maganuco's work 'Awakening Stillness' was chosen out of a field of 68 as a required work in the harp competition's third stage."
All competition stages and competition events are free and open to the public. For more information about the USA International Harp Competition, see http://usaihc.org.
Harp Dreams follows six of 31 young contestants from around the world as they prepare for -- and strive to win -- the 2007 USA International Harp Competition over 15 days in Bloomington.
The film combines the elegance and beauty of a classical concert instrument with the intensity and drive of world-class musicians, capturing the beauty and intensity of the competition through personal stories of the competitors.
The documentary is part performance, part interview and part slice-of-life. Among the competitors profiled are Mai Fukui, 20, of Paris; Maria Kruschevskya, 23, of Moscow, and Sasha Boldachev, 17, of St. Petersburg, who lives and studies in Zurich.
The film follows competitors at every stage, up to and including the finals. Each finalist plays the same concerto with orchestra, after which the judges make their final decisions. Interviews with harpists, teachers, judges and even host-families provide an in-depth look at what it takes to win a prestigious music competition.
"The competition's four stages require harpists to learn and perform by memory some of the most difficult and challenging music written for the concert harp," said McDonald.
The film also includes sections about the building of the prize harp and the history of the harp itself. Although the origins of the harp have been simultaneously traced to Africa, Macedonia, Persia, China and many other cultures, time periods and traditions, the essence of the instrument has remained the same for over 4000 years -- a tightly stretched string plucked to produce a note.
The 2004 competition received 64 applications from 17 countries. By comparison, the two other major international harp competitions held in 2004 -- the Israel International Harp Contest and the Munich ARD International Harp Competition -- attracted 12 and 18 applicants, respectively.
This story was originally published June 18, 2010.