MUSIC: The Thrill Of Victory
The USA International Harp Competition ◆ by Megan Landfair
This time last summer people around the world were waiting with bated breath for the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The excitement of seeing the world’s top athletes strive to perform at their highest level had audiences from all walks of life glued to their TVs and computers for two weeks. This summer, you’ll be happy to know that you can witness the competitive spirit again right in Bloomington! On July 10-20, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music is hosting the 9th USA International Harp Competition.
Fifty of the best harpists from around the world, ages 16-32, representing twenty countries will travel to Bloomington in hopes of winning the gold medal. One of the first traditions they will take part in is the Opening Ceremony scheduled to take place in Auer Hall on July 10th at 4:00 p.m. Contestants will be greeted by Indiana’s political elite and be assigned their performance order.
Throughout the ten days competitors strive to achieve their peak performance in order to win the coveted $55,000 Lyon & Healy Gold Concert Grand Harp. To win the gold harp, they must pass through four stages in which they will be judged by seven world-renowned musicians. Like many Olympic events, the competition jury members will utilize a point system for each harpist but instead of being judged on their athletic prowess the points are based on musicianship, technique and artistic presentation.
The first stage will last for three intense days, after which the jury will identify only half of the harpists for the next round. From the field of 25 in Stage II, only eight will move on to Stage III.
At this point the harpists will have to show mastery of the instrument by demonstrating their ability to perform both traditional repertoire and a brand new piece, written specifically for the competition by French composer Benjamin Attahir. At the end of Stage III the jury will decide which three harpists continue to the final stage.
Following nine days of intense competition, diverse musical interpretations, and world-class performances, the excitement will culminate at the Musical Arts Center on Saturday July 20 where the finalists each perform with the Indiana University Summer Festival Orchestra. Shortly following their performances, the Closing Ceremony will commence with the presentation of the medals and the gold harp.
So why does the Jacobs School of Music host this prestigious event? The school has the largest harp department in the world. It also has Distinguished Professor of Harp Susann McDonald who founded the competition in 1989. Just like the USA Gymnastics team, the IU harp department has had a long-standing tradition of distinction and excellence. This year six participants from the Jacobs School will represent this country.
2010 Winners (l-r) Vasilisa Lushchevskaya, Russia; Agnes Clement, France; Rino Kageyama, Japan. Photo: Alain Barker
While it is exciting to watch the competition unfold and see a winner announced, the ultimate goal of the USA International Harp Competition is to foster friendships, bring together musicians from around the world, and introduce the harp repertoire to a broader public. Just as with watching an Olympic sporting event, the recognition of the competitor’s hard work is celebrated throughout the ten days.
This summer, be sure to come out and be part of the excitement. The competition is in your own back yard and all events, including the finals at the MAC, are free and open to the public. For more information a complete schedule of events visit USA International Harp Competition.