Midstate Orchestra Features ‘Harp-Felt’ Music

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They arrive
early for rehearsal, anxious to play in perhaps the largest orchestra of its
kind in the country. The Harrisburg Harp Orchestra. Ten years old and going
strong.

“In
central Pennsylvania, our members number eighty to a hundred,” said
orchestra founder Louis Lynch. “For some reason this area draws harps and
harpists.”

Today's
session involved seventeen harpists, accompanied by drums, flutes and
vocalists. But for their upcoming Christmas concert, a 50 piece orchestra will
perform.

“We can
use as many harps or as many other instruments as we want to in our
concert,” said Lynch. “There is no established harp orchestra
protocol. There is no music written for harp orchestras. There are a few
ensemble pieces and four parts here and there, but for harp orchestras, it
doesn't exist. So, we write our own music.”

“When I
started the orchestra, I was expecting 12 to audition,” said Lynch.
“I got 25. 25 people signed up because they wanted to play together.”

“We've
drawn harpists from Toronto, New York city and Philadelphia. A lot of them come
from Reading. We've had some come up from Washington.”

“There
is something romantic and idealistic about the harp,” added Lynch.
“Also, it has a resonate quality that draws people in.”

“You
can get a good sound from a harp immediately as soon as you touch it. But, to
master it takes a while.”

The
non-profit orchestra averages four concerts a year at various midstate venues.
And their repertoire often features non-traditional harp music.

“We've
done rock and roll. We've done some jazz. We've done some classical, of course,
some Celtic and some bebop.”

Lynch says
the real joy for the players is the reaction from first time attendees at their
concerts.

“The
most common comments we get are, 'wow! I didn't know that harps could do
that!”

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