The Harp Legacy Project
Created by Shirley Meyer Blankenship DMA Harpist/Composer www.theharplegacyproject.com
I INVITE YOU TO THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A HISTORIC DIFFERENCE!
In 2011, I initiated The Harp Legacy Project in order to assist composers in the creation of viable notation for the harp.
The catalyst for this project was the accumulation of encounters with scores that were awkward at best or simply impossible to perform thereby requiring editing or even rewriting before effective practicing could even begin. The well-known harp cadenza in the Waltz of The Flowers, from the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky, is one of those scores that requires adjustments.
In 1975, for an entire semester at the University of Illinois, I conducted a course focused solely on harp composition. At the end of the semester, I collected a portfolio of creative compositions all of which still required extensive consultation, one on one, in order to be "harpist ready". And despite seminars and manuals, composers continue to generate unnecessarily problematic scores due to the labyrinthine intricacies of the harp's potential sound structures that often require inventive transparent symbolic representations, and that often inherently impose the need for new and unique performance techniques essential for harpists to accurately render the intentions of the scores presented to them.
Consequently, since 2011, I have been on a mission to participate in the editing of scores, one at a time, by living composers. I now have a substantial collection of "before and after" pages to employ in my
aspirations to generate exciting new and feasible harp compositions.
Concerning my work, I quote Myra Kovary, a harpist from New York. After viewing the "before and after" pages of one of my edited scores she sent me the following note:
You deserve an award from Amnesty International. You have just saved every harpist who plays that piece from being tortured.
Recently she wrote:
The work Shirley Blankenship is doing with new composers is invaluable.
Without such efforts by an experienced harpist like Shirley, the art of composing for the harp will suffer terribly, as will the harpists who have to play the parts that are written for them by inexperienced composers who write for the harp like they write for the piano, without a deep knowledge of the potential and the limitations of the harp. Thank you, Shirley, for sharing your vast experience with all of us who are interested in keeping the harp alive and vibrant for many generations to come.
I AM READY to present a HARPINAR whereby I can expand my number of contacts per session. My initial presentations will be live, via Skype, and limited to
4 participants. They will extend up to 2 hours during which we will, together, examine the "before and after" pages of a harp part to an opera, The Dream Maker, by Domenic Guastaferro. Questions are welcome during the online process.
The fee for this presentation is $50 per person and can be paid either by check to:
Dr. Shirley Blankenship, 806 North Prospect Avenue, Champaign, Illinois, 61820 or through the PayPal button on my website at: www.theharplegacyproject.com
Interested participants need to send me their Skype contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org (My Skype name is: shirley.blankenship75) A suitable time will then be arranged for your Harpinar.
I INVITE YOU TO THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A HISTORIC DIFFERENCE!
Words cannot express how grateful I am for all of your passion and hard, meticulous efforts in bringing about a beautiful, simplified and play-worthy rendition of my harp part for my opera "The Dream Maker". May you continue to bless many composers with your unique and cherished gifts in the musical realm! God's Many Blessings!.
- Domenic Guastaferro
Composer; Founder & Director, The Alpha & Omega Theater Co. Inc.
In January through May of 2012, I worked closely with Shirley Meyer Blankenship, DMA, editing the 48-page score of the 43-minute violoncello-and-harp duet, Progeny of Memory, which I'd composed in 2006, and which had been recorded in 2010 (Centaur Records #3077). Dr. Blankenship emphasized the practical needs of harpists throughout, and over numerous hours of back-and-forth, we worked out a new notation for the entire piece--a notation which will save harpists many hours of preparatory time, thus encouraging them to actually play the piece.
The notational expectations of harpists are uniquely esoteric, and they mainly share them with each other, not with other musicians. So Blankenship offers a vital service in patiently and painstakingly working out these details. She brings to the task a general musical background from her years as a pianist and composer, which not every harpist possesses. Where her proposed solutions to practical problems ran afoul of my compositional needs, I found her readily able to comprehend the issues and offer alternative proposals.
In everything, I found her meticulous, respectful, and highly educational.
For any non-harpist composer endeavoring to write for harp, I recommend her services.
And especially for the composers on the list, as well as any harpists, I'd like to tell about a project I just concluded: the marking up of the score of my 2006 cello-and-harp duet, "Progeny of Memory", with the help of University of Illinois harp professor Shirley Meyer Blankenship. There's nothing like working with an expert instrumentalist and consummate musician on such a project. And we composers often have surprisingly little interaction with harpists, so we may go through life ill-prepared to write well for them.
"Progeny of Memory" is a 42-minute, 11-movement work (recorded on Centaur Records No.3077), and the 50-page score initially presented harpists with about 50 hours of preparation and calculation before they could start rehearsing. The marked-up score modifies notation to give an initial division of tasks between the hands, to show not only pedal changes but full pedal dispositions at likely rehearsal points, to indicate placements of the hands which facilitate playing passages, some detailed fingerings, and many other details which should allow harpists to begin practicing and rehearsing right away. Shirley is a pleasure to work with, and a tireless perfectionist.
Please see this comparison of the score before and after this project, for a glimpse of just how much work we did. The musical content is almost exactly identical between versions, but the notational differences may be an eye-opener.
Excerpt from a post left on Orchestralist.
- Matthew H. Fields
Music: Splendor in Sound
See Progeny's Before and After.