Harp concert brings holiday music to life

December 13, 1999

Harp EnsembleBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

The sounds of Christmas came to life Sunday afternoon at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts with a concert by the Tri-State Harp Ensemble.

The nine-member group, comprised of musicians from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia has been performing together for the past four years, according Sally Lay, director.

Lay put together the 45 minute harp concert using ensemble and solo pieces. Selections also included a flute and vocalist.

"I wanted there to be something that would appeal to everyone," she said.

The evening started out with a group performance of "Chimes," followed by a duet of "Greensleeves," by Lay and Kiya Cauffman.


The group then played "Les Pins de Charlannes," and other selections included "Sheep May Safely Graze," by Bach, "Amazing Grace," and "Thais Meditation."

A standing room only crowd of about 125 people strained to hear the delicate sounds of the pedal and lever varieties of harps being played.

"I thought it was just wonderful," said Pat Duncan, who attended the concert with her friend Kathy Guertin both of Frederick, Md.

Harp Ensemble"It was so soothing and peaceful," said Guertin.

In between performances Lay described how and why harps are played and the varieties available.

The concert included the classic Christmas holiday songs - "Jingle Bells," and "Up on the Rooftop." She invited the crowd to join the performance in singing along to "Silent Night" and they complied enthusiastically.

Lay praised the public for their singing ability, " I can tell there must be a few musicians in the crowd," she said.

Many of the members of Tri-State Ensemble are her former students, she said.

Those performing on Sunday were: Terry Rankin of Frederick, Md., Dana Loll of Frederick, Md., Beth Myers of Hagerstown, Kiya Cauffman Martinsburg, W. Va., Tiffany Jarman of Knoxville, Md. , Rebecca Newhall of Myersville, Md., Debbie Geer, Waynesboro, Pa., and Greg Skipton of Waynesboro, Pa.

Although a harp player for more than 10 years, Lay said she doesn't consider herself an expert.

"I'm still learning," said Lay who holds a degree in music and also plays the piano and organ.

It takes many years to become proficient on the harp and it helps to have a piano background, she said.

"It's hard to be a harpist but it also keeps you humble," said Lay.

In addition to years of study, the harp it self is an obstacle for the budding musician since the unwieldy instruments weigh more than 80 pounds and can cost thousands.

The instruments are also as delicate as the sounds they make - strings easily break and a heavy storm can cause it to go out of tune, she said.

Lay said she became interested in harp music because of a divine influence.

"I believe God called me to do it," Lay said.

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