Harpists play striking pieces in Herstmonceux and Shoreham

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Harpists from across the county are being brought together in a new ensemble called Glissando.

Shoreham-based harpist Alexandra King is joining forces with seven other harpists – a large gathering of which is kicking off with concerts in Herstmonceux and Shoreham.

“This is quite a special project because it’s rare to have concerts with so many professional harpists, partly because there are not many of us and partly because it’s a logistical nightmare getting us all together!”

Alexandra will be working with Fiona Hosford, Helen Arnold, Sally Course, Siobhan Swider, Alex Rider, Andrew Myles-Wright, and Lesley Edwards. The group will go up to eight but will also offer smaller combinations when required.

“I have known some of them for quite a while,” Alexandra says. “One of them is my teacher and another is the teacher that taught me before the current one. One of them is my duet partner, and another one has moved down to Brighton… plus a couple of others I have picked up along the way.”

Alexandra continues: “Together it is a magical sound. It is quite something. There are a lot of things you have to consider, though, particularly with a big ensemble. Some of the repertoire is for two harps, and so we double up the parts, but then obviously you have to be bang on in tune, and you have to be properly in time with each other! There is a core of about four of us, and the others will be able to drop in and out.”

“Our debut concert is on March 5 at Herstmonceux Castle, with another concert planned for April 23 at Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham and also April 29 at St Peter’s Church in Henfield.”

Alexandra is promising a repertoire in styles ranging from the energetic to the ethereal – well-known folk tunes and popular classics alongside pieces by prominent composers for harp.

“The ensemble features harpists from all walks of life, each with their own style, coming together to perform music which is both aurally and visually spectacular. With all of us, it is a pretty big sound, but we have got some repertoire that requires delicacy. We are arranging pieces to work out what sounds good.”

As for the harp itself: “I just love it,” Alexandra says. “I started out as a pianist, so I was very used to using both hands, and the sheet music looks the same. I like that with the harp and the piano, you get harmony notes as well rather than just one note at a time. The harp and the piano are open to really beautiful chords, but the harp suits me better than the piano because of the size of my hands. They are really small. Rachmaninov had enormous hands. He was also very, very tall. I can’t stretch enough for the piano. Harpists tend to be predominantly women, though we have got two men in the ensemble.”

Tickets for Herstmonceux Castle on March 5 at 3pm are £13 online (excluding booking fee) or £15 on the door www.wegottickets.com/event/387800.

Tickets for the Shoreham concert on April 23 at 8pm are £15 on ropetacklecentre.co.uk/events/glissando.

Visit www.glissandoharpensemble.co.uk for more information.

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