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Mercer's harp ensemble serenades audience with love

Image courtesy of Mercer University
Image courtesy of Mercer University

Mercer University's harp ensemble presented their "Serenade" on Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the McCorkle Music Building. The program consisted of several pieces that expressed different themes and aspects of love, such as romantic and tragic love. The pieces incorporated a variety of composers, including Georges Bizet, Gabriel Fauré, Benj Pasek and others. 

Calista Anne Koch, the director of the harp ensemble, arranged the pieces. Members of the harp ensemble with Koch included Adrian Cronin '23, Anastasia Hall '23, Caroline Schmelzer '21 and Kristin Ware '23. "The performance expresses all aspects of a serenade and what it does to a person's soul," Koch said. 

A serenade is defined as music sung or played in the open air, often to entertain another person or lover. Using Italian and French harps, the ensemble performed music made up of strummed, elongated notes that rang into the concert hall. Many of the pieces were gentle and melodic, practically lullaby-like. During "Menuet" from “L’Arlésienne” by Georges Bizet, the ensemble utilized high-pitched notes that played the melody, creating a lighter atmosphere. 

“There’s romantic love in there, there’s tragic love, of course, there’s the dream sequence,” Koch said.

During "Impression," composed by Dewey Owens, the ensemble strummed various notes that blended tones as higher, singular notes played over it as part of the melody. The blending of tones created a dreamlike sound, which can relate to how love in some experiences can feel dreamy and unrealistic.

The performance also incorporated pop and cultural pieces such as "Africaby David Paich, known as the lead singer of Toto, and a traditional African piece called "A Zulu Lullaby" from "Thula S’thandwa Sam'."

“'Africa' and 'A Zulu Lullaby' is like love for the homeland and nature. We also try to include the nature into it with the rain and everything in that sort,” Koch said. These pieces involved each of the players creating rain and nature sounds with the bodies of their instruments. Koch refers to these effects as “extended techniques” in the harps.

“We had clicking; they used the back of their harp, a way to make the sound of the rain, and one of the harpists was using the back of her nail to create kind of a cricket effect and the sound of the wind. And then, during ‘Zulu Lullaby’ one of the students had woven paper into her stings to create kind of a snare effect. One of the students was sweeping the strings using a whistling sound," Koch describes. Harpists also tapped their feet on the floor, creating traditional beats and nature sounds. 

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