Being a successful performer can be an art in itself. Beyond actually playing an instrument, there are many other elements that have to come together in order to achieve success.
Rachel Van Voorhees, the guest artist last Friday for the Sixth International Harp Concert Series must know this. In addition to being an obviously talented and capable performer, Van Voorhees' program selection and collaboration with others brought a fresh and interesting dimension to the recital.
In particular, the program showcased the harp in some less-frequently explored perspectives on the instrument such as being a featured instrument in chamber music.
Van Voorhees brought in Claudine Bigelow on the viola and Jane Wadsworth on the flute for a Sonata by Debussy. This piece itself is an unknown gem with all of the distinctive qualities that define Debussy being very pronounced.
The exotic textures, the sonorities, the pastel colors, the imaginative flights of fancy are almost exaggerated, and Debussy sounds even more "French" here than in many of his pieces. Hearing this work especially performed so well was a real treat.
The other collaboration was also delightful this time with violinist Hassan Borap on a Fantasy by Camille Saint-Saens. The most striking thing in this piece was Borap's gorgeous violin playing. Van Voorhees kept up with him as an equal, but his beautiful tone really was an attention-getter.
Voorhees filled out the program with some solo works that provided variety and balance. Particularly delightful was the collection of pieces by Marcel Granjany romantic, charming and quite visual in their depictions.
We've all read about the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, but the reality of the disaster hasn't touched most of us personally. So it was particularly interesting to have Van Voorhees, the principal harpist for the Louisiana Philharmonic, give the audience a first-hand account of what it's like to survive such a catastrophe, especially from a musician's perspective.
The concert didn't focus on Katrina or Louisiana, particularly, but the connection did provide a framework bookended with the introduction on one end where it was mentioned that surviving Katrina factored into the selection of Van Voorhees as a guest artist to the end of the program, when she shared her personal experience with the audience.And, obliquely, it guided the program selection in that all of the pieces were French, "in honor of the people of Louisiana and their French heritage."