The sound of a harp in the sky doesn't mean you've passed into the afterlife. It can also mean that you are at the 2008 Utah Arts Festival.

In fact, the two harps you'll hear at the Utah Arts Festival are so huge they're called Earth Harp, and they'll be played by Mass Ensemble, said festival director Lisa Sewell during a meeting with the Deseret News.

"The strings will be comprised of 3,000 feet of musical wire, which will run from the Main Library wall east to the Amphitheater stage and west to the Round (stage)," she said. "The strings will be above the heads of the audiences and will be played from the stage every night at 8 p.m. The audience will literally be immersed in sound. And it won't be plucked but actually stroked or bowed with rosin-coated gloves by Mass Ensemble director Bill Close."

In addition to the harps, there are two classical music commissions that will be performed during the festival as well, said Sewell.

The UAF 16th annual commission for orchestra was awarded to Miguel Chuaqi, and the third annual commission for chamber ensemble was given to Keeril Makan. Chuaqi's piece, "Tiempo Norte, Tiempo Sur," will premiere Thursday at 8 p.m. on the Festival Stage, and Makan's work, "Mercury Songbird," will be performed Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Library auditorium.

"We are excited for these pieces to be performed," said Sewell. "We also have two jazz commissions as well."

Those works are by up-and-coming jazz composers Melanie Shore and Courtney Smith.

"We partnered with the Snowbird Renaissance Center, which is dedicated to human understanding through the enhancement of body, mind and spirit," said Utah Arts Festival public relations director Barb Guy. "And what better way to do that, but through music."

Still, music isn't the only thing happening at the Utah Arts Festival. The "Fear No Film" festival is back and features independent films from Ireland, Spain, New Mexico, California, Colorado and Massachusetts, said Sewell.

"The film festival coordinator, Topher Horman, went through 60 to 70 films to put together a cohesive film series that is comprised of seven different categories," said Guy. "His theme is that cheer, 'Lean to the left; lean to the right; stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight.' So there are films that lean to the left and right politically. There is a film that makes you want to stand up and do something. There is a film that makes you want to sit down and think, and there are films that study interpersonal conflict, societal or global conflict and internal struggle." (See sidebar for the "Fear No Film" schedule.)

"We are also bringing back the Rhythm Riders Hip Hop as part of our Urban Arts selections," said Sewell. "We didn't know what to think when we first asked them to participate. It's a whole different culture than what some people here are used to. But it's an exciting art form. And we will also feature some interactive urban art that explores the hip-hop culture and wall-art demonstrations. Students and graf (graffiti) artists will be on hand to help people design and understand this art."

As with all past Utah Arts Festivals, there will be the featured artist marketplace with kiosks and wares from all over the world.

"There is so much for this arts festival to offer," said Sewell. "I hope people come and take advantage of it."

If you go ...

What: Utah Arts Festival

Where: Washington Square, 400 South and 200 East

When: Thursday through June 29, noon-11 p.m.

How much: $10 at the gate


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