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Harp quartet finds harmony

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Gracie Sprout and Laura Griffin-Casey, along with two other members of the harpist group, LA Harptette, rehearse pieces from Handel and Joplin before their performance in Morgan Auditorium Feb. 3. The University of La Verne’s Music Department hosts free concerts every Friday in Morgan Auditorium at noon. The events are open to everyone.

Gracie Sprout and Laura Griffin-Casey, along with two other members of the harpist group, LA Harptette, rehearse pieces from Handel and Joplin before their performance in Morgan Auditorium Feb. 3. The University of La Verne’s Music Department hosts free concerts every Friday in Morgan Auditorium at noon. The events are open to everyone. / photo by Breanna Ulsh

Tyler Evains
Staff Writer

Three brown harps and one glossy black harp decorated the stage of Morgan Auditorium. The house lights dimmed and Carol Stephenson, instructor of music, stepped onto the stage to introduce the performers.

“How many times do you get to see four harps on stage at one time?” Stephenson said.

The L.A. Harptette performed at noon Friday to kick off the Fridays at Noon concert series

Without self-introduction, the harpists took their seats and began to play.

It seemed that more sounds came from the strings than their fingers plucked out.

The group was founded in 2014 and directed by Mary Dropkin, a harpist since 7th grade.

She said she aims to spread the sound of her beloved instrument across other platforms and into the ears of new audiences.

The rest of the quartet consists of Paul Baker, Laura Griffin-Casey and Jillian Risigari-Gai, who was replaced by Gracie Sprout for this recital.

Dropkin had previously worked with Baker and Griffin-Casey, and met Risigari-Gai through a summer harp camp.

“I just thought of people I liked and got along with, asked those people to join the group and they agreed,” Dropkin said.

The chemistry of the group was evident as they didn’t have to keep eye contact in order to stay in sync like many smaller ensembles do.

The Harptette also seems to work together more than mixed instrument groups. There are different sized harps, but not different types such as bass, according to Dropkin.

In songs like “La Chasse” by Felix Mendelssohn, which was written for two harps, the harpists had to play the same parts and take over for each other sometimes.

Zoe Meshenberg, sophomore speech communication major, has always been intrigued by harp music, although she has never tried to play herself.

“I admire from a distance,” Meshenberg said. “It’s a rare opportunity to see harp performances. I’m disappointed to not see many people here, but I’m pleased that people did come.”

The L.A. Harptette closed their short set with “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin. Their string rendition of the ragtime piano tune sent the audience off happy, as Dropkin hoped in her introduction of the song.

Tyler Evains can be reached at tyler.evains@laverne.edu.

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