The American Harp Society Foundation has announced prizewinners for the two competitions held May 20–21. Kaitlin Miller, Juan Riveros, and Claire Thai were selected as the three winners of the 2020 Anne Adams Awards, with Heather Cornelius named an honorable mention. The Grandjany Memorial Competition prize was awarded to Hannah Cope Johnson. Originally set to take place at Roosevelt University in Chicago, modifications were made as a result of Covid-19 concerns. Held entirely virtually, the nine Anne Adams finalists and five Grandjany Memorial Award finalists were sent the exact repertoire selections at 9:00 am on the morning of the competition and given three hours to record and submit their video to the committee.
This unprecedented competition process was appreciated by the competitors. “As I’m sure [many people]can relate, all of my gigs and performances have been cancelled and continue to be cancelled as this pandemic wears on,” Cope Johnson shares. “It has been wonderful to have the Grandjany competition as my one musical event that was not cancelled. I am grateful to the AHS Foundation and competition committee for working to hold this competition despite everything. I am sure that all of us competitors benefitted from the AHS’s efforts to create a virtual stage to compete on.” Thai agrees, adding, “Even though it was much different than expected, I think the American Harp Society did a fantastic job of accommodating these unexpected circumstances.”
Riveros says, “This process was probably the closest we could get to a live audition, without sacrificing the audio and video qualities of our performances through a video call. The decisions made by the committee enabled each and every competitor to have a very controlled and organized audition, and I am grateful to have been a part of this innovative audition process.”
Miller says the experience was overall very educational, as it provided the push she needed to get more familiar with recording herself. “I purchased a Samson Go Mic and would certainly recommend it to any other harpists trying to make quality recordings as it is affordable and user friendly,” she says. “In preparation for the competition, I tried to experiment with the mic placement so that the different registers were balanced and the input level was not too soft or too loud.” She says practice runs were extremely useful, allowing her to work out issues with internet connectivity and phone notification interruptions.
Cope Johnson also made a number of trial recordings, sending them to friends leading up to competition day. “Every time I turned on the camera, I thought to myself, ‘They might as well be sitting here in my loft, watching me play right now.’ And that gave me the adrenaline of a performance!” She adds that recording in her Boston apartment presented its own challenges, with police sirens and neighboring apartments undergoing construction. “But despite all this, I felt free while I performed. I imagined that someone else was in my loft listening, and it opened my ears to savor the music I was playing. Competition music can often become stale after months of preparations. But the adrenaline enabled me to wonder at the music, imagining it through someone else’s ears.”