Angela Schwarzkopf is quickly becoming a household name far beyond the Great White North
Angela Schwarzkopf. If this name is unfamiliar to you, you could be forgiven…but not for long. This young Canadian harpist won the 2020 JUNO Award for Classical Album of the Year for her album detach. The JUNO Awards are the Canadian equivalent to the GRAMMY Awards in the United States, and Schwarzkopf’s win puts her in elite company. Only two other harpists have ever won a JUNO—Erica Goodman in 1995 and Judy Loman in 1980. That’s a short list any harpist would be thrilled to be on.
What makes Schwarzkopf’s achievement even more remarkable is that the winning album was her debut recording and it consisted exclusively of newly commissioned works. Schwarzkopf’s album was deemed the best in Canada, not for masterworks by Brahms or Mahler, but for her interpretations of innovative contemporary composers that made the selection panel sit forward and listen.
Here at Harp Column, we’ve known Angela for a long time. She is a frequent contributor to the magazine where she always brings the same level of integrity to writing about the harp as she does playing the instrument. We caught up with Angela on Zoom (how else does anyone get together these days?) to talk about her JUNO Award and the rich Canadian harp tradition.
Harp Column: We were thrilled to see a harpist win the JUNO award in June, so we have to start there. Tell us what that moment was like when you found out you won Best Classical Album of 2020.
Angela Schwarzkopf: It was wild. All day I was a basket of nerves because I really wanted it, but I felt like the underdog in the category. I was up against people that had much larger, more established careers and who were recording works by Beethoven. Here I was playing all new harp music. I thought it was a unique project that had a lot of value, but I didn’t know how it would stand against these other albums. I knew that being nominated was enough, but I really wanted it. My category was being announced fourth from the end of the awards show, and I thought, “Great, I can be really stressed out for the entire awards show.” [Laughs]