Leading up to the 13th World Harp Congress this July in Hong Kong, we’re talking with performers for the ever-popular WHC Focus on Youth showcase concerts. Check in each week as we present insights from these talented young artists.

Give us some background: when did you start playing, what’s your current age, and who do you study with?

“Work hard doing something you love,” is Abigail Kent’s advice to new harp students.

I wanted to play when I saw someone come into my first-grade music classroom with a small Celtic harp. Since no harp teacher was available at the time, I started on piano and two years later started Celtic harp with my first harp teacher, Judy McCoy, who had just moved to town at the time. When I was 15, she brought her old pedal harp to my house and said she wanted to teach me how to play the classical harp. I was fascinated with how it worked and then just started practicing a lot. Now 22, I am finishing my last year at the Curtis Institute of Music with Elizabeth Hainen.

Tell us about your WHC program. How did you choose your repertoire and what do you like about the music?

I will be playing “Legende” by Renie and “Sublimation” by Jeremiah Siochi. I really enjoy playing both pieces, but for different reasons. “Legende” has such a fantastic story connected to it, filled with a lot of imagery and otherworldly elements. “Sublimation” is a lot of fun to play, especially with the beginning part in a 7/8 time signature and having a very jazzy/groovy feel. I also met the composer, Jeremiah, during the summer at the USA International Harp Competition and he mentioned how he felt it was influenced by Brazilian music and jazz.

Have you ever attended a World Harp Congress?

This will be my first World Harp Congress and I am so excited to go!

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get to Hong Kong?

When I first get to Hong Kong I will honestly probably have a meal and then go straight to bed! 20 hours of travel will wear one out!

Which harpist do you most admire, and why?

I admire Edna Phillips and the fact that she was a pioneer as the first woman musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra. She also commissioned many works for harp, most notably the Ginastera Harp Concerto, now a standard in the repertoire.

Which harpist are you most looking forward to meeting in person at the WHC?

I am looking forward to seeing old and new friends from music festivals and competitions.

What’s the most memorable musical performance you’ve ever attended?

When I was in Hungary recently, I went to see a concert with the Budapest Festival Orchestra playing music of Bartok and Schumann. The soloist was violinist Leonidas Kavakos, a true master musician and artist. The whole concert was an amazing experience, from the energy of the orchestra to the brilliant playing of Kavakos to his two encores of Bach (they were beyond transcendental!) to the encore of the orchestra singing a German Carol a capella, sounding like a professional choir.

What’s your most memorable performing experience?

My most memorable performing experience was my graduation recital a few months ago. It was such a wonderful experience to play pieces I love for so many people I care about.

What advice would you give a young student wanting to start harp?

Work hard doing something you love.

What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?

In stressful performance or competition settings, don’t worry so much about the judges or what the outcome could be. Just play as best as you can by doing justice to the music you are trying to create.

When you’re not playing the harp what do you like to do?

I love going on walks, doing tai chi, reading plays and other literature, and watching films.

What’s on your playlist?

Always a lot of Bach – Glenn Gould’s 1955 version of the Goldberg Variations and Karl Richter’s St. Matthew’s Passion.

Finish this sentence: In 10 years I see myself…

I always think this is a funny question. So many unforeseen opportunities or events can happen in 10 years that I feel it is practically impossible to answer this question. I do however see myself continuing to do what I love to do and to always have the motivation to prepare and practice so I can appreciate every opportunity I happen to receive.

Anything else you want Harp Column readers to know about you?

Besides being a harpist, both classical and Celtic, I play classical piano and cello, as well as tenor banjo and mandolin.

To learn more about the World Harp Congress visit www.worldharpcongress.org.
To register for the 13th World Harp Congress July 7–13 2017 in Hong Kong, visit www.whc2017.org.

Listen to Abigail perform “Sublimation”


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The Harp Column Staff has been bringing you great editorial content, interviews, features, and reviews since 1993!

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