The pros say every harpist should know these 10 orchestra parts, plus a few more for good measure.

Imagine that you’ve just been hired as principal harpist of an orchestra. Your first order of business should be to learn the most demanding parts that will frequently sit atop your music stand—tattered pages staring you in the eye. If you’re lucky, you’ll find out what these are and get the parts before the season starts. If you’re not so lucky, well, good luck.

Every orchestra has its favorite pieces that it programs time and time again. Some of these have harp parts that require a great deal of work to master, and there is rarely enough time in the schedule to put in the hours necessary, especially given the demands of the rest of your career and family life. Rather than panic and cram a major harp part under time pressure, most harpists try to learn these mainstays of the orchestral literature on their own time, long before they get that last-minute call to play Symphonie Fantastique this weekend.

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About Author

Elizabeth was the Principal Harpist of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 2017, after 6 years as harpist with the National Ballet of Canada. She teaches at UBC, the VSO School of Music, the VSO Institute and privately. In 2011, she was the Chair of the Host Committee for the World Harp Congress in Vancouver, and currently is President of the West Coast Harp Society/ BC Chapter of the AHS.


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