Norwegian harpist and composer Uno Alexander Vesje was awarded first prize at the Dutch Harp Festival’s World Harp Competition finals, held May 15–16, and broadcast from Utrecht, The Netherlands. Second prize and the audience award went to Dutch harpist Romy Wymer; third prize to Grace Roepke, from the USA; and fourth prize to Tara Minton, from Australia.
Vesje’s winning program consisted of a six-movement work, Our Planet, Our Future, which he composed himself for solo harp and electronic elements. The jury said of Vesje’s performance: “We were touched and mesmerized by his music, the composition and the performance. Uno has clear musical drive in his playing that we could not escape from. The musical equivalent of a page-turner.”
The award ceremony took place during the closing concert of the Dutch Harp Festival, streamed entirely online this year due to Covid restrictions. This sixth edition of the biennial competition began in 2019 with a pre-recorded selection round. From there, 28 candidates from around the world were invited to compete in the live regional rounds, held in February 2020. Five finalists were then selected to perform at the Dutch Harp Festival. The finals, originally scheduled for May 2020, were postponed one year due to the pandemic.
The DHF World Harp Competition is open to harpists of all ages, nationalities, musical genre, and type of harp. “The competitors come from a diverse array of musical backgrounds, and they present their own original programs in whatever format they choose,” says competition director Elizabeth Jaxon. “Our mission is not to judge who is the best technical player but rather to find the best all-around artist. By giving competitors space to be creative, we hope to get harpists thinking about what makes a compelling performance and how best to connect with their audience. This year’s prize winners show just that!”