USA IHC announces 2018 composition contest


The USA International Harp Competition has announced its 6th Solo Harp Composition Contest. Submissions are due Oct. 15, 2018, and pieces must be unpublished, unawarded, and between 6 and 8 minutes in length.  The winner will receive a prize of US $2,000, and the work will be published by Lyon & Healy Harps.

With aims to promote the harp as a solo instrument and to encourage composers to write for the instrument, this contest has received submissions from over 250 composers in 41 countries since it began in 2003. Applicants have included professional and student composers, harpists and other instrumentalists, poets, authors, software developers, computer scientists, and engineers, with ages ranging from 10 to just shy of 80. Ruth Inglefield, the chair of the composition contest says, “One of the most awesome developments of the contest has been the growth of the Composition Forum. It started as a small get-together for people who might be interested in hearing from the composer of the winning piece, and has evolved into a much-anticipated event that includes performances of all the finalist works – many of which have achieved significant popularity around the globe as a result of the exposure.”

Though the required instrumentation is for solo harp, contest rules state that electronics or other instruments may be included if played by the harpist. Inglefield says this has resulted in very novel submissions. “There have been some theatrical approaches that have included throwing crumpled paper at the audience and imitating a passenger on a train, both of which were finalists [in previous contests]. One piece that would be entirely improvised – the score was a series of pedal charts. One where there was an electronic tape for the harpist to listen to while playing. The audience wouldn’t hear it – it was just supposed to inspire ‘distortions’ in the performance.” Reflecting on her personal experiences over the years, Inglefield adds, “I remember when most harpists weren’t at all excited to try weird new things, either. It’s been very exciting to have even a small part in the normalization of innovative approaches.

“There have been a lot of people who have made this project possible. Susann McDonald and the board of directors have embraced this idea. My daughter Sonja [Inglefield], as secretary of the contest, has had plenty of work from the beginning when scores and tapes had to be copied and mailed around the world to jury members. Now everything happens online but in much larger volume – the most recent contest had 116 submissions so she is much busier. We’ve been especially fortunate to have had so many wonderful harpists and composers give their time and expertise as jurors. And lastly, to all those harpists around the world who have learned and recorded the new works to make submission possible: you are the real heroes of this story!”

For more information about the composition contest or the USA International Harp Competition, visit


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