Meet harpist/composer/arranger Alyssa Reit! With over 20 arrangements (most of them collections) available to download from Harp Column Music, she is one of our most prolific arrangers. We asked her to tell us about the inspiration behind her works for harp and chamber ensembles.
Who do you have in mind when you create a new arrangement?
There is almost always someone! Frequently I make arrangements for the students at the EMS Festival where I teach or some other harp ensemble event. Often settings are inspired as something to share with my horn-player husband, Peter, or to play with a friend/colleague on an upcoming concert. And often I’ll do one to fill the need (or delight!) of a particular student.
Where do you find inspiration for the tunes you choose?
Sometimes it’s situational, such as the Scandinavian Folk Songs, which I chose as companion pieces to the theatrical setting of The Ugly Duckling (both for harp and horn). Sometimes pieces call to me from somewhere in my past experience, such as the “Scots Tune,” which I learned for a tour with Anonymous 4, or the beautiful “German Lullaby” my mother sang to me as a child (both in Lovely Levers Vol. 1). Some are from recordings I love, such as “Las Tres Damas.”
What type of harp do you play and teach?
I teach and play both pedal harp and lever harp. Most of my career has been on pedal harp, but in the last ten years or so I have really come to appreciate the lever harp as a fine instrument in its own right. I’ve had a number of students, who for various reasons kept to lever harp, so I have actively sought to expand that repertoire.
What do you do when you’re not arranging?
I spend a lot of my musical time composing—usually for instruments besides harp. I also give a lot of my creative time to adapting classic stories for theater. As far as hobbies go, I love birdwatching (always a treasure hunt!) and I’m in the very early stages of training for a cross country bike ride. And one of my most favorite things to do is to bake bread with my adorable grand daughter.
Anything new you’re working on that we should be on the lookout for?
I’m in the process of performing and refining a setting of The Emperor’s New Clothes for harp & trombone that I received a generous grant from the AHS to create. After our initial trial performance period, it will be available on loan gratis to AHS chapters for two years. I’m also in the process of completing Volume 2 of Music from the British Isles, a collection of classic ensembles for beginners, and publishing an original setting of
The Frog Prince for harp and storyteller.
Anything else you want people to know about your arrangements?
I feel so lucky to have been exposed to so much great music of so many genres. It is a real joy to have so much wonderful material to play with, and I am deeply grateful to all those who put pen to paper, taking their time and effort to pass on their creative gifts.