Harpist wows crowd with technique, music

Many people have never seen a pedal harp up close.  It’s the only orchestral instrument that makes use of both hands and both feet, but usually we just see its top at the back of the orchestra.

The audience at St. Michael’s church in Chemainus on March 27 had the rare treat of seeing one played solo at close range when the Victoria harpist Josh Layne gave a recital as part of the “St. Michael’s Presents” series.

It’s hard to know which was the more rewarding part of this fine recital: The beautiful music, or the fascination of watching this great artist’s technique.  The music was partly original to the harp, including a piece by Layne himself and partly transcriptions of pieces by Bach and others.  The literature of the harp includes a great deal of music by French composers, some of them relatively unknown.

Hasselmans (1845-1912) and Grandjany (1891-1975) are not household names, except to harpists, but their music is well worth hearing.

The intimate atmosphere of the church permitted some of the audience to sit near enough to Layne to help him play, but he clearly needed no assistance.

The most rewarding piece was a transcription by Grandjanay of  Debussy’s familiar “Clair de Lune.”

The next in this series is a recital by the pianist Bruce Vogt on May 1, details at www.chemainusclassicalconcerts.ca

—Bill Morrison