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Preview: Harper Martha Gallagher "Coming Home" with the Lake Placid Sinfonietta on Sunday

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Harpist Martha Gallagher has spent years on the road sharing her brand of harp music nationally and internationally. This year, she's staying closer to her home in Keene. She's calling her 2014 concert series, "Home in the Adirondacks".

Martha Gallagher shares the stage with the Lake Placid Sinfonietta this Sunday night to showcase her unique "orphan" harp and present the world premiere of a new work for harp and orchestra. Martha shares the story with Todd Moe of her custom built harp made of "orphaned" wood, and creating new music this summer. She says the last time she performed with the Sinfonietta was in 2005.

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Martha Gallagher: You know, I had a wonderful time. They seemed to really enjoy it. Audiences loved it. And we kept saying to each other, "Oh, I should come back," and I thought, finally, as I was planning this year being home, I thought, "Wouldn't 2014 be ideal?" So I spoke with the artistic director and the executive director and they agreed. And I had this inspiration, I said, "Oh, and I've got this cool harp! A very unique harp, called the orphan harp. She's got this great story, and I could write a piece for harp in orchestra!" And they thought that was a great idea too. And then I realized that I had no idea how to do that.

Todd Moe: Oh yeah, there's the orchestra!

MG: Well, yeah! So, the first thing was I had never orchestrated for a full orchestra, I don't know how to do that and that is quite a skill. That's a lot of knowledge and a lot of skill. And I realized that I did indeed know someone who did this professionally. So I contacted Dr. Paul Siskind. He was interested and delighted to work on the project.

So we started, and it grew into, it has been months and months and months of sending scores and samples back and forth, and musical exploration. As an artist I found it really stretched me, challenged me, and I really enjoyed it. It was a really big growth period, both creatively, and technically as a player. I wrote things that demanded more of me.

So, this is my first real foray into orchestral work. I call it the Orphan's Odyssey: a Suite for Lever Harp and Orchestra. So that premieres on Sunday, July 20th with the Lake Placid Sinfonietta.

TM: And there are four movements in the suite?

M: Four movements in the suite. And in my mind they portray the story of the conception of the idea of this harp, the orphan harp, which is made of many different kinds of wood, which is unusual for a harp. So, the conceiving of the idea, which I call The Spark, which is the first movement. The second movement, which to me represents the conundrum of the makers saying "well how are we going to do this?" and then it starting to come together. And I call that Moment Before Eventuality.

The third movement is then when I first see this beautiful piece of art, this beautiful instrument, and her name is Hope. So this movement is called The Beauty of Hope, which is a very lovely, romantic kind of piece. Then the very end, the fourth movement, is called The Orphan's Welcome. And I called it that because when the harp arrived here I had already been telling people about it. We did something there at the radio station, and so I had a very quickly planned concert, people came and they welcomed this instrument! As if it were a child coming into the community.

People far and wide welcomed the instrument. So I call it The Orphan's Welcome. There's kind of a swinging jazz feeling in one [movement], there's a Latin dance feel in one, and there's an Irish jig in there too! So, a real mix of music.

TM: Fantastic. And so, the Orphan's Odyssey, along with the Lake Placid Sinfonietta, Sunday night. And you'll be doing some other pieces in that concert as well? Some of your favorites?

MG: I am. When I performed with the Sinfonietta before, we had arranged some O'Carolan pieces. O'Carolan was an Irish harper, very prolific in composition in the 1700s. And his work is still a major body of the Celtic harp repertoire to this day. And so, playing one of those pieces, O'Carolan's concerto.

We are also doing another premiere. It is of my original piece, which is the title track of my fifth CD, called Ebb and Flow. It has this beautiful classical piece interwoven in it. And when I recorded it I just had myself, flute and percussion and synthesizer. So the synthesizer was doing some of the string orchestration underneath. But this time [it is orchestrated] for full orchestra. And the arrangement is just gorgeous.

I'm afraid that I'm going to forget that I'm also supposed to be playing, because I'm going to be wrapped up in how gorgeous it sounds. And then, I'm going to be doing just a couple of solo pieces as well.

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