Five harps at Hugo Lambrechts make historyAndré Coetzee
André Coetzee: Little did the capacity audience at Hugo Lambrechts’ annual orchestra concert know that they were witnessing history in the making.
Their symphony orchestra took to the stage with no fewer than five pedal harps lining up at the same time. A rare occurrence anywhere in the world, this was a first for the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in its decade-long existence. It was also a first for the HL Music Centre since it opened its doors 26 years ago.
According to the harp instructor at HL, Ms Jane Theron, the harp part in an orchestra is normally played by just one harpist.
“It was a huge treat for so many of us to be allowed to perform Dance Bacchanale by C. Saint-Saëns as a group. For whatever the reason, I don’t think any orchestra in South Africa, professional or student, has ever had as many as five harps at one time – well, apart from one Barry Smith performance of the St Cecilia Mass at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town some 30 years ago!”
She adds that this wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the huge investment in instruments by Hugo Lambrechts, for the encouragement of the director Leon Hartshorne and for the harpists themselves who put in many hours of practice to get to this point.
Jane currently has two pedal harp students and four lever harp students at HL. The only other teacher of the harp she knows in Cape Town is her own “very dear” teacher, Beti Woolley, of Rondebosch.
The harpists performing at the concert were (in order of seating) Jana Opperman (one of Jane’s first students at HL), Melissa McWalter (from UCT), Lisa Britz (current HL student), Nadia van Staden (music subject student at HL, from Malmesbury) and Jane.
Jane’s world of “pulling strings and blisters” began in Standard 6 (now Grade 8) at Springfield Convent in Wynberg in 1959 when she was inexplicably drawn to two old Erard harps gathering dust in the main music room.
She finished school, graduated from UCT with a BA(Music) – always with Beti Woolly - and was fortunate to land, almost immediately, the Principal Harp position in the Performing Arts Council Transvaal Orchestra. Four wonderful years followed in Pretoria. After her marriage, her husband’s job took them around SA and to the UK and finally back to Cape Town. She followed a freelance path performing as harpist along the way, teaching here and there as well. Her serious commitment to the future of the harp started when Leon Hartshorne invited her to teach at Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre some 10 years ago.
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Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium, Parow Cape Town Western Cape South Africa