Forming the NC Harp Duo

Our teacher, Jacquelyn Bartlett, introduced us via the North Carolina Harp Ensemble. Grace Wepner Ludtke and I met while playing in the North Carolina Harp Ensemble about 4 years ago. Grace manages the group and plays as well, and I am now involved as the development coordinator. We played in the advanced group together, enjoyed playing and became friends gossiping about the joys and woes of harp playing that our husbands just don't always understand. The seemingly minute difference between fingering a 5th with fingers 1 & 3, versus 2 & 4, the value of tall thumbs and the challenge of pedals have a way of losing their punch when discussing with muggles. 

Playing with the NC Harp Ensemble, we learned quite a bit of fabulous repertoire written for two harps, so as two young professional harpists in the music community, forming a duo was the only logical step for us.

Grace grew up in Newton, NC and gave the newly renovated Newton-Conover Auditorium the brilliant suggestion to begin a Lunchtime Concert series called the "Bach Lunch N' Listen." They agreed, and Grace presented a fabulous opening performance to begin the concert series. With each luncheon selling out, the new series was a success, and we landed our first gig as a Harp Duo this past spring.

Next, we discussed names (and repertoire). Between the four of us (harpists & our spouses), we came up with the following:

  • Tangled Harps
  • One Pluck One
  • Harp Burn
  • Harp Worm
  • Harp Felt
  • Harp to Harp
  • Artichoke Harps
  • Harps of Palm
  • Harp Attack
  • Achy, Breaky Harp
  • Tear'n up my Harp
  • Harpbeat!
  • Lonely Harps
  • Harpland

We're all suckers for puns, though perhaps we can use these to title future albums, programs or original music. After many laughs, the North Carolina Harp Duo won.

For our debut performance as the NC Harp Duo, we selected our favorites from the ensemble repertoire and learned a couple new pieces. Some of the music, was written for harpists within our harp community by composer Jack Jarrett. 

Mr. Jarrett is the grandfather of a student of Grace and a talented conductor and composer. As a gift to his granddaughter and her grandmother (who are both harpists!), Mr. Jarrett wrote, "a Little Harp Duet" for beginning harpists. He also arranged a number of Folksongs for various arrangements of ensembles, and Grace recommended that also arrange these for harp. Jack agreed, and arranged three more folksongs for harp (Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair, He is Gone Away & Shenandoah). Though we love all of his arrangements, we could only fit the Folksongs on our Newton program. But, we did get to play all of his music as duets when we made recordings of the music as a thank you to Jack Jarrett for composing.

At the first session, we worked with only the recording engineer, Ben Blozan. At our second meeting, Jack Jarrett was able to join. His intimate knowledge of the music he composed and keen ears gave us some great ideas while recording. You can listen to the completed recordings here.

When we can, we play in orchestras together, trading off as Harp 1 & Harp 2 and dream often of the repertoire we will learn and play, inviting other instrumentalists to collaborate with us and looking for new venues and concert series to play.