SANTA CRUZ -- The haunting, sweet sound of harps filled Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Sunday during the ninth annual Santa Cruz Harp Festival.
Community Music School presented the annual free concert, which it calls a celebration of the harp in its many forms -- from the folk harp to the historical wire strung harp to the classical pedal harp typically seen in orchestras.
The church was nearly full for the well-received festival, with children sitting around the altar, listening. Many had grandparents sitting in the pews.
"This is the best deal in town," said Theodora Kerry, who stood at back of the church. "The Community Music School is one of the best things about Santa Cruz. This is just a wonderful, warm community event."
The concert featured soloists, a chance for children and others to try out a harp at intermission and performances by the Community Music School Harp Orchestra conducted by Shelley Phillips. The orchestra performed traditional music from France, Venezuela, Germany, medieval Europe and Anglo/Celtic America.
Members ranged from age 7 to 70, Phillips said.
"We have all sizes, shapes and abilities," she said. "It's great; we're happy campers."
The festival is the school's main winter event, Phillips said. They hold a Dulcimer Day and camps for children and teens in the summer, she said.
Phillips told the audience the harp is not too hard to play. She said one member of the orchestra
She thanked the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and mentioned the school's Music Match Program that restores donated instruments and gives them to children in need. She said they train the students to restore them.
"It's a good skill to have, and it's fun," Phillips said.
Marguerite Rose of Santa Cruz attended to watch her 9-year-old goddaughter, Olivia Carrillo, perform in the orchestra.
"Shelley provides a great service for the community," Rose said." She is so warm and encouraging, and she gets the children an instrument right away. The whole thing is completely fantastic."
Soloists who performed Sunday included Jennifer Cass on the pedal harp, Leah Daugherty on Celtic harp and vocals and Cathleen O'Connell on wire harp. Special guest performers included Lars Johannesson on flute and Sue Brown on violin.
Daugherty played two songs she wrote, including one called "Dance With Me" about the last night of camp. She told the audience she had been with Community Music School for 10 years, since she was 9 years old. The combination of her voice and instrument was mournful, sweet and enthralling.
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