for solo harp
for Kathryn Harms
This is an odd one for me. Lullaby for an Evening Star was written for–or with, as it were–a very accomplished harpist who went to school with me during my doctoral studies at a time when I thought I knew how to write for the instrument.
The reality is that composition for the harp is like nothing else I have ever done: technical descriptions are limited, contradictory, and often quite useless; studying standard repertoire for the harp yields the realization that harpists rarely play what is actually written because it cannot; and there is very little knowledge of other instruments that can be carried over as a foundation for harp composition. My initial drafts of this piece came as a very rude awakening that what I thought and had been led to believe about what the harp could do was just not correct, and I was going to completely revamp my approach if I were to attain anything that I wanted.
Luckily, Kathryn was more than willing to work with me to clean up the music, show the nuances and variations of harp notation, and provide me with countless reading sessions to bring it to a level that was adequate for a player of her caliber. As I came to find out later, this is more or less how new works for harp are created and why so few composers adequately write for harp in any significant fashion.
Aside from the technical information in the piece, there are additional details that I hoped would serve as an homage to Kathryn. Sadly, her grandmother–a significant force in her upbringing–had passed away shortly before this project began, so it was my goal to create something that would honor their relationship and her memory. Additionally, Kathryn has an unfettered love for theme and variations, which drastically informed the construction of this work.
By no means do I claim to be an expert on harp composition at this point, but my interested is piqued and it is my intention to pursue many more projects like this in the years to come.