Though a harp-organ combo may not be heard too often, harpist Janelle Nadeau and Knox United Church organist Jenny Vincent have plenty in common.
Chief among them is their drive to prove to the world the value and versatility of their often pigeon-holed instruments.
For their upcoming concert at Knox United Church on Sunday, Jan. 14, their shared mission is to get the audience hooked on both the harp and the organ.
“We hope that they are going to walk out of there totally happy hearing organ and harp, and want to hear some more organ and harp together, or even just harp by itself and organ by itself,” said Vincent. “Just to walk out of there and want more.”
The concert will be the second major offering in Vincent’s OrganWORX series, the first having featured science journalist Bob McDonald speaking on space with musical accompaniment by Vincent last September.
The concept for the series is to share the sounds and ability of the newly purchased Rodgers Artist 599 organ at Knox church.
“So many people think that the organ just belongs in the church and that it’s dirge-ee,” said Vincent. “I’m trying to show different ways that the organ is used.”
Nadeau also works to expand the constraints that listeners put on the harp.
“Apparently angels play the harp,” said Vancouver-based Nadeau with a laugh. “I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near being an angel, so it’s kind of fun to be able to show that the harp can be rhythmic, the harp can be dynamic, the harp can play Spanish music,” she said, and many other types of music in addition to the romantic pieces it’s often thought of as playing.
“In my shows, one of my favourite comments that I get from people is when they say that this wasn’t really what they were planning on going to,” but that they were surprised and entertained by what the harp can do.
Vincent said she had the idea of combining the two instruments as that is rarely done, and yet they both instruments can trace their heritage back thousands of years.
Nadeau was all for the duet, she said, having had a small taste of what it can be like performing with an organ as part of a string ensemble.
“I love the fullness of the (organ’s) sound,” said Nadeau. “My instrument is one that I pluck and the nature of the instrument is that when I pluck my string, that’s the loudest that those notes are ever going to get, and as full as they are ever going to get, and that’s the exact opposite of the tone of an organ
With a good amount of new music being written for both instruments as well, the pair have a variety of genres to play for their Jan. 14 performance.
The concert will include “a little bit of everything,” they said, with music from the 15th century to the 21st, including classical, Celtic folk, jazz and flamenco music.
The genre-spanning setlist will have Vincent coax a variety of sounds from her instrument, including “quieter organ string sounds and flute sounds” to violin, harp and oboe sounds pulled from the organ’s MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) system.
One particularly challenging piece will have the organ playing both as quietly and as loudly as possible while it converses back and forth with the harp.
That piece, called Fantasia for Organ and Harp by Rachel Laurin, will be an exciting one for the musicians, and hopefully the audience, they said.
In terms of variety, Nadeau said “I don’t think that there is any rock left unturned.”
The performance takes place at Knox United Church on Sunday, Jan. 14 at 2 p.m.
Tickets for the concert can be purchased for $30 at the Knox church office and Mulberry Bush Bookstore in Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Tickets for this and the last OrganWORX concert of the season featuring Vincent and the Schooner Cove Singers can also be purchased together for $50.