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Harp Dreams

Airs Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Conductor David Effron leads the University Summer Festival Orchestra while Hanako Hirano (silver medal winner) performs.

Coline-Marie Orliac plays the USA International Harp Competition
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Above: Coline-Marie Orliac plays the USA International Harp Competition

"Harp Dreams" documents the 2007 USA International Harp Competition, which is held every three years in Bloomington, Indiana. Arguably the most prestigious competition for harp, it is generally considered the most important of all music competitions.

Roughly 30 players from around the world compete for first prize, which will almost certainly catapult the winner into a career as a first-class musician. The winner of the 2007 competition, for example, is now principal harpist with the Bolshoi Ballet. Each performer must learn and master 13 separate compositions, including an entire concerto for orchestra and harp.

The repertoire is “virtually impossible to play,” according to renowned harpist Susann McDonald; “It takes two years of daily practice to even be able to play, much less master these works.”

In the end, only three players will play every piece; at each stage of the four-stage competition, half the competitors are cut. Footage was captured in Moscow, Zurich, Paris and the USA. Blythe Danner narrates.

Video

Video Excerpt: Harp Dreams

Above: "Harp Dreams" documents the 2007 USA International Harp Competition, which is held every three years in Bloomington, Indiana. Meet the main characters of the documentary.