Concert is something to harp about

Crimson Rich

Crimson Rich

It seems like an odd combo, mixing the angelic harp with the Klezmer-polka sounds of the accordion, and the classical-chamber style of the cello, but for harpist Caroline Mackay, it’s a musical  match made in heaven.

It’s that melding of sounds the audience will hear when new trio Crimson Rich joins the Okanagan Harp Orchestra for its annual Spring Fling concert at the Schubert Centre in Vernon Saturday.

“The harp and accordion go really well together. I have a colleague in Toronto who has been performing with an accordionist, and there’s groups in Europe that feature the two instruments,” said Mackay, who is based in West Kelowna but travels to Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops on a weekly basis to teach at the  three community music schools.

Crimson Rich started after accordionist Rod Miller contacted Mackay through her High Spirits website. The two soon discovered how much their instruments work well together. They then enlisted cellist Max DeBesson to join them.

The trio plans to perform one composition in a tribute to Mother’s Day, Amma (which means mother), written by Sarah MacNabb, whose mother plays in the harp orchestra.

“It’s an arrangement for violin/viola, with the accordion playing the viola part. It really is beautiful,” said Mackay, adding the orchestra will back up the trio for the piece.

Consisting of 10 of Mackay’s current and former harp students who live throughout the valley, the Okanagan Harp Orchestra has been performing around the valley for approximately three years now, but started many years before that as an ensemble.

In July, a number of the orchestra members will attend the World Harp Conference, being held this year in Vancouver, where they will be exposed to the best of the harp world, said Mackay.

“This will be great for us… Our members are amateurs in the best sense of the word, and they really love what they are doing. We mostly consist of adults, but we’ve had some younger members over the years as well.”

Known for its versatile repertoire that includes Celtic music, rhythmic Latin, classical and some original pieces, the orchestra is about breaking down the barriers of the often misunderstood instrument.

“Whatever you thought the harp was, it is and more,” said Mackay. “It can be angelic, and also spicy like a habanero pepper, and is also powerful in the genres of folk and Celtic. It is so versatile.”

An acclaimed Celtic harpist and recording artist, Mackay is also known for her voice, and will sing along to a number of pieces including a Finnish traditional love song as well as a South American composition, at the Spring Fling concert.

“There will also be dreamy Celtic and some stomping Celtic as well,” she added.

Crimson Rich and the Okanagan Harp Orchestra perform A Spring Fling at the Schubert Centre, 3305 30th Ave., Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are at the door, and cost $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.