Originally created 11/04/04

Harpist will showcase talent at St. Paul's



It was strange being known in college as the harp player, Vonda Darr said, but it helped pay her tuition.

The 34-year-old, who started playing for weddings and parties when she was 12, will be the featured musician at Tuesday's Music Live at noon Tuesday in the sanctuary of St. Paul's Church, located at Sixth and Reynolds streets. The concert is the annual memorial concert for Martha Curtis, an early supporter of the live shows.

In addition to being the principal harpist for the Augusta Symphony and the Augusta Opera, Mrs. Darr also plays with the South Carolina Philharmonic, teaches harp and runs a Kindermusic program, a national program that teaches music and movements to children from infants to 7.

"We have age-appropriate instruments," she said. "With the infant class, we're mostly teaching moms stuff they can do with music at home, things where they're moving with them to a steady beat so (the babies) get to feel the beat of the music."

Coming from a musical family, Mrs. Darr said she was exposed to lots of different music at an early age and started playing the piano when she was 4. When she was 6, she saw the harp and wanted to play it, but her parents made her wait and think about it for a few months.

"They didn't think a 6-year-old really knew what to do with a harp, but I kept asking," she said. "They knew I was really interested and let me try it and I loved it."

She went on to begin practicing a half hour before and after school, and then longer as she grew up, she said.

Mrs. Darr now teaches private lessons to 15 students, and has formed the Augusta Youth Harp Ensemble with eight of her students.

The harp is a great instrument to teach, she said.

"One thing about teaching beginners, you can't make a bad sound on a harp. It's very satisfying, even for beginners, everything sounds pretty," she said.

Mrs. Darr said Tuesday's performance will be her third at the church. One performance was a harp and organ duet with Keith Shafer, who coordinates the events, and another was with a cellist.

Performing alone this time, Mrs. Darr will bring two different types of harps - the concert pedal harp and a smaller harp, referred to as a folk or Irish harp - and will show some of the differences between the two before performing.

"Part of the difference about a harp that's satisfying is you're in direct contact with the strings - your fingers are making the music," she said.

"And with the pedal harp, you use your feet to move the pedals while you play, so your whole body is involved in the music." It's just such a beautiful sound, too."

The 30-minute concert is free and is followed by lunch, which costs $7 per person. Advance reservations are required for lunch. For reservations, call 722-3463.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Harpist Vonda Darr performing at Tuesday's Music Live

WHEN: Noon Tuesday

WHERE: The sanctuary of St. Paul's Church, at Sixth and Reynolds Streets

COST: Free; $7 lunch

PHONE: 722-3463

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.