Two well-known and long-time favorites in the Triangle music scene combined their talents for a seldom heard concert of music for harp and organ at Edenton Street United Methodist Church.

Anita Burroughs-Price, principal harpist with the North Carolina Symphony has impeccable credentials and a career to match them. Of special note is her commitment to the community and her generosity of time and talent. She has provided volunteer performances for many charities, churches, synagogues and civic groups. She has performed in soup kitchens, prisons, hospitals, in Red Cross hurricane shelters and at the bedside of terminally ill patients. She was awarded the 1999 Raleigh Medal of Arts, the city’s highest award, for her “outstanding artistry and humanitarian service.” Her recording, Healing Touch, won the 2006 Excellence in Media Silver Angel Award.

Dr. William J. Weisser recently retired from his duties as Minister of Music at Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, NC where he had been responsible for seven singing choirs, three handbell choirs, three dance ensembles and instrumental ensembles for some 35 years. He was instrumental in organizing the Heart of Raleigh concerts, The 20ll Fine Arts Series and in bringing the magnificent Letourneau Opus #112 organ to ESUMC and to Triangle organ music lovers. Weisser has extended great music to the community in numerous ways through his ministry at ESUMC. He has also produced a CD of excellent organ music, Music for a Sunday Afternoon, which includes selections by composers with North Carolina connections as well as music by Leo Sowerby, Marcel Dupre, Jehan Alain and others.

The first several selections on the program were introduced by Burroughs-Price in a casual informative manner. Antonio Soler (1729-1783) was a Spanish composer of the period of the late Baroque to the early Classical era. He is best known for his keyboard sonatas and concertos. The Andantino from his Concerto No. 3 for Two Keyboards, as arranged for harp and organ by M. S. Kastner, was a beautiful example of the blending and contrasting of the sounds characteristic of the two instruments.

The very familiar and utterly delightful Concerto in B-flat for Harp, Op. 4, No. 6 by George Frederick Handel was edited to be performed by organ and harp by two of the grandest harpists* of all time, Marcel Grandjany and Marisa Robles, whom Burroughs-Price studied with at the Royal College of Music in London. The lively first and third movements, especially, contain captivating melodic material that makes it a favorite wherever it is heard. In the inviting setting of the magnificently appointed sanctuary of Edenton Street United Methodist Church and performed by these two outstanding artists, it was a treasure of pure enjoyment.

The Sanctus from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem was arranged for organ and harp by Donald Wolford, with some tweaking by Weisser. This classic of transcendent beauty uses the organ and harp to set an ethereal mood of praise that was wonderfully realized by tonight’s featured artists.

“Aria in Classic Style” for harp and organ by Marcel Grandjany (mentioned above) was a perfect vehicle for showing off the harp in all its glory.  Strummed chords, plucked melody, heavenly arpeggios and stirring glissandos were all demonstrated with great skill and effectiveness. This music sounds the way most of us think harp music should sound and what we expect to hear when we enter the pearly gates.

Next, Weisser demonstrated the capabilities of the Letourneau with a performance of American composer, Leo Sowerby’s “Carillon.” It is a piece that seeks to capture not only the sound of bells, but the mood and tone-structure of the sound of bells. It allowed Weisser to use some of the unique and special stops of the instrument including a variety of chimes and bells. It also gave him the opportunity to show the fantastic dynamic range of the organ, from pianissimo strings to the dynamic full sway brass at the climax. Weisser provided the spoken program notes for the last three pieces on the program.

The Larghetto cantabile movement of the Petit Concert Chanpetre (rustic, rural) by Richard Purvis was a delightful piece, pastoral and charming in nature. The closing four-movement American Folk Hymn Suite by Dale Wood provided many delights with tunes that sounded familiar but also offered interesting challenges to the listener with their intricate and skillful variety of creative settings.

For an encore, Burroughs-Price and Weisser offered just about the ultimate in harp and organ pleasure; J. S. Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

We are deeply indebted to artists such as these: skilled, well-trained, accomplished in their fields, generous of spirit, warm and gracious of hospitality. How fortunate we are to have them as Triangle Treasures.

*Edited/corrected 7/16/11