Heavenly Richmond harp ensemble sells out Carnegie Hall

Posted at 12:36 AM, Feb 18, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-28 17:40:01-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The breathtaking 105-year-old Cathedral of the Sacred Heart  by VCU was graced with an ensemble of some of the very best young harpists in the country Friday night.

They are a rare team of teens that has played in the White House twice in the past year, in Austria, a special show at the Kennedy Center, and in just two weeks they're putting on a sold-out show in the storied Carnegie Hall in New York City.

"Even Carnegie Hall was stunned by how quickly we sold out and how early we sold out," said Lynelle Ediger , artistic director of the American Youth Harp Ensemble.

And, oh, by the way, this a Richmond based ensemble with 300 members from all walks of life.

"It's just so incredible to have that aspect of teamwork behind the ensemble and really work together and have that sense of unity," said harpist Bethany Bruno. "And then all the incredible places we get to play."

Just this year, they've played in "the White House twice . . . they've played in Austria, they have played in the Kennedy Center, we've played for the Kennedy Center Honors, and had a chance to perform for Izack Pearlman and Yo-Yo Ma and John Williams," Ediger said.

Not to mention the Carnegie Hall show - the ensemble's third time playing there in its 13-year history. "The work that the students put in to preparing for Carnegie Hall is life changing," Ediger said. "It is really a journey. It's like preparing for the Olympics."

But this isn't a story about the privileged few and their $20,000instruments. The ensemble reaches out to communities throughout the Richmond area.

"Our mission is regardless of financial means, if a student is interested in learning to play the harp, they have that opportunity," Ediger said. "And that's the basis for the organization."

And they're not just highbrow performers. "People think, 'oh, you play classical music,'' said harpist Trey Nunnally. "But we play a lot of Latin, African, world, jazz, modern pieces."

He's proud to do performances were he plays the harp like a rock star, with histrionics and lots of fun and energy. Many people, he says, sees the harp as a predictable instrument. "People say it's nice, it's like an angel, and it is . . .  I want to change that perception."

You can see  next local performance of the American Youth Harp Ensemble Friday, Feb. 24,   7 p.m., at Reveille United Methodist Church, 4200 W. Cary Street.