Morris County and Morristown NJ offers much in the way of historic getaways, cultural heritage, parks and recreation, wedding and banquet facilities, meeting spaces, cultural venues and events.
The Morris Museum, the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Revolutionary War sites and Morristown National Historical Park are just a few of the world class attractions that we have to offer travelers to New Jersey. Ideally located 25 miles west of New York City, Morris County makes a perfect location for a diverse vacation with your family.
Parsippany NJ July 26-29: If your only image of a harp looks like what you see in the back of an orchestra, there’s a harp festival taking place in Parsippany that will widen your horizon and broaden your view of the “usual” to exotic looking harps of all shapes and sizes. The 12th annual Somerset Folk Harp Festival takes place at the Hilton and harpers (yes, that’s what they’re called) from all over the world will be taking workshops, going to concerts at this conference and buying harps in one of the largest harp showrooms on the East Coast.
Conference attendees can pluck to their heart’s content in over 100 hands-on workshops and lectures on everything from the ancient angular harp called the kugo to the elements of jazz improvisation and rhythm. It’s harp heaven for the true believers as well as the dabblers. Hoping to do a little “harp proseletizing” and expand the harp community, festival director Kathy DeAngelo says the festival offers plenty to do for the general public that doesn’t play the harp--yet.
This year there are a number of special focus areas that will attract harpers from all over the world. The International Jazz Harp Foundation will be conducting a Jazz & Blues Harp special all-day workshop on Thursday. There are 7 other workshops throughout the weekend that will explore improvisation and blues for harpers with different skill levels. Performers in this area will include Maeve Gilchrist, Frank Voltz, April Vega, and Martha Gallagher.
The special poly-rhythms and dynamic playing styles of various Latin American genres will also be a hot area. Did you know that men are the predominant harp players in Latin and South America? The harp festival will feature Nicolas Carter doing a 3-day Paraguayan harp class and his wife Tracy Gorman teaching a Paraguayan dance class. World renowned player and composer Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival last year, will teach how to get those Latin American effects on any kind of harp. Venezuelan harpist Angel Tolosa will teach classes on the meringue, joropo and Venezuelan waltzes and his band, Ensamble Contratiempo, will play for an after-hours Latin American dance, called Fiesta, on Saturday night. April Vega will add to the world music mix with workshops on African and Cuban rhythms.
What Visitors Can Do at the Festival: The Exhibit Hall will be open from Friday through Sunday afternoon and is one of the best harp shopping and music buying showrooms on the East Coast. If you’ve always wanted to play the harp (and who hasn’t?), this is the best place to try them out
“Every harper I know has had someone come up to them and say ‘I always wanted to learn the harp’,” she says, so there will be a workshop at the festival called just that and tailored for the inquisitive nonplayer. Get there early because that workshop is given at 10am. “We want to light that spark to encourage people to play,” says DeAngelo. Also included in the visitor’s ticket is admittance to the extensive showroom with harps of every shape, size and sound—from replicas of medieval and renaissance harps to modern harps made out of high-tech carbon fiber—and even harp kits for the do-it-yourselfer. Then there’s something called a “harp tasting”.
“There aren’t any winners in a harp tasting,” says DeAngelo, “because each person has their own opinion about what they like—like in a wine tasting.” The harps are sampled by a professional player and the audience judges based solely on sound. It’s a blind test (for the audience, not the players) to keep looks from distracting the listeners. The models and makers are revealed at the end of the tasting and audience members can take their judging sheets into the showroom and see the harps up close, try them out and cost compare. “Lots of people come to this festival just to harp shop,” says DeAngelo. “An instrument like this not something you just buy out of a catalog.”
There are lunchtime concerts on Friday and Saturday and the visitor can sit and enjoy their lunch while listening to the featured harp ensembles. There are a limited number of concert tickets available to the public for the evening concert series. Sunday’s special public program starts early with a lecture at 9am on The History of the Irish Harp by Gráinne Hambly, followed by the Sunday concert at 11am. Included in the Sunday special price of $15 is the harp showroom until 3pm.
If you go: The $15 Visitor’s ticket can be purchased at the door for admittance to the showroom and the special public workshops and daytime concerts. Evening concerts, at 7:30pm, are general seating at $25 per ticket (check availability online at www.somersetharpfest.com/concerts.html. The Hilton is located at 1 Hilton Court, Parsippany NJ. See the festival website for performer biographies and other details: www.somersetharpfest.com.