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 18-21: Billed as a “4-day harp party”, the biggest get-together of harp aficianados in the country opens Thursday July 18 for the fourth consecutive year at the Hilton in Parsippany. Presenters, performers and players from all over the world convene at the 13th annual Somerset Folk Harp Festival where they can participate in workshops, hear world-class players in concert and shop for the widest selection of harps in what will be one of the largest harp showrooms on the East Coast for the weekend.
Attendees won’t be lugging around those big harps you’ve probably seen at the back of the orchestra. These are folk harps, sometimes called lever harps, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There’s everything from medieval wire-strung harps, to double-strung harps with two rows of parallel strings, very light-weight Paraguayan and Venezuelan harps to high-tech harps made of carbon fiber materials. With more than 100 hands-on workshops and lectures on every genre of music from Bach to Bop, it’s harp heaven for the true believers as well as the dabblers. Festival director Kathy DeAngelo says the festival offers plenty to do for the general public that doesn’t play the harp--yet.
What Visitors Can Do at the Festival: If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I always wanted to play the harp,” then the festival is worth a visit. There’s a workshop for the uninitiated called “I Always Wanted to Play the Harp” on Friday and Saturday morning. You can get up close and personal with a harp and tap into that desire.
Harp Tastings: Follow that up by going to the Harp Tasting to evaluate an array of harps just by their sound. You’ll be surprised by how different each harp will sound. “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.
Harp Showroom: Your visitor ticket also gives you access to the Exhibit Hall, open from Friday through Sunday afternoon, where harp makers and vendors from all over the US and Canada set up shop for the weekend. It’s also “the” place to buy sheet music and all manner of harp “stuff.” this is the best place to try them out.
“Lots of people come to this festival just to harp shop,” says DeAngelo. “An instrument like this is not something you just buy out of a catalog.” Or you just may decide to make your own!
Build Your Own Harp: There is an additional opportunity this year to stick your toe in the water and make your own harp, from a kit, right at the festival. It’s a two-stage process on Saturday so plan your stay by taking in the other “open to the public” activities between the harp-building workshop with Professor Dennis Waring. Kits are discounted at $110 and can be purchased directly from Waring Music at the festival. Prof. Waring will guide you through the build process and provide everything you need, including the tools, to build the harp.
Concerts: 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.
Special Sunday Program: On Sunday, the special public program starts early with a lecture at 9am with Andrea Stoeger, who is coming from Austria. Her Sunday workshop is “Tyrol to Salzburg and Bavaria: harp in traditional folk music”. The Sunday concert at 11am features Masters of the Celtic Harp, Gráinne Hambly and William Jackson, and popular American harper Kim Robertson. is followed by the Sunday concert at 11am. Then visit the showroom until 3pm—all this included in the Sunday special price of $15.
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.