The 19th International Harp Contest will be held for the first time in the historic Knight’s Halls in the Old City of Akko, chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. November 23 – December 3, 2015.
A festive concert will open the contest on November 23, 2015 with harpist Anaïs Gaudemard, 1st Prize Winner of the 18th Contest in 2012, as soloist.
The contest was founded by Aharon Zvi Propes and legendary Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek in 1959. At its inception, the harp competition was the first of its kind. Propes, who played a significant cultural role in Israel’s formative years as founder of the Zimriya – the World Assembly of Choirs, The Israel Festival, and the International Harp Contest. Understanding the importance of culture as an essential part of creating identity and community, Propes sought to create an event that would be unique to Israel. At that time, there was no other international harp competition, and as King David was known for playing the harp, this was a wonderful way to establish a new event that has a deep connection to history and tradition.
Zubin Mehta, conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is the honorary president of the contest, which takes place once every three years, with competitors and judges arriving from many countries. This year’s contest brings to Israel musicians from the U.S., Italy, Belgium, France, Holland, China, Japan, Taiwan, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Hungary, as well as Israeli musicians.
The contest encourages the creation of original compositions for the harp, and each contest commissions a new work from an Israeli composer. This year Menachem Wiesenberg was commissioned to compose a new work, and it is “Mizmor Shir.” The Propes Prize will be awarded for the best performance of this work. Wiesenberg commented on the inspiration for this work, saying that it came from two sources: “the sounds of my beloved first grandchild Shir, and the Book of Psalms, in which many chapters open with the words Mizmor Shir, and in many of these verses, the harp is mentioned as a central ceremonial instrument. So it felt natural to me to call my composition for harp – Mizmor Shir.”
Professor Susann McDonald (USA), is President of the Jury. She is one of the world’s leading Classical harpists and influential harp teachers, has served as artistic director of the World Harp Congress, and is the honorary president of Association Internationale des Harpistes.
This year’s selection committee includes: composer Haim Permont, Julia Rovinsky – Principal Harpist of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Gitit Boazson – harpist and teacher at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Florence Sitruk has been chosen as the contest’s new Music Director. A renowned harpist and Professor of Harp at Geneva Music University, Sitruk founded the annual Elias Parish Alvars Festival in the town of his birth Teignmouth, in Devon, England, and has won numerous international awards.
26 young harpists under the age of 35 have been accepted to this year’s contest in Akko. The contest is two weeks long, and is held in two stages. 12 finalists will enter the second stage, 6 will participate in the semi-finals, of which 3 will be chosen to enter the finals. The contest will open on Monday, November 23, 2015 in a gala concert in the presence of Akko Mayor Shimon Lankry. Anaïs Gaudemard, 1st Prize winner of the 2012 contest, will perform the world premiere of a new work by Pierre-Adrien Charpy. In the second part of the evening, she will be joined by Israeli percussionist Yinon Mualem and the Rast Ensemble.
The full program and information may be found on The International Harp Contest in Israel website.