‘Lycoming College Harp Concert’ set for Valentine’s Day

For those still scrambling to put together their last-minute Valentine’s Day plans, look no further — harpist Anne Sullivan has got you covered.

Sullivan, a local harp instructor, will be performing the “Lycoming College Harp Concert” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Community Art Center, 220 West Fourth St. Along with three other members of the Lycoming College music faculty, she will bring to stage a romantic show that plays tribute to Cupid and St. Valentine.

“I’ve never done a performance quite like this,” Sullivan said. “It has been a real adventure because it is music that I love — I mean, who doesn’t like romantic music?”

Sullivan feels the upcoming harp concert is perfect for Valentine’s Day because the low, liquid sound produced by the instrument is a great way to relax and unwind on a holiday that finds itself sandwiched between Christmas and tax season.

“I think that harp music is just beautiful,” she said. “If you have never heard a harp performance by itself, you really have not been able to experience just how rich and varied the sound can be — sometimes it sounds like a piano and sometimes it sounds like an entire orchestra.”

Having first picked up the instrument at 8 years old, Sullivan says she “can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing the harp or wanting to play the harp.” Recalling a story told to her by her mother, she said that her interest in playing the harp was first developed at the age of 2, when she heard one played on the radio. “I told her, ‘That’s what I want to do,'” Sullivan said. A few years later, her parents started her on piano lessons promising that, if she kept with piano for four years, she could then take on the harp.

“I can’t exactly describe why my attachment to the harp is so strong or why it was so immediate,” Sullivan said. “I just know that the harp, for me, is a means of expression and is something that I have always wanted to do.

“I don’t know that my life would be the same without it,” she added. “Playing the harp is not only what I do, but who I am.”

After graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, Sullivan pursued a career in music education, but has also found herself in high demand as a symphonic soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. Her orchestral appearances have included shows with the Baltimore Symphony, Delaware Symphony, Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. She has also performed on stage with world-famous artists like Luciano Pavarotti, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Roger Daltrey.

Though she has played shows in many great venues, Sullivan is especially excited to be back on the CAC’s stage, where she recently played in a production of “The Nutcracker.”

“It is a beautiful venue and it is one of those classic theaters that was designed to be a special place,” she said. “It is not just a hall with chairs, it is a real theater and it has character. It is just the right size — nobody feels like they are very far from the stage, but you know you are part of a real event.”

At the upcoming concert, Sullivan will be using a six-foot-tall, 85-pound pedal harp which allows her to play nearly as many notes as a piano.

“Small harps don’t have the pedals and they are a little more limited in the variety of music they are able to play,” Sullivan said. “The pedal harp has a lot of possibilities and I thoroughly enjoy it.”

The setlist at the upcoming show will include a wide variety of love songs, including tunes from “West Side Story,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “The Greatest Showman.” She will also play Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” which Sullivan says is a signature piece of hers.

“I created this program specifically for this event,” she said. “A couple of these pieces, especially the harp solos, are music that I have performed before or are things that have come from recordings that I have. But most of the music I have arranged especially for this performance, so they are never-heard-before arrangements.

“We will be playing everything from ‘Titanic’ to The Beatles,” added Sullivan. “There is really quite a variety of music, and it was so much fun to create these arrangements — it took a lot of work but it was truly a labor of love.”

Joining Sullivan at the performance will be guest musicians Ashley Shank (flutist), Kenneth Sarch (violinist) and Garet Holdren (cellist). Together, the four Lycoming College staff members hope to put on a show that leaves audience members with an uplifted mood.

“For people who have never been at a harp concert before, they aren’t sure exactly what to expect. I can tell you that the music is going to sound exactly the way you think it should sound — it is going to have exactly the energy that it should have,” Sullivan said. “You are not coming to a concert of music you have never heard before, you are coming to a concert of music that you love, and it is played in a different way that is really beautiful.”