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Remember this name: Grace Cloutier gives a new voice to the harp

SHELBURNE & HINESBURG In a very busy few days in our area last week, harpist Grace Cloutier delighted her many fans and raised the awareness of many more listeners to the beauty of the music of the harp, as she played two concerts, was a guest on Walter Parkers program on Vermont Public Radio, taught two master classes and played for children, teachers and parents at Hinesburg Elementary and Charlotte Central Schools. For anyone who had not heard this talented young woman before, her concerts were an experience to change forever the assumption that the harp was an instrument designed for a delicate touch and ethereal cadenzas. Cloutier draws sound from her beautiful six-foot tall harp that range from delicate and precise, eliciting thoughts of snowflakes drifting to the ground, to big booming chords that fill the auditorium. Her whole body communicates her joy in making beautiful music, focused and intense, then smiling with obvious pleasure at the sound she is drawing from the 47 strings. Rufus Patrick, well-known music educator, founder of the Hinesburg Artist Series and conductor of several local choirs and the Hinesburg Community Band, has brought Cloutier to our area for concerts before and speaks with great admiration for her musicianship, and for her generosity in working with groups of children and others interested in learning more about the harp. A review of her biography casts a light on how fortunate we are to hear her. A graduate of The Julliard School and Yale University, she has a busy concert schedule, playing all over the world. She has a performing residency at UCLA, co-founded the first international harp competition, has performed under the baton of many of the worlds most respected maestros, and has won many awards, both for her musicianship and for her humanitarian activities, working with victims of AIDS, the elderly and children in New York City where she lives. On Friday evening she performed the inaugural concert in the new Sanctuary at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, playing Pavane and Branseles, transcriptions of music written originally for the lute by the Renaissance composer Francisque, Feiullett dAlbun by the trailblazer woman harpist and composer Henrietta Renie, the Interlude written for solo harp as past of the Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten, and a medley of carols written by Ray Pool with what she described as enhancements by Cloutier. With each piece, Cloutier gave an introduction that further displayed her depth of knowledge about the repertoire and enhanced the enjoyment for the audience. Her enthusiasm and personality are the icing on the cake. She also played lovely duets with two local musicians, Ave Maria with horn player Tom Whitney, and O Holy Night with oboeist Dan Frostman, and accompanied carols sung by Patricks mixed choir In Accord. On Sunday afternoon she played as part of the Hinesburg Artist Series Christmas Concert at St. Jude Church, combining her talents with those of the South County Chorus, the Hinesburg Artist Series Orchestra. The perfect way to get in the holiday mood and a tradition for the overflow crowd that filled the church.

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