As a torrential downpour covered Topeka on the evening of Sept. 24, 2016, a small but inspired group of friends, family and students gathered in White Concert Hall to hear faculty member Erin Wood perform a beautiful and euphonious harp recital. Wood was joined by two guests who have traveled the world sharing their talents: Veronique Mathieu and Skokhrukh Sadikov, who are virtuosos on the violin and viola respectively.
“When I was young I walked into a music store,” Woods said when discussing her origin of her love for the harp. “There was a little harp and I went over and played a tune on it and I fell in love with it.”
Wood had played cello and piano before this first encounter and, while she continued to hone her skills with those instruments, the harp quickly became her main love. Since then, Wood has had a storied career. She’s taught in multiple universities around the country including University of Nevada Reno, Indiana University Southeast and the Arts Institute of New Albany. She has served as the principal harpist for the Reno Chamber Orchestra and the Utah Festival Opera.
She has performed all across the US as well as in Europe and Japan. She has played in the Seventh World Harp Congress in Prague and has won prizes from the Prix Renie.
She is an executive member of the American Harp Society and is the Midwest regional director of the organization. Wood is currently a faculty member of both Washburn and the University of Kansas.
One of the most notable pieces from Wood’s performance was a difficult piece from Camille Saint-Saens who is best known for his work “The Carnival of the Animals.” Mathieu and Wood tackled the fast paced and incredibly challenging “Fantaisie for Violin and Harp, Op. 124.”
“It’s a very long piece and the form is very strange. It’s a test of endurance to get through the piece.”
Thankfully, the difficult practices were worth it because Mathieu and Wood’s duet was immaculate.
Several pieces from Wood’s recital were intriguing because they had been transposed. “Reverie,” by Henri Vieuxtemps, a beautiful song that traditionally matches violin with piano, was given new life when transposed to suit Wood’s harp. Mikhail Glinka’s piece “Three Russian Songs,” was a trio for violin, viola and piano but also underwent the transposing treatment as well. The plucky and wavering sounds of the harp suited the piece perfectly.
Wood grew up in Las Vegas and has played in many lavish hotels throughout her years. One of her more interesting stories originates from a time when she played harp in a limestone quarry.
“My favorite piece is definitely the Glinka,” said Wood. “That was the first time we had ever played that. The sound is so rich.”
Wood closed the evening with some final thoughts related to the weather pouring down on the concert hall: “As my stories have shown musicians have to learn to be flexible. Tonight’s concert was a lesson in playing solo and chamber music. Get out there and play and be an ambassador for your instrument, and hopefully you’ll make people happy.”