Harpist plays in international performance honoring COVID-19 victims

screen grab video of harpists playing harps

For Mercer University harp instructor Calista Anne Koch, life has been a balancing act lately.

“We have a multi-generational family, so my in-laws live with us. My husband is a health care worker,” Koch said. “My children homeschool anyway, so that didn’t have to change much, but I miss my students at Mercer, and the 50-something private lesson students that normally come to my home are all switching to Zoom lessons.”

Even though she is busy with other activities, Koch has been posting her own harp music to Instagram every day for over 50 days with the hashtag #CoronavirusResponse.

“I didn’t want to respond with a negative attitude. I wanted there to be peace and calm and to play music that was tranquil,” Koch said.

This desire to soothe through music brought Orchestra Italiana di Arpe to select Koch as one of 73 harpists from 25 nations to create “So Far So Close,” an international homage to COVID-19 victims.

The composition was created by Stefano Ottomano, with the musicians recording individually using social distancing. The technology of recording high quality music at home takes precision.

“It’s complicated yet normal for those of us who have had to collaborate musically in the past. We record it ourselves, which takes several devices,” Koch said.

First, Koch creates an mp4 file to capture the audio in its best quality. She records video using a separate device (like a laptop, iPad, phone or camera).

Koch uses an earpiece, so she can keep the metronomic markings in the music a consistent speed. The metronome itself is yet another device. Koch also prefers reading her music on an iPad, the final piece of the puzzle.

The result is a soothing and multi-layered harp performance.

Artists in the video come from countries as far away as Taiwan, Ireland, Poland and Argentina. And there’s Koch, from Macon, Georgia.

This recognition on a grand scale represents the renowned quality of teaching at Mercer’s Townsend School of Music, where faculty members are also active artists in their field.


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