The ladies who make up the Baton Rouge Harp Ensemble range in age from 10 years to nearly 78 years and have varying levels of experience on the stringed instrument that brought them together, said Gladys Runnels, co-founder of The Runnels School and member.
“The common factor among us is Ms. (Rebecca) Todaro,” Runnels said. “She is responsible for bringing us all together.”
Todaro, former harp instructor at the school, has moved to New Orleans, but still makes the drive to Baton Rouge to rehearse with the tightly-knit group.
All are either current or former students, or parents and friends of either Todaro or her students, but all eight share a deep love for the harp.
The group’s first concert took place Dec. 12 at the home of Tom and Brooke Yura.
Brooke, a relatively new harpist, began playing a few years after her daughter, Rachel, 16, began taking lessons.
“I came to love it. I love the way it sounds, I love listening to my daughter practice. I just love the instrument,” Brooke Yura said before the concert. “When she got more serious about it and moved up to a pedal harp, I started learning on her old one,” she said.
It has become another way in which the mother and daughter relate and has taught them the fine art of working together.
That’s a lesson everyone in the group has learned over the course of the past three months, as the harpists gather at the Yura home for their monthly rehearsal, Brooke Yura said.
“Playing in an ensemble is an entirely different experience,” Yura said.
And, Runnels said, the Yuras have gone to quite a bit of trouble to make sure everyone in the group gets the experience. “They move the furniture around in this room every time we come here, and they always feed us well,” Runnels said.
The experience has been well worth the trouble, Yura said, and the small audience of friends and family of the group members agreed.
Despite only three rehearsals as a group, the BRHE played a 20-minute program of mostly Christmas music for the crowd.
One of the powerful lessons to be learned from working as a group, Todaro told the students just before their performance, is the capacity members of that group have to pitch in when they notice another part that needs a boost.
Group members intend to keep up the rehearsals into the new year.
Members of the group are the Yuras, Runnels, Todaro, Kate Gladney, 10, Ann Marie Gladney, 15, Katie Carpenter, 12, and Natalia Tooraen, 13.