Starlight at Her Fingertips: the Harp Music of Leah Trent

This past weekend, my fellow spy/cohort Christina, my husband Sam, and I had the pleasure of having a lovely dinner at the historic General Lewis Inn, and our experience was magically augmented by the lovely and divine musical accompaniment provided by Leah Trent, playing her Celtic harp. Near us, also having dinner and appreciating the lyrical ambience, sat the exquisitely graceful and ever-beautiful Eileen Kramer, whose costumes, choreography, and dancing have enriched Lewisburg for many years, and I felt honored to be in the presence of both of these creative women, while having a beautiful night out during the rare and magical Blue Moon.

When asked how she found her way to Lewisburg, Leah Trent explained that she had “married into it”, having met her husband Roger Trent in a harp class at Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Workshop in Elkins, West Virginia. Apparently, it was “love at first strum”, so to speak. Eventually, she found herself living in our little burg, teaching harp lessons and performing at weddings and gatherings. She now works at Carnegie as Education Director, implementing programs such as Creative Classrooms, Carnegie Kids’ College, writing programs involving in-mates from the Alderson Federal Prison, as well as implementing many classes, concerts, and workshops geared toward educational enlightenment. It’s a challenging job and is a good fit, obviously with the right person in charge. Leah brings both enthusiasm and knowledge to the creative table, and models a wonderful musicality and joy to the Carnegie Children’s Choir, which she administrates and accompanies.

Leah brings a noteworthy legacy of credentials. Having developed a passion for the harp in an unusually distinguished music program at her high school in Cleveland, Ohio, she eventually, after acquiring several degrees in music in adulthood, went back and taught a harp program for eight years in the inner city schools of her hometown. She “gave it back”, so to speak, and was proud to mention that one of her students who may never have had that exposure to harp music otherwise went on to make a career of music, and is presently attending the Cleveland Institute of Music with a promising future in performance.

Leah now performs for weddings, private affairs, and other events, alternating between Celtic Harp and Pedal Harp, which she describes as two “very different animals”. The Pedal Harp is huge, a little more intimidating to the player, as it has 7 pedals and weighs in excess of 90 pounds. Yet, is hugely more diverse in musical styles and orchestral participation, being the choice of more the classically trained. Its crying-in-your-beer country cousin is the pedal steel, with surprising similarities, the pedals functioning as a means for pitch changes of certain strings. The Celtic Harp is more earthy, and generates a seemingly more open community of really sharing the music with like-minded pluckers, as opposed to a more competitive edge generated by the Pedal Harp populace.

So, back to the actual performance at the General Lewis. The expressive and romantic sound of Leah’s music was like walking in soft starlight. She gracefully brought a veil of sweet melodies to envelop us while we dined. We had a perfect table where we could watch and hear well (while enjoying the best home-made chicken noodle soup on earth) and I watched Eileen as she mentally pirouetted in tandem with the lyrical and lovely tones of the harp, dancing in her danced in her thoughts. I knew they had collaborated on one of Eileen’s dance-works in recent history, so I asked Leah about their first meeting.

“We met at the General Lewis. I was playing, and this lovely woman came up and asked, ‘Would you mind if I danced to one of your songs?’”, Leah explained. And dance she did, and a friendship was begun. While visiting Leah in her office this morning, she showed me the incredible costume Eileen had lovingly rendered for her performance, and was amused to find that Leah had felt obligated to actually wrap her harp stool in satin, so it would be worthy of sharing the stage with Eileen’s gorgeous garment. These are the gifts she bestows upon us, the gifts of costume, dance, books, drawings and just the essence of Eileen herself.

And so Leah Trent is added to the Lewisburg arts mix, and brings to us a gentle spirit, eager to share her music, willing to collaborate with others, and always open to talk about what it all means to her…She has two CDs available, one called “For Mrs. Cole”, a collection of traditional Irish lamentations, marches, tunes, and hymns, and the other an expressively beautiful collection of Christmas music. It’s to be listened to when the snow is silently falling and you are safe and warm with loved ones. The candles are burning, the dogs are in, and the light from the window casts a beam of golden light on the quiet white snow-covered yard beneath. I can feel it when I hear this music. Let’s not rush it, but let’s take pleasure in it when this summer is past and we settle in for winter.

The music of Leah Trent would be a beautiful addition to your winter concerts, gatherings, parties, and more. For booking, recordings, and more information, go to www.liveharpmusic.com.

She has starlight and dreams at her fingertips.

By Susanna Robinson-Kenga for LBSPY, September 2012

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