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December 2020

SALEM, NH - Dr. Diana Kolben, a Salem, New Hampshire resident, is parting with her beloved harp after more than fifty years. For instrumentalists, parting with an instrument is like parting with a dear old friend. Diana, who studied music at Oberlin College and worked as a music educator throughout her life, is no longer able to play. She is, however, determined to donate her instrument to a home that would continue fostering the love of music and the harp in all people. That new home is the Manchester Community Music School (MCMS) located in the historic north end of Manchester, NH.

When she began looking for place to donate her harp, Diana reached out to Robin Neill, a board member for The New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra, and initially offered to donate her instrument to The Phil itself. After consulting with the orchestra’s hosts at Salem High School, The Phil contacted Manchester Community Music School, whom they thought might have a stronger need for such a grand harp. The Music School was delighted.

Harp in its new home at MCMS

The Phil has frequently collaborated with MCMS for concerts and educational programming, and many students from the school have soloed or played with The Phil over the years. In several ways, Diana’s gift fulfills several important parts of The Phil’s mission: it helps bring music to youth; it fosters connections between musical communities; it offers an instrument that is rare and costly to deserving students; and it serves as a reminder of the harp’s importance in orchestral literature.

“We are so happy to continue working with MCMS and its own mission to change lives 'through the power of learning, sharing and making music,’” says Mark Latham, Music Director of the NH Philharmonic Orchestra.  “Both institutions - the NH Phil, and the Manchester Community Music School - understand the necessity and joy of collaboration, of working with fellow institutions to help fulfill their missions.  John Donne might have written, ‘No institution is an island.’ When we share our energies and our resources, we are all the better for it, and our outreach is greater.” 

When asked how music impacts youth, Diana, a long-time music educator, replied: “It impacts everything! There isn’t a thing that music doesn’t touch.” She hopes that students at MCMS will gain a love of the instrument as she has. “It is a rather difficult instrument to play,” says Diana, “the 4th most difficult instrument.”

Diana’s instrument is a Lyon and Healy Model 23 concert grand, built in 1938 with a gold base and crown. The instrument was completely refurbished in 1983, and before donating her harp, Diana had the harp completely restrung.

Many people may associate this majestic, 47-stringed instrument with the famous introduction to Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and those who have attended The Phil’s Holiday Pops concert would certainly recognize this famous solo. In the time of a pandemic, many concert-goers will have to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s suite live-streamed this year.

The harp’s angelic strummed arpeggios are also recognizable in Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet music and Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Of course, the harp is a wonderful instrument in its own right, without the orchestra, and there are many wonderful pieces for solo harp and small ensembles.

“We hope and anticipate that one day, a student from MCMS, having studied on Diana’s harp, will perform these iconic solos with The Phil,” says Latham.

Piper playing Harp for Diana at Diana’s house when she donated to MCMS

Executive Director of MCMS, Piper Runnion-Bareford understands the value of a harp like Diana’s as well, for she too is a brilliant harpist.

"It is so exciting and inspiring when our whole community comes together to see lives changed through the power of music,” says Runnion-Bareford. “Diana’s generosity is an illustration of this -- the Philharmonic thinking of the school and its students, and her legacy of education that inspired her to give such an immense gift. As a harpist, I know the value of access to an instrument and what possibilities that can open up in the life of a young student.  In this year of challenges, it is wonderful to celebrate in this way the power of music and community that brings such hope for the future!"

Emily, a student at MCMS (and performer for The Phil)

While the Coronavirus has led to many live events being postponed this season, The Phil is steadfast in its pursuit to bring the joy of classical music to audiences near and far as they develop programming for live-streamed concerts. Meanwhile, young musicians are also tenaciously practicing their instruments as they engage in remote lessons at MCMS.

“Young people are of course the future.  Our future. Of our planet, our country and of music,” says Latham.  “Music is such an integral part of all of our lives.  A world without music is unimaginable!  It has the capacity to bring about harmony, fellowship, community, responsibility and peace.  What better way to foster a brighter future for all, by making the learning and playing of music more accessible and more possible.”


Additional Note: Upon Diana’s arrival at MCMS to see her harp in its new home, Emily a harp student at MCMS decided to play two special harp pieces for Diana as a thank you for the donation. The second piece played for Diana was Ebb Tide by Robert Maxwell. Unknown to Emily, Diana’s best friend also played the harp and her favorite piece to play was Ebb Tide by Robert Maxwell. This piece was very popular in their day, being number 1 on the radio charts. The piece was incredibly special to Diana because her dear friend played it everywhere she went. It was her signature piece. Emily had no idea about this special story until seeing Diana cry during the piece. She had an incredible connection to the piece. It’s one of Emily’s favorite pieces to play too. One of the things Emily loves about playing the harp is the connection and emotion that the music brings. How it’s different and personal for everyone.



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