Harp Instructor Honored for Album
Schweninger, ensemble to perform Nov. 1 in Charlottesville benefit concert
BY SUZANNE RAMSEY College relations staff writer
A musical recording by Sweet Briar College harp instructor Virginia Schweninger has been recognized as one of the top solo instrumental CDs of the year by Just Plain Folks, a group that bills itself as “the world’s largest grassroots music organization.”
“Somewhere in Time” was one of 10 CDs nominated in the “Solo Instrumental Album” category, which qualified the harpist and her CD for a Just Plain Folks Award. The awards — given in dozens of album categories from rockabilly to storytelling, as well as for songs, lyrics and videos — were presented this past weekend in Nashville, Tenn.
Schweninger’s album took third place.
Since 1999, Just Plain Folks has recognized recording artists from around the world. In her genre, Schweninger was up against musicians from several U.S. states and Germany and Australia. She was nominated by the people at CD Baby, where her album can be purchased and downloaded, and judging was conducted by music industry professionals, fans and peers.
“Somewhere in Time” is Schweninger’s first album, and it was the first time she’d been up for a Just Plain Folks Award. “I was completely stunned and amazed,” she said of the nomination, although she admitted to initially questioning the validity of the honor.
“It took me about two to three weeks before I believed it. I started checking it out and calling friends. A good friend of mine is a Hollywood rep [for composers] and she said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s the real thing.’ So then I believed it.”
The playlist on Schweninger’s CD is an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary music — everything from Bach’s “Prelude No. 1 in C” to the title track, the theme from the movie “Somewhere in Time.”
Although her repertoire was born of a variety of genres, Schweninger said, her “heart is in the contemporary music,” which makes her recent nomination even more poignant. “This, to me, is so inspiring. … It suddenly just makes what I’m really good at enough. I don’t have to try to be a harpist that I’m not.”
Schweninger is currently at work on a second album of jazz, pop and light classical pieces that have become popular with her audiences, including Etta James’ “At Last,” “What a Wonderful World,” music from “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Pocahontas,” Vivaldi’s “Winter’s Largo” and Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
She also is planning “Harps of Gold,” a benefit concert for the Wednesday Music Club. According to Schweninger, the club raises money to “provide music scholarships and music camp scholarship for talented young musicians, all based on adjudicated competitions. We also provide music lesson tuition assistance based on need.”
“Harps of Gold” will feature Schweninger’s harp ensemble, Harp Songs of the Blue Ridge, playing golden harps made in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Sweet Briar student Caroline Rainey will play with Harp Songs, and Claire Wittman, daughter of associate professor of theater Loretta Wittman, will sing Schubert’s “Ave Maria” accompanied by a harpist on an 1800s-era instrument.
The concert begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1 at First Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville. Admission is $25 for adults and $10 for children 15 and younger. For information or tickets, contact Charlotte Burns at (434) 975-1132 or WednesdayMusicClub@hotmail.com . Tickets also are available at Music & Arts, 1512 Seminole Trail, Charlottesville.
To hear a preview of “Somewhere in Time,” click here.
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SUZANNE RAMSEY on 09/01/09