MASS Ensemble strings the Earth Harp in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

MASS Ensemble strings the Earth Harp in Steamboat

Nicole Inglis

— The Earth Harp stretched out before William Close as he stood on the stage of the Strings Music Pavilion on Friday. Eighteen brass strings splayed out from the stage, rising over the seats and connecting to various parts of the venue.

It more was than a decade ago that Close invented the Earth Harp, which uses the structure it's strung across to create a deep and resonant sound.

The pavilion, he said, is made for his unique instrument.

"This is a great space; it's made for music," said Close, an artist with a passion for architecture and large-scale installations. He gestured up toward the high ceiling and said, "It's designed with these bow trusses … the name even references music."

This is the second time Close has strung the harp for the Strings Music Festival, though the first time was in the tent in the Meadows Parking Lot where the summer music series once was held.

On Saturday, the harp will be the centerpiece of MASS Ensemble, an orchestra of innovative instruments and carefully crafted ambient soundscapes fusing dance, music and sculpture.

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The performance is at 8 p.m., and tickets are $55 in advance and $60 at the door.

On Friday afternoon, Close worked with Strings Music Festival staff to tune the Earth Harp.

It was like putting giant capos on immensely long guitar strings, but the instrument is so large that it takes two people to tune.

Close stood at the base of the strings and directed a worker to move the tuning pieces several inches at a time to make the slightest adjustments in pitch. The fastest he's ever tuned the Earth Harp is about an hour and a half, he said.

"The cool thing is, (the audience is) literally inside the instrument," Close said. "The idea is that they're experiencing it around them."

While the Earth Harp acts as the centerpiece of MASS, Close has developed a host of other innovative instruments involved in the group's unique performances, such as the Aqua-tar, a cross between a sitar, a guitar and a bass.

Percussionist Richard Sherwood has the chance to get his hands on several unique percussion pieces, including the drum orb, the drum-brella and a drum jacket.

"It's the best to see some crazy instrument and just go up and play it," Sherwood said. "I get to do things not many people get to do."

In addition to Saturday’s performance, MASS will be a presence at Strings' Free Community Day from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The drum orb will be brought outside for a performance, and Close will play the Earth Harp inside the pavilion. Local African dancers and belly dancers also will perform throughout the afternoon.

Sunday morning is a yoga class with Andrea Brook inside the pavilion under the strings of the Earth Harp. The class costs $15 in advance or $20 at the door and begins at 8:30 a.m.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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