Shenandoah Conservatory harp students Brynn Olden ’25 (Bachelor of Music in Performance) and Serenity Flores ’25 (Bachelor of Music in Performance) received an invitation to participate in a once-in-lifetime U.K. tour opportunity, specially organized for gifted harpists at the beginning of their careers, from Friday, Feb. 18, through Friday, Feb. 25. The centerpiece of the tour is recording in perhaps the most iconic recording studio in the world, Abbey Road Studios, providing a professional development experience of the highest standard. Shenandoah harpists will have the opportunity to collaborate with leading professional producers, sound engineers, composers/arrangers and an internationally renowned team of mentors and professional musicians. In addition to recording at Abbey Road Studios, harpists will have numerous professional development and networking opportunities throughout their week in London. This opportunity came through Adjunct Associate Professor of Harp Lynnelle Ediger, M.M., who has had a long-time musical partnership with U.K. harpist Claire Jones, the former Royal harpist, and composer Chris Marshall. Intensive rehearsals began in early January with harpists from Shenandoah University and the American Youth Harp Ensemble coming together, plus Zooming with U.K. colleagues in preparation for this unique 35-harp recording project, the first of its kind at Abbey Road Studios (and possibly anywhere!).
Olden and Flores are joining harpists from the American Youth Harp Ensemble (U.S.) and Ensemble 47 (U.K.) which includes the harp studios from the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music and top-tier U.K. studio musicians for the recording. They will have the opportunity to work with Marshall on repertoire specifically written and prepared for the project. Coachings with a team of professional harpists including Jones, Catrin Meek, Sian Heledd (U.K.) and Ediger (U.S.) are planned for the experience. The students will also work directly with Jim Henson, recognized director of music for theater, film and television, who will be the producer of the recording project. Henson will also provide a behind-the-scenes musicians’ visit to his current West End production “Back to the Future” before seeing the show.
The recording will be released on Silva Screen Records, a division of Sony, home to one of the world’s leading film and television soundtrack labels. During the trip, students will tour and meet with faculty at the Royal College of Music and Royal Holloway University of London. They will also visit iconic London musical sites, including the Royal Albert Hall and a very special tour of the Houses of Parliament with Baroness Bloomfield, member of the House of Lords who is a harpist. The trip also serves as a unique networking opportunity for U.S./U.K. harpists to foster friendships and musical relationships.
In 2016, the American Youth Harp Ensemble (AYHE), founded and directed by Ediger, was considered for a Grammy Award for the group’s CD “10 Harps, 10,000 Miles.” In 2018 and 2019, the AYHE began another large-scale recording project in collaboration with Jones and Marshall. Additionally, ties between the U.S./U.K. harp ensembles and their directors — Jones and Ediger — became even stronger as the ensembles joined forces on multiple U.S. and European concert tours. However, the pandemic put all recording and collaborative projects on pause. Talks resumed in the fall of 2021 about the project and plans to finally finish the recording at Abbey Road Studios in that month are now being realized.
About Abbey Road Studios
Abbey Road Studios is one of the most renowned and iconic recording studios in the world. Landmark classical recordings by Jacquline du Pre, Yehudi Menuhin, the London Symphony Orchestra and all the major orchestras of the world have been recorded there. Abbey Road has also developed into a premier destination for movie scoring. Scores for blockbuster films such as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Skyfall,” the Harry Potter series, the “Star Wars” series, the Indiana Jones series, and “Black Panther” scores have been recorded there.
Artists such as Stevie Wonder, Sting, Sam Smith, Adele, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, ABBA, Michael Buble, Radiohead, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, U2, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Nigel Kennedy, John Williams and Ella Fitzgerald have all recorded here. Of course, The Beatles recorded many groundbreaking albums at the studios with the iconic photo for their album of the same name.