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Vashon harpist Leslie McMichael to play original three-harp score for “Peter Pan”

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on June 23, 2010 at 6:08 am with No Comments »
June 21, 2010 12:13 pm


Harpist Leslie McMichael with her three "Peter Pan" harps. Photo courtesy Tacoma Public Library.

Here’s one for your diary next week. Vashon-based harpist Leslie McMichael is ushering in a four-day national harp conference, held in Tacoma July 2-5, with a concert of her own: a free, family-friendly screening of the 1924 silent flick “Peter Pan,” accompanied by her own three-harp score at the Tacoma Public Library.

McMichael was commissioned to write this score four years ago by the Northwest Film Forum, and has since toured it to great success.

“Leslie’s score, though traditional in many ways and entirely faithful to the film, is filled with razzle-dazzle and a sly mischief that is the perfect complement to Peter Pan’s onscreen antics,” says the NFF’s Liz Shepherd. “Her meticulous and heartfelt performance is not only a tremendous musical accomplishment; it is also an athletic feat as she seamlessly switches back and forth between Celtic, electric and concert harps during the 102 minute film.”

Yes, that’s right – three harps, one woman. Not all at the same time, of course, but McMichael says she has some pretty fast switching to do on the bench. The concert harp is the big 47-string instrument you see with orchestras, the Celtic harp is smaller and has levers to change string pitch, and the electric works like an electric guitar, plugged in. McMichael uses it to make bubbly underwater sounds for the mermaids.

Betty Bronson as Peter Pan in the 1924 silent film. Photo courtesy Tacoma Public Library.

The film is the first one made from the J.M. Barrie classic novel, and stars Betty Bronson as the cheeky Peter and Chinese American actress Anna May Wong as Tiger Lily. A wonderful silent fantasy, the tinted-nitrate film was lost for years until one deteriorating negative was found in the mid-fifties, and restored.

The film will screen 7 p.m. July 1 in the Olympic Room at the downtown branch of the Tacoma Public Library, 1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma. It’s free, and kids will love it. 253-591-5666, www.tacomapubliclibrary.org

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