Concert Showcases Top Harpist

A harpist playing a harp
Pedal Harpist Meta Epstein, along with Ben Johnson and Barry Kitchen will be in Whitehorse Feb. 19, 2023. Photo: Pixabay

Get ready Whitehorse for a spectacular concert with visiting Pedal Harpist Meta Epstein, along with Ben Johnson and Barry Kitchen. Please join us on February 19 at 4 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church (312 Strickland Street). Hosted by Yukon Harpists Society, Ben Johnson—Trinity Lutheran Church and Barry Kitchen—Whitehorse United Church.

Entry is by donation (please be generous). Funds will be used by the Yukon Harpists Society to purchase a stand-up Concert Pedal Harp for the Yukon, which will be used by senior harp students and visiting harpists. Visiting orchestras do not travel with harps; they are provided by the local arts centre. The Yukon has a number of public instruments that are used by visiting musicians and students. Other public Yukon instruments are a bass, tympani, the grand piano and, hopefully soon, a Stand-Up Concert Pedal Harp!

Meta Epstein

No one comes to be a wandering troubadour by accident. Daughter of a concert pianist, I grew up immersed in music, dancing around the house to Swan Lake and singing to my mother’s Chopin études before I learned to read.

I will always be grateful to my parents for encouraging my love of music. My mother arranged for me to commute to New York City, by myself, on the train when I was only 13, to study with the renowned harpist Marcel Grandjany. This amazing pedagogue instilled in me a lifelong love of the Bach repertory, which he was transposing for harp at the time. He was also an excellent role model for me, as a teacher: his answer to any frustrating fingering problem was a glass of orange juice.

My parents supported my desire to continue my studies in France at the Paris Conservatory, where I graduated with a First Prize and also met my future French-Canadian husband, following him to Québec, where we raised a large family of 10 children. One of these children is now in Whitehorse!

Playing for my children’s schools and daycare centres led me to return to university to earn a master’s degree in education.

One summer, I encountered a musician playing the accordion on the streets of Old Québec and decided that I wanted to be a street harpist bringing music, especially Bach, to people everywhere.

“The world needs more Bach” has been my motto for twenty years now.

I live on my sailboat off-grid on the Maine Coast when I’m not nomading and couch surfing in my children’s lives. My partner, Arlen (captain of the boat, jointly, with the cat), builds magical-sounding folk harps, which I hope to play outside here in Whitehorse, when the weather warms up.

PS: My granddaughter Zana (one of 17 grandkids) just asked me what I was writing, to which I answered, “A story about how I got to be your grandma.”

She replied, “By always saying ‘I love you.’”

Barry Kitchen

As pianist and organist, Barry has led choirs and congregations in London, Ontario, and in Whitehorse at the Trinity Lutheran and Whitehorse United churches. He has taught music and band classes in Alberta schools, at all levels, and in Whitehorse at Grey Mountain Primary School.

He has been accompanist for the Whitehorse Community Choir since 1996.

Barry has been a piano technician since 2001, tuning and repairing pianos throughout the Yukon. Barry teaches piano privately and lives with his wife Wendy.

Ben Johnston-Urey

Ben Johnston-Urey is a multi-award-winning performer/composer whose works span the depth and breadth of both secular and sacred traditions. Throughout his 20-year career as a solo and collaborative pianist, Ben has played with symphony orchestras and alongside artists, including Grammy-nominee Richard Valitutto, drumming legend Clyde Stubblefield, jazz luminaries Rodrigo Villanueva and Hannah Jon Taylor and many others. Ben’s distinctive and expressive improvisational style has been described as “both dream-like and crystalline, with an execution reminiscent of Glenn Gould” (Isthmus magazine).

As a composer, Ben’s music is widely performed in concert halls, congregations and across North American airwaves. His evocative orchestral works have seen premieres from Dr. Robert Tomaro (Beloit-Janesville Symphony Orchestra), Ryan Bancroft (BBC National Orchestra of Wales) and, recently, Yukon’s own Daniel Janke (Problematic Orchestra).

The Yukon’s vibrant communities and resplendent natural beauty were a part of what called Ben and his family to Whitehorse from Wisconsin, in 2021. He currently serves as executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yukon, and as organist for Trinity Lutheran Church. You can check out Ben’s latest works and albums on his website:

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