by Jonathán Schneider
Although it was a challenging year, 2019-2020 was also very meaningful for the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Harp Society, being our very first year as a newly organized chapter. We would like to express our gratitude to the American Harp Society for their support and encouragement in all of our endeavors.
August of 2019 witnessed the organization and formation of our AHS Chapter in Puerto Rico. As we came together to discuss the process, it was great meeting harpists from different parts of the Island. Upon receiving approval from the AHS, we went about creating a brochure to introduce ourselves and invite harpists from around the Island to join our chapter; we created our logo and social media pages; you can follow us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/harpsocietypr.
Later that year in November, the first thing we did as a chapter was award an honorary membership to Irma Ramos. For more than 20 years, Ramos taught at the Pre College Program of the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. The Puerto Rico Chapter honored her in appreciation of her legacy and contribution to the new generation of harpists on the Island.
Between November and December, we had the privilege of using the harp as a healing tool, sharing its beauty with the women at Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos women’s shelter, Pablo Suárez Elderly Home, and HIMA Hospital in Caguas at an activity for cancer survivors and their caretakers. We also celebrated the holiday season with a Christmas Harp Recital at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, spreading the cheer of the season and further building our sense of community.
In January, the Chapter hosted a workshop on the history of the harp and harp maintenance, specifically with a focus on changing strings. Right in time before the beginning of the pandemic, the Chapter went on an excursion to the “El Yunque” National Rainforest, where we enjoyed a hike and lovely time at a river.
Due to the American Harp Society’s generous Grants Program, in April the Chapter was able to commission a piece for Harp Ensemble from the composer Josué Vera. The piece, named Cuando Anochece, features the sounds of nightfall on a typical Puerto Rican night.
With COVID-19 in full swing, April of 2020 was a time of change and adapting to these new challenges. Although we could not gather in person, the Chapter was able to focus on its social media presence, creating a video honoring María Rosa Vidal, and sharing a harp arrangement of the famous Puerto Rican piece Verde Luz. María Rosa Vidal was Puerto Rico’s first harpist; she studied with Mme. Renié and established the harp school that is now flourishing in Puerto Rico. In May, the Chapter had a blook club via Zoom in which we read María Rosa Vidal’s book: Una Vida en Contrapunto (A Life in Counterpoint), a book which contains her memoirs.
As many know, 2020 was definitely a challenging year with difficult circumstances; and yet, in the midst of these hard times, the harp community in Puerto Rico came together to provide a space of encouragement and joy, something that would have been impossible without the American Harp Society.