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Heidi Travis

Mr. Gary Ghioto

August 7, 2015

A Playground of Sound

Speak of the harp and your mind will likely conjure up images of cherubic figures plucking golden
instruments or Celtic maidens playing jaunty tunes but Manon Le Comte is neither of these.

60-year-old Manon Le Comte, principal harp with the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa and
teacher of harp at the Montreal Conservatory of Music has a long list of credits. Among her many
accomplishments, Le Comte has lent her talents to the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal
Symphony Orchestra, and the Socit de Musique Contemporaine du Qubec. Add to this impressive
list, mother of two and recording artist and you've only just begun.

Even over Skype, Le Comte's passion is palpable as she wistfully recalls her fledging years. Her eyes
glitter with intelligence and wit. Le Comte first learned of the harp when her parents, both professional
musicians, invited a colleague over for a demonstration. It was love at first sight with the six foot, 80
pound instrument.

I really fell in love with the sound and the beauty of the instrument, but my parents waited until they
were sure that I really wanted to do it and also that I was a little taller to start on a bigger harp, Le
Comte says. So I started when I was almost 11 and I started directly on the pedal harp, but I was still
tiny at that age so I was sitting on the Montreal phone book for a while to be a little higher.

Le Comte's words flow out like a melody played in dulcet tones. Her pleasant, warm manner and total
absence of pretension belies the keen understanding gained in her 30-plus years experience playing the
instrument. Like the harp, with its 47 strings and 7 pedals, Le Comte is far more complex than she
immediately appears.

In her cozy, eclectic sitting room furnished with a comfortable plush couch, that her cats seem to enjoy
as much as she does, are a collection of books and movies of every genre imaginable as well as a
variety of distinctive art pieces gracing her walls. Every corner of the room reflects a different aspect of
her personality. Its plain to see that her imagination is never in short supply, which is essential in her
trade particularly now that she embarks on her newest project.

Two years after Le Comte's first album, Au Fil Des Cordes, which came out in limited release in
Canada under the Stork Classics label, she is at it again with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. And where
does Le Comte's inspiration come from? It turns out, her inspiration is very close to home as her
creativity blossoms from the seeds her daughters, Elise and Ariane, plant in their own arts.

I figured that since my first CD was inspired by Elise's painting, It would be nice to have a second one
inspired by Ariane's photos, Le Comte says, smiling. Ariane had done some photos when she was
studying photography with Playmobils on a harp like if the harp was a playground so I figured it
would be nice to have a CD that was based on childhood, like play and singing and dancing.

Le Comte's says her musical selections for her new project will be simple and joyful and will make
you want to get up and dance. Le Comte's own whimsical playfulness is sure to shine through this
medium as once again she couples her instrument of trade with violin.

The pieces will be shorter and inspired by either folk songs or, like I said, childhood play or singing,
Le Comte says. There's a lot of repertoire for flute and harp but not so much with violin so it gives me
a different opportunity to do more research and go off the beaten path.

While there could be no doubt that Le Comte is a skilled veteran, she fearlessly pioneers into new
uncharted ground and embraces the evolutionary strides her instrument is taking.

I think it's really fun and interesting that some harp players now are doing other things with harp than
just classical or celtic music, Le Comte says, with a sparkle in her eye as a good humored grin spreads
easily across her face. They've made some arrangements of harp for Metallica and Bjork often uses a
harpist and I think its fun that people are actually doing more diversified things with harp.

But don't take this to mean that she will bang out Metallica anytime soon.

I don't know that I would make a CD of that but I sure think its fun when people do it, she says with
a hearty laugh.

Le Comte's untitled sophomore CD is still in production but you can look for its release some time next