Arts & Culture

Olympia harpist returns to the stage that first inspired him to play

Olympia harpist Ben Albertson
Olympia harpist Ben Albertson Olympia Symphony Orchestra

It was a concert by famed French harpist Emmanuel Ceysson at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts that put Olympia’s Ben Albertson on a path to the stage — that same stage, actually.

Albertson, now 19, first saw the harp in an orchestra performance the year before.

“I just said to my parents, ‘Oh, I’d like to play that.’ Of course they were skeptical, you know, a 6- or 7-year-old wants one thing one day and another thing the next,” he told The Olympian during a recent phone interview.

But as Ceysson played, Albertson’s captivation convinced his parents this wasn’t a phase. Albertson will be the harp soloist in the Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s first performance of the 2019-2020 season Sunday at The Washington Center.

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“Most people see a harp at a wedding or a holiday party stuck behind a potted plant or while you check your coat or something. It’s different for a concerto piece,” said Huw Edwards, OSO’s music director and conductor who announced last month this season would be his last in Olympia.

Albertson spoke by phone from Toronto, where he is in his second year studying harp performance at The Glenn Gould School at The Royal Conservatory of Music. On Sunday he will play Debussy’s “Dances Sacred and Profane,” which he described as a delicate, intimate piece between two large symphonic works, both a bridge and a contrast.

He has played “Dances” before, including as a senior with Olympia High School’s orchestra. That same year he was the OSO’s high school player, and this year Edwards invited him back as a soloist for the season opener.

Sunday’s concert also will feature Wagner’s Prelude to “Die Meistersinger” and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, released after the death of Joseph Stalin that follows oppression under him, then Shostakovich’s celebration in outlasting him.

Edwards said this season is all about seeing things in a new light, from a new perspective, featuring works inspired by the Roaring ‘20s, an audio-visual experience and an old favorite to mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s season opener

  • What: Olympia Symphony Orchestra opens its 2019-20 season with works by Wagner, Shostakovich and Debussy featuring Olympia’s Ben Albertson on harp
  • When: 3 p.m. Oct. 13
  • Where: The main stage at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
  • Tickets: $6-$60 at washingtoncenter.org
  • Information: 360-753-8586 or www.olympiasymphony.org.
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