Nelson violinist Rebecca MacLeod was studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto when she first began collaborating with Seattle harpist Sophie Baird-Daniel. They were friends first, and eventually started playing music together.
Though there’s a limited repertoire available for harp and violin pairings, the two were eventually able to find exciting and eclectic pieces that they began touring around the Greater Toronto Area.
Pretty soon they realized they should have a name.
“We were brainstorming for a name and we came up with Duo 51, because there’s 47 strings on a harp and four on a violin. So 51 strings total. But it’s also our little joke because we’re both five foot one,” MacLeod told the Star.
As part of the Selkirk Pro-Musica series, the pair will perform in Nelson at St. Saviour’s Pro Cathedral on Saturday, January 10 at 7:30 p.m. The program will include pieces by Estonian, Venezuelan and Canadian composers. MacLeod said they’ve deliberately selected dramatically different pieces.
“Nobody wants to to go to a concert and listen to two hours of the same stuff,” she said. “There’s a really nice aesthetic with the harp and violin, though. It’s pretty versatile because we can do a lot of repertoire that was written for guitar. That’s why we’ve got a lot of Latin American stuff.”
One of the songs has personal significance to MacLeod. It was performed by one of her professors, Andres Cardenes of Carnegie Mellon University, before he died.
“We found this old piece from a professor of mine that he’d commissioned for himself and this harpist. He had posted a picture of himself on Facebook while they were recording and I saw it one day and thought ‘hey, I should check this out’,” she said.
The piece will be performed at the show.
They’re also playing a piece by composer Louis Spohr, a German composer from the 1800s.
“It’s based on the themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute, the opera. It’s very classical in nature, and probably the most traditional thing we’re doing. It’s pretty lively,” she said.
One of her favourite composers is Arvo Pärt, and they’ll be performing one of his pieces that was originally written in 1935.
“His style of music is pretty minimalist and atmospheric. It’s got a good vibe, we like it a lot. It’s popular in cinema, so people might recognize it because a lot of his stuff gets played in movies,” she said.
The fact that she can engage with such a huge variety of classical and contemporary composers is one of the things MacLeod appreciates most about her art.
“That’s the beauty of classical music. There’s so much to choose from. We try to pick from a wide variety of styles and time periods,” she said.
Tickets are $15 and are available at Otter Books or at the door.
The pair will do a repeat performance in Castlegar on Sunday, January 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the Kootenay Gallery. Tickets are $15 all the door.
For more information visit Duo 51 on Facebook.