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From left, composer Asako Hirabayashi of Minneapolis confers with harpsichord players Heidi Mayer of Chicago, Helen Skuggedal Reed of Evansville, Ind., Nick Good of Topeka, Kan., and Deb Steinbar of Bemidji about her featured piece that will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a four-harpsichord concert in Thompson Recital Hall at Bemidji State University's Bangsberg Fine Arts Center. It is rare to have four professional harpsichord artists playing together in one concert. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Harpsichord player sharing her expertise

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
Harpsichord player sharing her expertise
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

An internationally known and celebrated harpsichord player is sharing some of her expertise with music students at Bemidji State University.


Asako Hirabayashi, a faculty member of the St. Paul Conservatory of Music and vice president of the Midwestern Historical Keyboard Society, is here to preview a new composition for the harpsichord.

La Musique Nomade members Deborah Steinbar of Bemidji, Nicholas Good of Topeka, Kan., Heidi Mayer of Chicago and Helen Skuggedal Reed of Evansville, Ind., who will perform a four-harpsichord concerto by Hirabayashi Saturday night at BSU, have played to capacity houses in two previous Bemidji concerts

They all perform on harpsichord or clavichord, instruments that were popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods and have regained popularity.

Steinbar, adjunct faculty member of the music department at BSU, spearheaded the effort to obtain the funding to commission Hirabayashi's new composition, "Vocalise" for violin and harpsichord. Steinbar was able to obtain funding for the entire project through grants from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the Bemidji Area Arts Endowment and Lueken's Village Foods of Bemidji.

Although Hirabayashi studied piano and composition in college, she became interested in the harpsichord because of a teacher who introduced her to the instrument while she was still an undergraduate at a college in Japan.

"I was very happy to learn about the instrument," said Hirabayashi. "It is an awesome instrument and the plucking of the strings is similar to a koto (Japanese national instrument).

Hirabayashi went on to attain a doctorate from Juilliard School of Music in harpsichord performance and was the recipient of the 2009-10 McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians. She is currently composing an opera, "Snow Witch," for Japanese audiences with the libretto in her native language.

Concerto Saturday

The four-harpsichord concerto by Hirabayashi will be performed by La Musique Nomade at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, in Thompson Recital Hall of Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex at BSU.

The program will also feature Bach's f minor solo concerto and c minor duo BWV 1062, Bach's four harpsichord concerto in a minor and "Vocalise" for violin and harpsichord by Hirabayashi, which will be conducted by Erica Svanoe.

Tickets at the door will be $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens 65 and older, and free for students.

Pioneer staff reports