Elizabeth Volpé Bligh
Elizabeth Volpé Bligh was the Vancouver Symphony’s Principal Harpist for 35 years (1982 – 2018), after 6 seasons (1976 -1982) as the Principal Harpist of the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra. A graduate of University of Toronto’s Bachelor of Music program in 1975, she studied with Judy Loman (Toronto Symphony), Alice Chalifoux (Cleveland Orchestra) and Edna Phillips (Philadelphia Orchestra). She organized and attended many master classes at UBC with luminaries such as Judy Loman, Nancy Allen, Heidi Lehwalder, Natalia Shameyeva, Erica Goodman, Willy Postma, Ann Yeung, Sasha Boldachev and Sivan Magen. Elizabeth’s career includes concerto performances with the VSO and other orchestras, chamber music concerts, movie soundtracks and recordings. She is featured in The Greater Vancouver Album (works by Michael Conway Baker), and premiered his Harp Concerto with the VSO, which was recorded by CBC Radio. She can also be heard on VSO recordings, such as its Grammy- and Juno-award-winning recording of the Korngold and Walton Violin Concertos with James Ehnes.
She was a panelist at the American Harp Society Conference in Dearborn, MI, June 2008, performed in the American Harp Society Conference in Tacoma, WA, The Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario in 2010, and was a panellist at the World Harp Congress in Vancouver 2011. She was the chair of the host committee for the World Harp Congress in Vancouver in 2011. She taught and performed at the International Harp Workshop in Italy in 2012, and founded the Canadian International Summer Harp Institute in 2012 with colleague Gianetta Baril and guest teachers Judy Loman and Cristina Braga. She commissioned and premiered Sonata for Harp and Orchestra by Scott Good at the World Harp Congress in Sydney, Australia in 2014, and performed it again with the VSO. She also performed and lectured at the World Harp Congress in Hong Kong, 2017.
Through the years, some comments from reviews include: “one of the best harpists in the world” (Nigel Barbour), “a harpist of great skill” (Ray Chatelin), “achingly lovely playing” (Michael Scott), “very fine playing” (Sebastien Lipman, former harpist of Berlin Philharmonic), “unparalleled purity and subtlety” (David Gordon Duke) Oct. 29, 2012.
Elizabeth’s students have won awards such as the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, Edith Lando Scholarship and RCM Gold Medal, and have been members of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Aspen Music Festival and other summer music programs. Many have gone on to successful professional careers in the harp. She has taught privately and at institutions such as the Vancouver Academy of Music, UBC, Pacific Harp Institute, CISHI, VSO School of Music, PRISMA and VSOI. Students have come from all over the world, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, Germany, and France. Elizabeth has had articles published in such journals as Harp Column, the Teachers’ Forum of the American Harp Journal, New Zealand Harp Association newsletter and the Dutch National Harp Journal, and she has published many articles on her website available for downloading.
WATCH: Elizabeth Volpé Bligh performs Marjan Mozetich’s Songs of Nymphs.
Elizabeth has adjudicated at festivals around Canada, including the OSM Standard Life Competition in 2010 along with Elisabeth Fontan-Binoche. She has given many workshops and master classes in North America, New Zealand and China.
Six of her original pieces from her book Solos for Lever or Pedal Harp are in the Royal Conservatory of Music Harp Syllabus and the Trinity College London (UK) Harp Syllabus, and are being taught and performed all over the world. Winter in Vancouver was premiered at the 11th World Harp Congress in 2011, and the completed suite Seasons in Vancouver was published in 2012. The Downstairs Spider was required repertoire for the Junior category in the 2018 Young Artists Harp Competition.
She is currently President of the BC Chapter of the American Harp Society and West Coast Harp Society.
WATCH: Elizabeth Volpé Bligh (harp) and Peder MacLellan (tuba) performing Sicilienne from Frederick Schipizky’s arrangement of Fauré’s Pélléas et Mélisande at VSOIW Faculty recital.