Flute and Harp: Forging the Future

Joan Sparks, Louis deLise, Anne Sullivan

What is it about the flute and the harp? These two instruments in combination evoke elegance and grace, both visually and aurally. Perhaps a Jane Austen drawing room comes to mind, or the most recent wedding you attended. Whatever else flute and harp music may be, it certainly is everywhere.

Like many harpists, I can remember my first flute and harp experience. It was typical, I imagine. I was asked to play at a wedding, and in the next sentence asked if I had a flutist who could play with me. I was in high school at the time and needed the paycheck, so without ever having worked with a flutist before, I promptly answered, “Of course.”

I found a school friend, Laurie, to play with me, and over the next few years, we performed a number of times at different venues. During that time, as I played with more community and youth orchestras, I also discovered that nearly every flutist I met was eager to work with a harpist.

Soon I had a couple of flutists that I worked with regularly and others who I worked with on a more occasional basis. We played music for weddings, parties and funerals, for church services and concerts, for schools and community groups.


In 1986 – yes, it was a long time ago! – Joan Sparks and I first collaborated on a program of music for a dinner concert. Our duo, Sparx, has been a major focus for each of us since that time. We’ve been through a few different names for our duo, different business structures, not to mention all the life changes that happen in an association of over 30 years. Fewer than 30% of marriages last that long!

I thought I would share a few of the reasons that I think our duo has lasted so long and has been such an important part of my life. My hope is that they may help inspire you to deepen your musical collaborations and find the kind of fulfillment I have experienced in working so closely with another musician. (One disclaimer – I didn’t check these with Joan first; these are my thoughts only. You can ask her what her thoughts are on this.)

  1. We share a musical philosophy. It’s not that we always love the same music or have the same ideas, but we do place a similar importance on the role of music in our lives and in our world.
  2. We share a rehearsal ethic. When we rehearse, we discover depth in the music that goes beyond either instrument part alone. The magic is in the mix, and rehearsing is the only way to find it.
  3. We share a sense of adventure, and we have the stories to prove it. Ask us about the rental truck in Wisconsin or the hair appointment in San Diego or the Bee Hive cake in Maryland.
  4. We share a sense of responsibility, to each other musically and personally, to the music and the composer, to our instruments and our teachers’ legacies. We aren’t burdened by any of this; we simply know that our work needs to demonstrate the respect we feel for all these things.

With all we share, we have some individual gifts that have served to enhance our collaboration. One of Joan’s particular interests has always been for commissioning, and it is due to her passion for this that we have pursued some big projects. Among those are our commission of Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Flute and Harp and Daniel Dorff’sSerenade for Flute and Harp. We have found it deeply rewarding to have been able to bring these major contributions to the flute and harp literature.

So when Joan asked me about collaborating with her on the “Miniatures” project, I didn’t have to stop to think. I was in.

These pieces, unlike the two works mentioned above, are short, bite-sized gems. Composer and long-time colleague Louis Anthony deLisehas written 12 vignettes for flute and harp, each with its own musical mood, but all of them crafted to bring out the beauty of each instrument.

Why short pieces? We believe these will be excellent for students, for background music, and for lighter concert repertoire. They will also be excellent teaching pieces for those who have never collaborated in a one-on-one musical setting before.

We are releasing these pieces in a unique way. Each month for a limited time, we will release a free PDF download of the sheet music for one of the Miniatures. By the end of 2019, all the scores will have been released in this way. The entire set of twelve Miniatures will be published by Alry and available for purchase in sets of 3 pieces each.

But if you’re alert, you can get your downloads each month on Harp Mastery using the link below. When this post is published, you will have only a few more days to get your copy of the first Miniature, “Early January.” If you’re reading this post at another date, you’ll find the latest download and recording from the series on this page.


It’s true – good things do come in small packages!

Here’s an idea: If you have a flute and harp duo, post a photo of the two of you in the comments below. And then share the post with the world – let’s celebrate flute and harp!


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