No two concerts of Rebecca Blair's are the same.
The Coquitlam harp instructor and performer may play the same melodies for a show, but the sounds will vary.
Improvisation - yes, even on a harp - makes for the best kind of music, she says, whether they be from classical pieces, like Vivaldi's Four Seasons, modern tunes like Scarborough Fair or traditional Japanese and Scottish folk songs - just a sample of what's on her program for this Saturday's recital at Place des Arts, where she has taught for the past 12 years.
Blair loves to put her spontaneous touch on a work, especially those in the Celtic music genre.
She honed the skill during a workshop in Ireland where they told her to "make it up. And, you know, that makes a lot of sense. It goes back to the roots of music. For Baroque, they realized it with chords, and Mozart had a lot of embellishment, too. With improvisation, you drift back to those eras but you're also looking ahead musically as well. It's come full circle."
Blair's free approach to the harp has been especially attractive with her students, she said, many of them women in their 40s who have - for the most part - raised their families and had successful careers and now have time and disposal income to spend on themselves.
"A lot them come in and they're hesitant at first," Blair said. "But after a few lessons, they discover their voice and are very passionate. They have so much creative energy."
Still, Blair has a disciplined background to draw from to improvise.
The daughter of a theory and composition professor, the Wisconsin-born Blair was immersed in classical music from an early age.
A "recovering clarinetist," as she calls herself, Blair earned her master's degree in performance and musicology from the University of Victoria and, after that, changed instruments to make Celtic harp her focus.
Teaching harp "is so wonderful and nobody minds when you rehearse because it's such a lovely sound."
Blair is competent in other fine arts, too, namely writing and drawing/painting.
Currently, she's penning a book on her idol, Jan Vermeer, the 15th century Dutch painter who specialized in middle-class life scenes (i.e., Girl with a Pearl Earring). The unfinished book, called In Pursuit of Vermeer, will follow her journey to see every Vermeer work in person (to date, she has viewed 20, in New York and Italy; the other 14 are in Europe and in Japan, currently waiting to be exhibited). She plans to publish the book in the next two or three years.
As well, this spring, Blair will lead a Renaissance drawing class at Place des Arts toteach techniques like shading, crosshatching and linear perspectives using examples from the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael and Da Vinci.
In the meantime, she's preparing for her upcoming recital at Place des Arts on Saturday, with guest harpist and flautist Judy Henry, with a program centering around the four seasons. The concert is sponsored in part by The Tri-City News.