Usually if someone mentions the classical harp, one of two visions immediately springs to mind – winged angels or the mischievous Harpo Marx.
But when two lovely young blond women in little black dresses walk up onto the stage and each nestle a towering harp in the crook of their neck, you definitely don’t expect to hear them launch into the Metallica songbook.
Not in a recital hall. And not in a bar. But that’s what happened on Wednesday evening at the Judge’s Inn in Troy. Ashley Toman and Mollie Marcuson are either the baddest girls in the classical music world, or they’re the most sophisticated headbangers around.
Either way, Harptallica – as the duo is named – served up a fun, entertaining and enlightening 70-minute set. And not just in a “oh, look, isn’t that cute, they’re playing heavy metal on harps” kind of way, either. The novelty value of the gimmick disappeared quite quickly by the time they launched into “Fade to Black,” and that was just the second song of the night.
No question about it, these two can play – and play with passion. There was a whole lot of power-plucking and thundering glissandos going on. The highlight of the night was probably “The Unforgiven,” which Toman explained was “the easiest of all of the Metallica songs to translate to the harp.” And it was beautiful. Not heavy metal, of course, but their interpretation retained the song’s somber majesty and turned it into something truly glorious.
There were numerous other highlights, too, including the Metallica instrumental “Orion” and a dazzling encore of “Enter Sandman,” which sounded every bit as ominous and threatening as the original.
And while Metallica was obviously the inspirational seed for this unlikely duo, Toman and Marcuson have been branching out into the repertoires of some other heavy metal mainstays recently. They dipped their dancing fingers into the Megadeth songbook, and really, you don’t know how beautiful heavy metal can sound until you hear Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name” played on a pair of classical harps.
Well done, gals.
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