Photo: Sara Wright

Claire Happel is a committed performer in music and movement with interests spanning from seventeenth century works to pieces by emerging artists of today.  As a harpist, she has performed with the St. Louis Symphony and Civic Orchestra of Chicago, among others, and has formed chamber projects with oboist Karisa Werdon, bassist Philip Alejo (River Town Duo), guitarist James Moore and mandolin player Jeremy Harting (Noble Fowl Trio).  Dedicated to performances of the standard repertoire as well as contemporary music, she has premiered works by Hannah Lash, Lainie Fefferman, Caroline Shaw, Douglas Fisk, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Missy Mazzoli, Jacob Cooper, and Nomi Epstein, among others.  Her work with new music ensembles include performances with the Berg Orchestra, Ostravská Banda, the Chicago Composers Orchestra, the International Ensemble Modern Academy, and on the Pulitzer Series of St. Louis.  She has performed at the American Harp Society Summer Institutes in Chicago, Tacoma, and Logan, Utah, and presented on the Alexander Technique at the World Harp Congress in Dublin.  Any chance she can get to improvise, sing, or try something new, she will happily take.

Equally interested in movement, Claire formed Yale Movement Improvisation and Composition while in graduate school and has performed in the dance works of Rebecca Nettl-Fiol, Luc Vanier, Sara Hook, Mary Barnett, David Parker, David Neumann, and Nicholas Leichter, among others.  Her perspective on coordination is largely influenced by the Alexander Technique, specifically its relationship to developmental movement as investigated by Joan and Alex Murray, Rebecca Nettl-Fiol, and Luc Vanier.  Most recently, she has performed in Baroque operas, finding the relationship between the spiraling arms of eighteenth century dance and developmental patterns fascinating.  

She has received grants from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Urbana Public Arts Commision, Illinois Arts Council, and American Harp Society for commissions, performances, recordings, and student scholarships.  Claire holds degrees from Yale and the University of Illinois in both music and dance, was a 2007-08 Fulbright Scholar in the Czech Repbulic under Jana Boušková. Her harp teachers include Sarah Bullen, June Han, Ann Yeung, and Sarama Schnack. She currently teaches harp, Alexander Technique, and movement at the University of Notre Dame, Valparaiso University, Olivet Nazarene University, and St. Mary's College. Previously, she served as harp teaching assistant at Yale University and the University of Illinois and harp instructor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Outside of music and movement, Claire is a member of Soroptimists International of Chicago, an organization to improve the lives of women and girls, and has produced stories (click here!) for public radio as an Arts Desk intern at NPR headquarters in Washington, DC.


River Town Duo
Philip Alejo, bass, and I have developed a repertoire of pieces for harp and bass, beginning with Francaix's Duo Baroque and then Latin American and Spanish songs both transcribed and composed for the duo.  We find that the dynamics and timbre of the instruments compliment each other in a beautiful way, and we and have a lot of fun finding repertoire and playing together!  We first performed together at the Mackinac Island Music Festival and in Petoskey, Michigan, and since have presented recitals together at the University of Arizona, University of Illinois, St. Ambrose University, International Society of Bassists Convention, and the American Harp Society Institute.  We are currently pursuing a project to commission emerging composers for the instrumentation.  The first collaboration was in summer 2014 with Caroline Shaw, whose work we premiered at the Illinois Summer Harp Class, and we are currently working with Hannah Lash to premiere her work in summer 2015.

Noble Fowl Trio
Struck by the unique texture and bell-like twang of three acoustic plucked instruments (harp; James Moore, guitar; Jeremy Harting, mandolin), the members of the Noble Fowl Trio came together at the Yale School of Music with the goal of developing a strong repertoire for the instrumentation.

Duo with Karisa Werdon, oboe
Karisa and I started playing together in 2011 to explore the works written for Ursula and Heinz Holliger, beginning with Elliott Carter's Trilogy. In 2012, we received a Chicago Cultural Grant (CAAP) to record Carter's Trilogy after rehearsing and performing the piece for over two years.  Since then we have added Birtwistle's Orpheus Elegiesto our repertoire and commissioned a piece from Douglas Fisk titled Sonnets and Interludes.  These pieces form the basis for our most recent project which presents works inspired by Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, by which the Carter, Birtwistle, and Fisk are all connected.   

HarpCore 4
Pop Harp Quartet