‘For 50 years, Israel has been home to the tri-annual International Harp Competition, the world’s major event in this field,” says Aliza Gondor, who has been managing the festival office for 13 years.“But we felt that the harp in Israel has been somewhat neglected or, to be more precise, does not receive the attention it deserves.Even more than that, the international festival focuses only on music for classical harp, while many varieties of this amazing instrument are played throughout the world. There are Celtic, Paraguayan, African harps, and one can hear the harp even in klezmer music. In addition, the harp is used as a therapeutic instrument.”The First Israeli Harp Festival/Competition, October 16 – 19 at the Jaffa Music Center. For more details, visit http://israelharp.blogspot.com. For reservations, call 052-675-5585.Lately, new faces have appeared in the non-profit organization that manages the International Harp Contest. Yossi Frost, a veteran Israeli music life organizer, is now the CEO; and former MK Colette Avital serves as chairperson.“We started thinking of how we could advance the harp in Israel and support local harp players,” says Gondor. “About a year ago, we brought together Israeli harp teachers and decided to organize a festival that would give local harp artists a chance to showcase their work, as well as open a competition in which only Israelis would participate. To our surprise, some 20 harpists applied for the contest almost immediately.”The prizes are provided by the Propes Foundation to support Israeli artists, as well as the Zfunot Tarbut Foundation. “Ilana Cohen, who heads the Zfunot Tarbut Foundation, loved our new project and contributed NIS 5,000 for the grand prize,” says Gondor.The contest will be a tri-annual event and take place a year before the international competition. Gondor says that the harp repertoire is not too extensive and it was too late to commission a piece to an Israeli composer, so the competitors are free to choose their repertoire but must include a piece by an Israeli composer.In addition to the contest performances, the festival will feature various activities such as workshops, master classes and café-concert performances at 6 p.m. The major concerts will take place at 8:30 p.m.The first evening is dedicated to the harp music of Israeli composers, among whom Ami Maayani seems to be the most prolific. Beer Sheva’s Sinfonietta under its artistic director Doron Salomon will participate in the closing concert.“The idea is to create non-stop music activity during the festival, says Gondor. For example, an open stage will offer every participant a chance to perform a piece of her or his choice.”Local though it is, the festival will host American harp player Park Stickney, who regards his participation as an homage to the new initiative.