2018 Presenter Biographies
Mara Galassi (born in Milan in 1956) is an Italian harpist, musicologist, and recording artist specializing in the music for early harps, including gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque instruments, in particular double (cross-strung) and triple harps of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, as well as Classical-era single-action pedal harps.
She holds degrees from Pesaro Conservatory of Music and the Civica Scuola di Musica di Milano. She studied historical performance practice under harpsichordist David Collyer in Amsterdam and lutenist Patrick O’Brien in New York City, and musicology with Michael Morrow in London.
Ms. Galassi is a professor of modern and historical harps at the Civica Scuola di Musica di Milano and a founding member of the Historical Harp Society. She is active as a soloist and as a member of early music ensembles, including Hesperion XX (dir. Jordi Savall), Concerto Soave, Concerto Vocale (dir. René Jacobs), Concerto Italiano (dir. Rinaldo Alessandrini), Mala Punica (dir. Pedro Memelsdorff), and Cantus Cölln (dir. Konrad Junghänel). Her CD Il Viaggio di Lucrezia won both the “Cannes Award” and the “Choc de la Musique” award.
David Brown is a lute and harp builder, conservator, and repair technician in Baltimore, Maryland. He has worked on several projects for museums, such as the Este harp in the Galleria Estense in Modena, Italy. He has contributed to various seminars, symposia, and courses regarding early instrument construction. Current ongoing work has carried his interest to the later evolution of Welsh triple harp construction from the 18th into the 19th century.
Nancy Hurrell performs in several Boston early music ensembles and teaches early harp at Brandeis University. A harp consultant at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, she gives gallery talks and records on rare historical harps in the collection. She has presented lectures on historical harps at the Royal Irish Academy (Dublin), Royal Academy of Music Museum (London), and Metropolitan Museum (NY), and at conferences including the UK Harp Festival and the Historical Harp Society of Ireland. She was guest curator for the exhibition “The Harp—A Global Story of Man, Music, and Medicine” at the Museum of Making Music (CA) in 2013, and her articles have appeared in History Ireland, American Harp Journal, and the revised New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (2014). In addition to recording several solo and ensemble CDs, she has published six books of harp arrangements, and her forthcoming monograph is entitled THE EGAN IRISH HARPS: Patriotism, Patronage, and Players.
Samuel Milligan’s interest in early music began in high school in the 1940s; was encouraged by his graduate school advisor, Dr. Helen Hewitt of Odhecaton fame; and was later moved in a Spanish direction by Nicanor Zabaleta. His main interests are music of the Spanish New World and medieval cantigas, both sacred and secular. His latest publication is a collection of nine Sephardic songs.
Christopher Preston-Thompson is a New York City based tenor, actor, and historical harpist. He has performed as a soloist in venues throughout the United States, including New York City’s Carnegie Hall, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Music at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Christopher is the founding Artistic Director of Concordian Dawn, Ensemble for Medieval Music. Credits include performances with Gotham Early Music Scene, Pomerium, The Broken Consort, Toby Twining Music, Grand Harmonie, Tucson Desert Song Festival, Encompass New Opera Theater, Heartbeat Opera, and On Site Opera. His work as a scholar includes presentations and workshops on medieval vocal and instrumental repertoire and performance practice for such institutions as Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Modern Language Association. Christopher is a faculty member at Lehman College and at Rutgers University–Newark, New Jersey.
Since 2005, tenor James Ruff has focused his energies on researching and performing both the early Scottish Gaelic song and the early Gaelic wire harp repertoires. He currently enjoys presenting concerts of this music at festivals and on music series such as the Scoil na gCláirseach Festival of the Early Irish Harp in Kilkenny, Ireland; the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe; Gotham Early Music Scene Midtown Concerts in New York; and more. He has studied Scottish Gaelic song with award winning Scottish singers Kenna Campbell, Mary Ann Kennedy, and Christine Primrose, and early harp techniques with noted Irish harpist Siobhan Armstrong. In both 2016 and 2017, he won the Gold Medal in Gaelic Song at both the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd and the ACGA North Carolina Gaelic Mòd. He was also a finalist in the Silver Pendant Gaelic Song Competition at the 2009 Royal National Mòd in Oban, Scotland.
Born in Tokyo, Tomoko Sugawara began to play the Irish harp at age twelve and the concert grand harp at sixteen. A graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in Fine Arts, Sugawara first took up the kugo in 1991. She has performed on both the kugo and the concert grand harp in many major international venues, including the New York Qin Society; the Fifth Symposium for Music Archaeology; World Harp Congresses in Prague, Amsterdam, and Vancouver; the Early Music Guild of Seattle; the British Museum; the Central China Conservatory of Music (Beijing); the Symposium on Historical Harps in Berlin; and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, as well as at many other academic institutions including Harvard University, Meiji University, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania, and Indiana University.
Tomoko was awarded a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council during 2007–2008 and a grant from the Rohm Music Foundation in 2007. Her first CD, Spring, features her work as a soloist on the concert harp; her second, East Meets West (1998), was an improvisational duo collaboration with saxophonist Sanshiro Fujimoto. Along the Silk Road (2010) is her third CD. In 2009, she performed in the ensemble of jazz bass legend Charnett Moffett for his Motéma release, Treasure. Tomoko has added basso continuo and ornamentation on the Baroque harp to her specializations. She lives in New York City.