Unique instruments a treat in Winter Harp

Winter Harp: the magical musical journey into the heart of the season, returns to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Winter Harp: the magical musical journey into the heart of the season, returns to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre for its much-anticipated annual visit on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.

Now in its 23rd year, and as popular as ever, the Winter Harp show is a must-see ticket on the holiday calendar for many Cowichan music lovers.

The group’s outstanding musicians and singers, clad in colourful and elegant medieval attire, perform a collection of music that ranges from familiar carols to Celtic, medieval and world tunes.

Atmospheric backdrops of a cathedral and a snow scene set a stage for the instruments.

And what instruments they are: golden Celtic and classical harps, drums, tambourines, temple bells, flutes, and an assortment of beautiful ancient and rare instruments, including the ethereal-sounding bass psaltery (the only one like it in the world), theorganistrum (an early form of the hurdy-gurdy) and even the Swedish nyckelharpa.

Winter Harp is a pre-Christmas masterpiece.

Velvet gowns, golden instruments, candles, and backdrops of cathedrals and snow combine to transport you to another time and place.

This year’s ensemble of outstanding artists welcomes a new voice in Krista Gibbard, a classically trained soprano whose repertoire ranges from light opera and oratorio to ancient and Celtic music.

“She has our exact sound — a crystal-pure voice with a lovely mixture of ancient and Celtic colourings,” Lori Pappajohn, Winter Harp cofounder and director, said in announcing Gibbard’s inclusion in the troupe this year.

The rest of the 2015 ensemble includes: Kim Robertson: Celtic harp, voice; Janelle Nadeau: pedal harp, voice, psaltery; Lauri Lyster: percussion, voice; Jeff Pelletier: flute, alto flute, bass flute, wooden piccolo; Joaquin Ayala: nyckelharpas, bass psaltery, symphonie, organistrum; Adam Henderson: narrator, percussion; and Pappajohn herself.

Some 300 strings must be tuned before each performance and during intermission.

Tickets are $36 per person but card-carrying students who hurry in to claim them can get the few eyeGO seats available for $5 each.