WHAT HIGHS, CJ!!!!!!!
That was the comment on Facebook yesterday by Glenn Uejio, Constance Harding Uejio‘s husband, after her exquisite rendition of Handel’s “Concerto in B-flat for Harp and Strings,” op. 4 no. 6, with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.
Of course, I know the piece intimately, since I played a transcription of it in high school, and performed an organ version of it with the Bach Chamber Orchestra. Connie pointed out that Handel wrote the piece originally for a Welsh harpist, William Powell, then included it in his Opus 4 Organ Concerti. She said, “Sometimes organists ‘get confused’ and think it was originally for them. Not so! In the early 1900s, the great French-born harpist Marcel Grandjany rediscovered it and made a marvelous transcription, suitable for the modern pedal harp.”
Connie moved to Hawaii in 1978 with her husband, Glenn, whom she met at the Eastman School of Music. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. Although she started on piano at age 7, she was always encouraged to think about the harp from the time she was a toddler. “Don’t you think harp is a beautiful instrument, Connie? Wouldn’t you like to study the harp?” (I didn’t know that harpists, like organists, were strongly recommended to study the piano first!) I found out these tidbits from the conversation with Iggy Jang, concertmaster, and Joseph Swenson, the guest conductor, before the concert. Connie started harp in the 7th grade when her parents cashed in a life insurance policy to buy her first harp.
When she met Glenn decades ago, he already knew that moving the harp was part of the relationship, which is one reason she said they never owned a sports car!
We met Connie the year she moved to Hawaii in 1978, and my late husband, Carl Crosier, received a handwritten letter from her whom she apparently had sent to several churches. That very first Christmas, the women of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu choir performed Britten’s Ceremony of Carols with Connie Uejio playing the harp part.
Since then, she collaborated with LCH on many occasions, most notably on Peter Hallock’s Phoenix, which he scored for choir, harp, cello and organ, and which was performed numerous times for celebrative occasions as well as funerals. The LCH women also recorded Ceremony of Carols on CD with Connie.
For a time, Glenn was also on the Board of Trustees at St. Andrew’s Priory School, where he saw Carl Crosier on a regular basis. Glenn took his music degree from Eastman to come back to Hawaii to work in the family business, The Slipper House, which was a mainstay store at Ala Moana Shopping Center for 50 years.
And I even dealt with Kirk Uejio, Connie’s son, at Iolani School, where he was Director of Student Activities during my tenure at the school. Kirk always introduced his mother as “The world’s greatest harpist!”
Here are some of the comments people wrote to Connie on Facebook:
Dustin Ebesu So proud to know Connie! Such a kind hearted musician. Top notch!
Todd Yukumoto BRAVA to Constance Uejio and the Hawaii Symphony for a brilliant concert this evening!This is music making at its BEST! This is a LONG overdue spotlight for Connie and her wonderful harp playing! You are a ⭐️ STAR⭐️ Connie!! BRAVA Connie! You were SUPERB!!
Alan Hirota Enjoyed the performance. Bravo!
Charise Shigeta Wonderful concert!
Brad Frix Connie, we were sooo blessed by your music and the symphony as well! A masterpiece by you!
Glenn Uejio Saturday Concert went great! Our 3 granddaughters did super with on stage lei giving!!
Sally Walstrum Hi, Connie! I wanted to thank you for the exquisite performance of the Handel this afternoon. I had a huge smile on my face while listening to it. I wasn’t familiar with your encore but it was great fun. Not only are you the Queen of Scales with that Grandjany cadenza but you are a Glissando Goddess. Brava! [Ed. note: Connie played an encore, “Harpsicana” by Gene Bianco, “because the Handel didn’t have a single harp glissando in it, and ‘Harpsicana’ has a whole bunch of them!”]
Joan Kellner Congratulations! Encore!??
Yoko Kokuni You are amazing!!!! Your music ? is magical? ??????
Tommy Yee So proud of you Connie!! What a stunning harp concerto and encore today! We are so lucky to have you here in Hawaii, and I’m SO lucky to have the privilege to sit next to this Eastman alumni whenever I have the honor of playing with the Hawaii symphony orchestra! My partner in crime, BTW she never messes up, keeps me in check so that I never goof up!!!! Lol Can’t wait to hear you in the Nutcracker soon! BRAVA!!!!!
Oh, and did I mention that Connie also plays the organ, and has been a member of the American Guild of Organists for years! Yup, she is the Assistant Director of Music Ministries at Central Union Church and does freelance solo/chamber music work on the harp, piano, and organ.