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on September 10 | in Giving | by

Persinger family glass harp donated to Hollins

glass harpThe music department has a distinguished reputation for showcasing exceptional instruments, from the Steinway grand pianos in Talmadge Recital Hall to the Holtkamp organ in duPont Chapel. Presser Hall now features a remarkable artifact from the nineteenth century: a glass harp that belonged to Louisa Burwell Harvey, a Roanoke native and student at Hollins from 1863 to 1865.

Also known as musical glasses, the glass harp is believed to have originally been a wedding gift to Louisa upon her marriage to John Abner Persinger in 1866. It is made up of twenty-four glass goblets, most of which are original to the instrument, and is played by rubbing a wet finger around the cylinder. Robert K. Miller of Ken Farmer Auctions and Appraisals in Radford, Virginia, says the harp was produced circa 1830 and “is in an excellent state of preservation.”

Louisa is thought to have played the harp to entertain her nine children and through the years the instrument remained in the Persinger family. Louisa’s great-grandson, Philip Persinger, chose this year to give the harp to Hollins. As Philip’s mother, Mildred Emory Persinger ’39, noted in a letter acknowledging the gift, “This story ends where it began. Louisa’s glasses…are now on their way back to the Roanoke Valley, home at last….”

[From Mildred Persinger in a recent email: “Actually, it was I who made sure that Hollins had the glasses. When Dick and I owned them, I even had a spot at Hollins picked out for them in the little ‘anteroom’ behind the Green Drawing Room. When we got the glasses, our musical friends and neighbors had a good time playing them. The dining room was the only place I could put them. The Victorian design of the case (actually rosewood on walnut legs) was out of place with the 18th Century family pieces there. Furthermore, Philip and his wife Emily Nomer, an artist and interior designer, were telling me that I had too much furniture in the dining room for comfort at big parties. Dick had quite logically left the glasses to Philip. Because he and Emily were both Vassar graduates (I knew my son would get a better education at a women’s college!), Philip horrified me by suggesting he was thinking of giving the glasses to the Vassar music department. I was amazed that he could be so confused, forgetting that the original owner had been at Hollins so long ago. There was no argument. He immediately saw my point.”]

Photo: Olivia Body ’08

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