Jakez François and Valérie Milot after the Cité des Arts competition, 2008
"The Cité des Arts competition in Paris was my first experience of a competition at international level. Of course, I was nervous faced with this new experience, but the warm welcome from everybody quickly put me at ease. Practice time was very well organized, and the Camac team saved us a lot of hassle by taking care of transporting the harps, and ensuring their good condition.
Having spent several months preparing alone at home, it was rather strange to find myself suddenly surrounded by dozens of people who had followed exactly the same gradual progression, and who were all hoping for the same thing – to win the first prize. Once in this context, I only wanted one thing: to be satisfied with my performance. Happily, that was the case! After that, the result was out of my hands. To please so many different judges is not easy. So I believe that the important thing is to stay true to yourself. Whether other people like it or not, that is the struggle for every musician. Fortunately nature has room for all manner of taste; better to accept this fact than to fight against reality.
Valérie Milot's new flame
first published on Radio Canada's Espace classique blog
by Valérie Milot
Me with some of the Atlantide Prestige harps, my final choice, to my left.
What better start to 2010 than a visit to Paris and, hey, buying a harp there in passing?
Actually, I had organised the matter in advance, after reflecting for a long time on the consequences of a stay in the City of Lights in November, 2008. I had taken part in an international competition sponsored by Camac Harps. My curiosity was aroused by these modern harps, in a form slightly different to my own instrument. So I took myself off to their showroom, to find very friendly people and the generous offer of a space to practise - something I didn't refuse, give the context!
I remember that I didn't look at my watch until I had been practising for three hours. Time passed so quickly and, strangely, I had no shoulder pain. It was in this way that I discovered these innovative instruments, completely re-designed to suit the life that oh so ails some harpists!
There are three world leaders in harp manufacture: Lyon and Healy (USA), Salvi (Italy) and Camac (France). Although the latter harps are sold throughout the world, they are quite rare in Quebec. So I decided to return to Paris and to meet Eric Piron, commercial director and a real harp enthusiast...this was Camac, of course!
Before I left, I let Eric know my preferred model, the Atlantide Prestige in ebony finish, with its pure, high-quality lines. When I arrived, I had a big surprise: Eric had selected twelve Atlantide Prestige, four ebony, which gave me the luxury of a wide choice.
Helped by my husband Antoine, who listened to the harps from a distance, I narrowed down my choice to four, then two. I was already strongly seduced by an ebony harp in matt finish. It was the first harp Camac had produced with non-shiny varnish, and this gave it an irresistibly dark air. I hesitated between this harp and another Atlantide in a rare wood from central Africa, zebrano. This harp was very powerful and its exotic finish had me torn between the two.
However, the black harp already had an exceptional sound for such a new instrument, and equal power throughout all its octaves. There was also this little and inexplicable spark that makes one instrument yours more quickly than another.
My black harp in the centre and the zebrano model on the right.
My new harp therefore set off for the Camac workshops at the same time that I flew home. Every mechanical and aesthetic detail is currently being checked, before being flown to me in packaging tested for hell or high water (nonetheless, I hope it doesn't encounter any!). It should arrive at my house at the beginning of February.