Wow! What a festival we've just had in Ancenis. I know I said Harpblog was going to be on location, but we were too busy to even - well, I would say "eat lunch", but it was France, so we did actually eat three-course lunches. But we were very busy, anyway.
The exhibition of Camac's collection of antique instruments
I don’t know where to start. Our international harp festival, jointly organised with the town of Ancenis to celebrate our fortieth anniversary, was an ambitious project from the beginning. At the start of the planning, we gave Ancenis council a list of suggestions, examples of the sort of things a harp festival might have: workshops, masterclasses, street music, harp ensembles, classical recitals, jazz nights, young musicians, and so on.
“Magnifique!”, said Ancenis. “Let’s do everything!”.
The Young Artists Harp Ensemble of Philadelphia outside Ancenis town hall
The result has been an amazing, jam-packed, just-the-right-side of delirious celebration of the harp in all its forms. The event has surpassed all our expectations. We moved large-scale ensembles all over town: to the shopping centre, the supermarket, the library, outside the chateau, outside the town hall, and to the swimming pool, to name but some. We held a long night of the harp that went on until 2:30 in the morning, and listened to music ranging from virtuoso classical recitals to a Michael Jackson medley from the Boston Harp Project. Everywhere we went, our guest artists were welcomed with open arms, applauded warmly, and interviewed repeatedly by the local and national media. Even the weather was stunning, in a part of France where if it isn’t already raining, it is just about to start.
Survivors' photo, 2:30AM: the long night of the harp.
One of the occasionally tricky, but more often beautiful, aspects of music is its strong tendency to marry the personal and the professional. This also applies to harp manufacturers: the artists who have chosen our instruments are our clients, and in many cases also our friends. We are touched beyond measure by the response from the harp world to our festival invitations.
Athy painted Jakez a picture for Camac's birthday
The Rave Harpers, Singapore, and pictured here in the Leclerc shopping centre, Ancenis, commissioned a new work especially for the festival
The festival's guests came from as far away as Singapore, Boston, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Argentina and even Tasmania, bringing such a diversity of music that the comment I heard most from the public was that, that weekend, they had "discovered the harp".
These guests brought an equally wide variety of personal stories, too: about our founder, Joël Garnier, and our company's beginnings, forty years ago. Mariannig Larc'hantec performed on the first harp Joël ever built; the young Rave Harpers of Singapore, on the last.
The last harp built by Joël Garnier, by the chateau of Ancenis
The marraine - the godmother - of the festival was Marileine Bouchaud. Mme Bouchaud, who joined Marcel Tournier's class at the Paris Conservatoire in 1945, has had a long and distinguished career as professor at the Conservatoire de Nantes - where her students included one M. Jakez François.
Mme Bouchaud at the festival's opening party
Another onetime student and professor: Isabelle Moretti and Germaine Lorenzini at the opening party
The generosity of time, talent and spirit afforded us by our guest artists is one reason for the festival's special energy. Another is the enthusiasm and welcome from Ancenis. Nothing was too much trouble for theatre director Dominique Dahéron and his team: from the sound crew who put in a 9AM - 3AM day on Saturday, to the bar and catering staff, and the ever-ready convey of shuttle bus drivers. Thank you too for the host families looking after all the artists we couldn't fit into Ancenis's only best hotel - a propos, thank you to the hotel, who also went above and beyond the call of duty to help and welcome us. I'd also like to shout out to the ladies I met at the afterparty, who had been to every single concert (including the long night of the harp, until the end).
For all this is beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, it was this atmosphere of everyone collaborating with such warmth and enthusiasm which was one of the most exceptional aspects of the festival.
When a festival is as busy as this, it is difficult to write about everything. To conclude, then, I think I'll just write two things. Firstly, a couple of notices. Jean-Marc Volta took over two thousand official photographs, the results of which we'll communicate once he has completed the Herculean task of editing them all. We'll continue to blog anything interesting about the festival, as we get it - and there's also a Facebook fan page, not even run by us.
Secondly: our harps, for all the passion with which we build them, would be silent without the artists who play them. You inspire us, you move us, and you are the reason why we are making harps.
Edmar Castaneda performed with his wife, Andrea, and his father, Pavelid
Instrument manufacturers are commercial organisations, but the idea that business and feeling are mutually exclusive is a myth. It is about as true as the idea you become a musician because you want to get rich. Music has always had a relationship with commerce, and personally I believe that, done properly, the involvement of that commerce is directly linked to the realisation of dreams. But the ultimate riches that we all get from music are not fiscal. And they were heaped upon us, in Ancenis.
To cite Marileine Bouchaud's biography on the festival site :
Au début des années 1980, Marileine Bouchaud fait la connaissance de Joël Garnier, le fondateur des harpes Camac. C’est le début d’une longue collaboration et d’une profonde amitié. Très régulièrement, avec la jeune génération de l’époque, des séances d’essais étaient organisées afin de tester les nouvelles harpes qui sortaient des ateliers. Pour Marileine Bouchaud, ce sont des souvenirs inoubliables et porteurs de grande émotion.
At the start of the eighties, Marileine Bouchaud met Camac's founder, Joël Garnier. It was the start of a long collaboration, and a profound friendship. With the younger generation of the day, trial sessions were regularly and frequently organised in order to test the harps leaving the factory workshops. For Marileine Bouchaud, these have become unforgettable memories, and a source of great emotion.
If working with the manufacture, and the manufacturer, of instruments can become a source of great emotion for a harpist, and a life-long friendship - that is for us, the harp makers, a source of great emotion too.
Myriam Serfass, Isabelle Moretti and Ghislaine Petit-Volta after Isabelle's stunning performance to close the festival.