The end of April is a busy time for harp events, even by our standards. Some of us will be at L'Académie Camac in the South of France; there is the Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon, and we are also looking forward to being in Uppsala for the Fifth Sweden Harp Days! Our usual exhibition and regulation opportunities will be accompanied by three days of masterclasses and concerts across a classical spectrum of concert harp, lever harp, and chamber music. The long weekend will begin with an evening recital by the Atlantic Harp Duo, whom we had the pleasure of hearing at the Dutch Harp Festival not so long ago. Isabelle Perrin - newly Scandanavia-ized through her new position at the Norwegian Academy of Music - will give a masterclass on the Saturday. Anne Postic, who among many other things was our Camac Voice of March, will conclude the event with another masterclass, this time for the lever harp.
The Sweden Harp Days have long been organized in collaboration with Gertrud Schneider. It was Gertrud who built up the class at the Uppsala music school, where the days will take place. "I am Swiss, and it was love that originally brought me to Sweden, forty years ago", she explains. "At the time, there was no harp at all north of Stockholm. But while you might think you're heading into a desert, if nothing exists before you, in fact it can be easier to build something up. I began teaching because people were fascinated by the harp, and in any case the orchestral work was already covered by colleagues in jobs. When I started the class, I had four pupils, and when I retired, there were seventeen. Building up the class also lead to setting up classes in other music schools. And the more pupils you have, the more likely it is that some will turn professional, continuing to develop the harp scene.
One thing that was very important in building up my harp classes was a system of affordable harp rental. First of all, it was a new idea in Sweden that you could begin to learn classical harp, on a lever harp. It was a relatively new idea for me too: before I went to Sweden, I attended a workshop by Lake Constance, in order to explore the possibilities of the lever harp for teaching.
Using lever harps, it was possible for my music schools to subsidise the harp rental and make it the same price as renting a violin or clarinet. That's very important, as then parents do not have to dismiss the harp as an object only for the rich.
It was also by the shores of Lake Constance that I first met the Camac team. I'm now on my second blue harp - I bought my first soon after this meeting, in the mid-eighties - and it is very useful to me in my freelance work. I use it for events, for outdoor concerts, and everything where some amplification is your friend.
I am very happy to be organizing the Sweden Harp Days once again. We are always delighted by the visiting artists, and by the opportunity to try new harps and have our existing ones overhauled. I also hope no ash cloud will descend this time, as happened in 2010! The harps made it to Stockholm, but nobody else did...we got on with the exhibition ourselves, and sold the harps to each other!"
It took more than a puff of smoke to stop the Camac harps travelling to Sweden