Two Harp Festivals in Wales
For a decade the Caernarfon Harp Festival has been a part of my Easter holidays. Presented by the William Mathias Music Centre, every year the festival celebrates a different aspect of the history of the harp and this year was no different - it was a double celebration! One hundred years ago the Welsh harpist-composer John Thomas, Pencerdd Gwalia, died and in the same year one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century who contributed to the harp repertoire, Benjamin Britten was born.
And here are some more photos from the Edinburgh International Harp Festival, by kind permission of their fabulous photographer, Lieve Boussauw. If you're interested in contacting Lieve directly, you can do so at email@example.com.
On the subject of photos, I've changed the blog sidebar to include two photo albums. The name "Harpblog" was conceived by some of the sharpest creative minds in the music business: in the same vein, "Looks" is an album of images from our projects and travels throughout the world, and "Sounds" is a collection of our favourite CDs. "Sounds" was formerly "on Jakez's iPod", but he's got an iPhone 5 now anyway.
Cameo Concert - from wire strung and bray harps, to our MIDI concert harp
Here are the results of the two competitions of the Pencerdd Gwalia Festival. The final stages took place in Bridgend, Wales, birthplace of the great Welsh harpist John Thomas, last week on April 13th.
Junior Competition - under 17 years of age:
1. Mared Emyr Pugh-Evans
2. Molly-Rowan Sharples
3. Cassandra Tomella
Senior Competition - under 25, but with no lower age limit:
1. Llywelyn Ifan Jones
2. Elfair Grug Dyer
3. Molly-Rowan Sharples
Congratulations to all laureates!
The final followed rounds of competition in South and North Wales. The competition day was rounded off by a concert to celebrate John Thomas' life and work, featuring performances by Catrin Finch, Hannah Stone, Katherine Thomas, Gary Griffiths and the Tabernacle Choir. We sponsored the concert, and the first prize in the Junior Competition was sponsored by our Cardiff partners, Telynau Vining Harps.
The festival website has a good collection of information about John Thomas, ranging from contemporary anecdotes and extracts from Thomas's own journals, to two articles about Bridgend in the 1830s and links to events, recordings and sheet music.
More information is available on the festival website - NB! It's best to register before May 6th, to avoid a late registration fee. Festival artistic director Patrice Fisher has also created a series of engaging podcasts, including one with Deborah, which you can listen to here.
Here's an update to our announcement about Beginning in the Middle, the excellent course and festival for adult amateur harpists sponsored by our partners, the Virginia Harp Center. In addition to being on the festival faculty, Irish harp legend Janet Harbison will give a special concert and workshop straight after the festival ends, on March 11th and 12th:
We're excited to be going to Croatia in April, for the Zagreb Harp Festival. The festival will take place between April 21st - 27th, 2013, in diverse venues around Zagreb like the Music Academy, the National and University Library, the Croatian Music Institute, the Cultural and Information Centre and Mimara Museum. Our festival sponsorship is a collaboration with our Slovenian partner, Dalibor Bernatović, who will supply harps for the concerts and masterclasses, and hold an exhibition.
The festival programme will include the chance for a week-long course of masterclasses with Ion Ivan Roncea, and other masterclass and lesson opportunities with Patrizia Tassini, Claire Le Fur and Staša Mirković Grujić. On the concert front, the festival will open with a solo recital from Ion Ivan, followed by performances throughout the week across all sorts of genres and styles. Claire Le Fur will appear with the Quintet Les Alizés; festival director Tajana Vukelić Peić with church musicians at the Church of St Mark; there will be Handel, Mozart and Vivaldi with Patrizia Tassini and the Zagreb Chamber Orchestra; a concert from Baltazar Juarez and the Mariacchi Orchestra Los Caballeros; more solo recitals by Benjamin Creighton Griffiths and Staša Mirković Grujić; and even heavy metal/hard rock from Doris Karamatić. A crowning moment will be a concert by Croatian harpists Branka Janjanin-Magdalenić, Mirjam Lučev Debanić, Diana Grubišić Ćiković, Mirjana Krišković, Biserka Krčelić and Tajana Vukelić Peić, with their colleagues for various chamber music combinations, as well as in the "Thousand Strings" Harp Ensemble.
Claire Le Fur
Full programme details are available on the festival website.
“As for Monsieur Thomas, harpist to the Queen in London, I heard him - not in a concert hall, but from far away, between two romances, and under the noise of chatter. But one always hears the things and artists one likes, and I heard him - only him, and took my time to savour the rare and poetic qualities of his talent. That is how the harp should be played! M. Thomas is able to do whatever he likes with his noble instrument, but he doesn't aim for difficulty for its own sake: his tours de force have genuine charm. His playing is intense, passionate, even fevered, but without exaggerated nuances, and never demanding violent, inappropriate effects from the harp - which the instrument cannot evoke without losing its superbly elegant qualities, which make it such a powerful instrument in certain contexts. Also, the works composed by M. Thomas are remarkably refined. He has charmed me, fascinated me and transfixed me. If I were rich, I would afford myself the luxury of engaging such a virtuoso, to soothe my sad moments, and help me forget the real world!"
Hector Berlioz writing in the Journal des Débats, March 1854
The deadline (of March 1st) is fast approaching for the two competitions of the Pencerdd Gwalia Festival. There are two competitions, under 25 and under 17. The festival commemorates John Thomas's centenary, with set works by the great Welsh harpist in each competition category. We're delighted to be sponsoring the closing concert, which will star Catrin Finch, Katherine Thomas and Hannah Stone, on April 13th in John Thomas's birthplace of Bridgend, South Wales.
Another long-established harp festival (2013 will be its thirty-second year) has also just released its full programme: you can now explore the 2013 Edinburgh International Harp Festival online! In fact, I think it's the best festival website I've ever seen, with not only exhaustive information about this year's festival, but interesting archive sections and a great blog.
The lever harp - in all its huge and hugely creative diversity - is at the heart of the festival, as is the way it is a place where professionals and amateurs can get together on very equal terms. As important as the concerts are the huge number of courses, workshops and late-night sessions where anyone can join in: whatever your level of experience, you will find new sources of inspiration, friendship and joy in making music. There are also special events and courses for children, and is also a big harp exhibition. On the subject of instrument manfacture, another theme that's really caught our attention is the festival's "resonating string" series of concert and workshops. These will track developments in the construction, repertoire and performance techniques of harps from Medieval to MIDI - our own MIDI harp will be visiting the festival, with Arnaud Roy.
Wow! You can download the full brochure here.
Edmar Castaneda, pictured here at the 2012 festival, will be returning to Edinburgh for the second year running
Elisi (Handcraft) brings together two classically trained Turkish harpists, Sirin Pancaroglu and Meriç Dönük, together with Jarrod Cagwin, an American percussionist who has made Istanbul his home. This predominantly improvisationalproject is based on traditional Turkish music. They also intertwine elements of classical, contemporary, jazz and fusion.