As the new season begins, it's time to announce a fantastic new project that'll be more helpful. Miriam Overlach and Sabien Canton want to build an an international, multimedia platform and forum for composers: composingforharp.com.
Firstly, composingforharp.com will feature a general introduction to the harp, describing its parts and construction, and its various categories of playing techniques ('damping', 'pedals', 'arpeggios', 'glissandi', 'harmonics' etc). These sections will be illustrated with short excerpts from typical repertoire. Moving on from the basics, short films will present the whole range of sounds which can be produced on a harp, by so-called 'standard' and by extended techniques. The viewer can listen to the sound and see the way it is produced at the same time, and also learn how to notate it. will additionally provide an interactive forum where composers and players can exchange ideas and questions. They will have the opportunity to upload excerpts of pieces, creating a new database of compositions for harp.
The closing date for the Third International Harp Competition in Szeged (November 28 - December 3, 2013) is not until the 30th of September, but if you're going in for the competition you're probably working on your programme already. In which case: there's an interesting interview with Attila Reményi, whose Miniatures are the set work in the competition's senior cateogry.
The Miniatures, which won the Third International Composition Competition in Fukui, Japan in 1998, are not Reményi's sole contribution to the harp repertoire. He has written no less than ten solo and chamber works (catalogued at the end of the interview), including for pedal harp, lever harp, harp duet, harp ensemble, flute and harp, and fl/vla/hp trio.
Classical music, in its generic sense, is the art music stemming from Western liturgical and secular traditions. Today, one of its most interesting aspects is how it travels. The harp has long benefited from amazing work in the Asia Pacific region, like in Singapore, Thailand, China, and Japan. Increasingly, for all they are ringed by desert, the Gulf states are also proving a fertile source of new musical life. The ongoing success of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is one example, and another is what's going on in Dubai.
Dubai has quite a lot of job opportunities for harpists to play in its luxury hotels. This was how Shelley Frost first arrived in the country, having taken such a job in order to fund a new harp. She has stayed, taken playing for corporate events to an entirely new stratosphere, and has now applied her vision and professionalism to developing the concert scene. In 2009, we blogged about The Fridge, Shelley's arts centre. Since then, she has also, together with her composer colleague Joanna Marsh, created an organisation specialising in art music: The Score. Shelley and Joanna's concept is not only to bring top performers to the audiences of Dubai, but also to feed into the grass roots of the local music culture. As a result, all of the concerts in the season are surrounded by an array of workshops, master classes and music educational activities.
Under the auspices of The Score, Catrin Finch will be making her concert debut in Dubai on March 25th. This will include a masterclass for professional harpists of the region, a matinée for and with school children, and the world premiere of a work by Joanna Marsh, "A Short Handbook of Djinn". This work consists of three movements, each about a different djinn, and each preceded by a short narrative explaining their role in Arabic culture.
Congratulations to Elisabeth Valletti, who for her work with the MIDI harp is the winner of the Qwartz International Music Award / Category Experimental Music! This is the second Qwartz Award with which the Camac MIDI harp has been associated - the instrument itself won the Max Matthews Prize for Technological Innovation at the 7th Qwartz Awards last year.
Read more about Elisabeth's work here, here and here.
On the subject of Venice - Wales's oldest classical music festival, the Gregynog Festival, has Venezia as its theme this year. And there are two big harp moments...
On June 21st, Rhodri Davies has been invited to give a recital as part of the festival in the National Museum of Wales. Rhian Davies, the festival's curator, has commissioned Rhodri to create a graphic score based on the three Monet paintings of Venice in the National Museum, bought by the Davies sisters of Gregynog in 1912. The score will be based on the water in these three pictures, with a working title of "acqua alta".
This is far from Rhodri's debut with graphic scores. At the time of the last Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon, he made one for the John Parry tercentenary - with 300 holes in the Parry Four Lessons. He also gave a workshop on graphic scores for the 2009 Camac Harp Days at Trinity College of Music, London, working with Catherine Kontz's "Tea Ceremony".You can find Rhodri's complete programme here, on the festival site - including John Cage's "Sounds of Venice" (1959).
Last year, Camac's MIDI harp won the Max Matthews Prize for technological innovation at the seventh Qwartz Awards in Paris. Now Elisabeth Valletti, who performed on the MIDI harp at the prizegiving ceremony, is in the running for the eighth Awards (musical experimentation category)! She has been nominated for her eighteen "Exercices pour la Harpe MIDI", which include the Harp Haikus she performed when the MIDI harp won its prize.
VERY IMPORTANT: this prize has a public vote, which you can cast here. The closing date for voting is February 15th.
Speaking of avant-garde harp music: I've just added some concert dates with Hélène Breschand to the Harpblog calendar. If you haven't heard of Hélène's work, you can read an article about her in the Autumn 2008 edition of Harpseasons. You can also browse her website, and that of her ensemble Laborinthus.
Rhodri Davies is performing the distinguished avant-garde composer Elaine Radigue's Occam I for solo harp on February 23rd at Beursschouwburg in Brussels (8:30 PM). Saxophonist John Butcher will then perform his own solo work, The Geometry of Sentiment, before he and Rhodri conclude the evening with a duo improvisation. For more details, click here.
Rhodri gave the world premiere of Radigue's composition in the summer of last year, at the Spitalfields Festival in London. One reviewer writes: "His journey up the harp, sounding out octaves, fifths and minor seconds with his two bows, unchained the hidden harmonics of these notes, the upper partials, and allowed them to engage in a most mesmerising celestial dance above our heads, a sort of musical aurora borealis..." .
Rhodri Davies. Photo: Alexis O'Hara