A career in the armed forces is not usually the first thing that comes to a music student's mind, and particularly not to harpists - you don't find many harps in marching bands. But there are military harp jobs available, and they can be a great career option. They offer unparalled job security, a wide range of musical and other experiences, and while you are obviously contracted to fulfil a certain amount of service, military musicians are rarely unable to realise artistic projects of their own.
Marie Normant is the principal harpist with the Orchestre de la Garde républicaine. The Republican Guard is one of the most prestigious and elegant branches of the military in France. It is particularly responsible for matters of civil and state security, and diplomatic and ceremonial functions. Its orchestra dates back to 1848. It consists of 120 professional musicians, most from France's most important conservatoires in Paris and Lyon, and all of whom have had to pass a demanding audition, as for any other professional orchestra. Because of the particular roles the orchestra performs, it usually divides itself into a string orchestra and a wind orchestra. However, it also appears as a symphony orchestra, and some of its musicians also play frequently as a saxophone quintet and string quartet. As well as official functions within France and abroad, the orchestra is available for private engagements - "everyone can invite the Orchestra of the Republican Guard!", explains Marie.
Marie with Jacques and Bernadette Chirac
We're lending a harp to the Paris Mozart Orchestra for a touring education project they'll be doing until April 2013. Soudain dans la forêt profonde - "suddenly in the depths of the forest" - is a words and music performance, with music by Fabio Vacchi, and text adapted by Michele Serra from Amos Oz's novel of the same title.
In a gray and gloomy village, all of the animals have disappeared. Nobody talks about it, and no one knows why, although everyone agrees that the village has been cursed. But when two children catch a glimpse of a tiny fish, they become determined to unravel the mystery of where the animals have gone. They travel into the depths of the forest, an unknown and forbidden world, in a haunting fable about tolerance, loneliness, denial, the dangers of conformity and the importance of living together.
For tour dates and more information, please download the press release below.
We've just sent six Atlantides for the final part of Marek Janowski's Wagner Tetralogy with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Charged with the task of booking all the harpists for the project, Deutsche Oper principal Virginie Gout-Zschäbitz asked us if we could help. "I didn't call Jakez at first, because I thought it would certainly be impossible", Virginie explains, "until a colleague of mine in Bamberg, Laurence Forstner-Beaufils, persuaded me to give it a try. Jakez immediately said he'd be delighted to help, and seemingly without any effort at all, the harps have simply arrived at the Philharmonie!
It's wonderful to be able to have six instruments all of the same make and model. It gives the harp section a much more unified sound, which our conductor is particularly excited about, not to mention more accurate intonation. I'm very glad we're not going to have to juggle harps of various degrees of regulation."
We are running this in-kind sponsorship of the concert series in partnership with Harfengalerie Camac Berlin. Mike Dobek, Harfengalerie's technician, was on hand today before the first rehearsal, checking the harps after their transport from Mouzeil and making sure they are in the best possible condition.
First row, left-right: Renate Erxleben, Magdalena Zimmerer, Virginie Gout
Second row, left-right: Tatiana Schütz, Cecil Ulrich, Lena Buchberger
Mike Dobek and Virginie Gout
It is possible to rock up to your first orchestral audition and win it, but it is unlikely. Orchestral harpists have usually worked extremely hard, in a focused and tactical way, to enjoy the secure jobs they've come to hold. Here's some news of a super week-long course in audition training, that will begin at the Amsterdam Conservatoire on October 13th. It will be given by Sandrine Chatron, Principal Harp with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, is free to Amsterdam Conservatoire students, and very reasonably-priced for everyone else. At the end of the course, there will be an audition: its winner will be able to play a programme as a substitute with the Netherlands Philharmonic in the 2013 - 2014 season.
Places are limited to eight, and the deadline for applications is October 1st. You'll find all information in the flyer below.
I've just updated the orchestral job listings on Harpblog's opportunities page.
If you're interested in applying for the one with the Brucknerorchester Linz, the closing date is in two days, on September 6th! Send your application letter with a CV and photo to: OÖ Theater und Orchester GmbH, Bruckner Orchester Linz, z. Hdn. Isabel Biederleitner, Promenade 39, 1-4010 Linz.
On the subject of orchestral auditions: if you are going to the audition for the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on October 8th, bear in mind this is the day after the Oktoberfest ends. It is REALLY difficult and EYE-WATERINGLY expensive to get a hotel in Munich at this time. Email me if you are having trouble finding anywhere, as I live in Munich and may be able to help.
Celebrating finding a hotel room in Munich in the first week of October
Herbert von Karajan conducting in 1941. Photo: Bundesarchiv / Wikipedia
There are a few new harp jobs in July/August's Das Orchester, including a very good Orchesterakademie 2-year contract for those of you under twenty-six. Das Orchester is the most comprehensive source of European orchestral job information, and its listings are repeated on its sister website music-job.com. You have to register with the site to view the jobs, but it is free to do so.
I have also added the details to Harpblog's own listings page.
Two years ago, Harpblog interviewed Felicita Marockinaite about her work with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. It's an interview I've always remembered, because it was so intriguing to hear about a Western classical orchestra making a name for itself in a setting essentially foreign to its culture. Each programme includes a work by a Qatari or Persian Gulf composer, for example, in order to attract more local audience. You can see this principle in action in the orchestra's recent concert with Anneleen Lenaerts and Dionysis Grammenos - a classical programme featuring the Glière harp concerto, and also Alnaham Voice by the Arabic composer, H Naama.
I was thinking about orchestras and their markets again today, as I was sent a petition to save the SWR orchestras - that's the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, and the SWR Rundfunkorchester in Stuttgart. Plans are afoot to merge the two orchestras, because of money.
Nobody is suggesting that orchestras should always survive irrespective of market demand - least of all the SWR: they have published an impressive dossier listing all the ways they generate sponsorship and new audiences for themselves. It is not enough to argue that an orchestra's a cultural oasis, even if it is. Like the Qatar Phil, all orchestras have to find creative, constructive ways to justify their existence.
Cutting down ensembles, at any rate fine and established ensembles, is usually a short-sighted solution to funding crises. Apart from the cost to art and to musicians, the very act of reducing makes the ensemble less important - and so, more vulnerable the next time a round of cuts comes along. You see the same effect if you decide to cut your fees to get more work. You might get more gigs for three months, but after that, everyone's fees have sunk. Cut them again, and the same thing happens, and finally, nobody can earn a living - including you. Harp Column Magazine has rightly campaigned against undercutting in their March / April 2012 issue. Cuts have a snowball effect that also tends to bite you on your own head. Usually, it is better to keep the ensemble, and make sure it stays relevant and purposeful.
Here is part of Marcel Khalife’s Concerto for Rababa and Orchestra, which the Qatar Philharmonic premiered in 2010. They recently reperformed the work, on April 5th.
It's not for nothing that 'Un Bal' from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is an orchestral audition excerpt. But it remains a bit galling, after all that hard work, not to be able to hear anything beyond some pinging from the tops of the arpeggios, and maybe a few nervous buzzes and pedal twangs after figure 22.
What can be done? Conductors: instead of shouting at the harps to play louder all the time, you could ask the orchestra to play quieter. This is theoretically intelligent, but in reality doesn't usually work well either. The really cunning solution is what Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has just done with the Spanish National Orchestra: insist on four harps instead of two. Et voilà: glorious loud whooshing worthy of the most glittering Viennese ballroom.
In his memoirs, Berlioz mentions the difficulty he had getting Symphonie Fantastique performed, because of a lack of capable harpists and harps. What a pity he died one hundred and forty-three years, one month, two weeks and three days before the concert in Madrid on January 22nd this year! He would have been happy to see Alexander Granados and Camac Ibérica lend the orchestra an Atlantide Prestige, bringing their harps up to four in number.
Spanish National Orchestra Principal Harpist Nuria Llopez with Selma García Ramos, Isabel Maicas Muñoz and Celia Zaballos Cuesta in Symphonie Fantastique