Congratulations to Andreas Milder, who will take over from Gisèle Herbert as the professor of harp at the Hochschule für Musik in Würzburg. And - auditions to join his new class are closing soon! The deadline for applications is March 31st, and you can find all details here. He has held a teaching position at the Würzburg Hochschule for some years now, and will take up his full professorship in the summer of 2015.
Andreas Mildner won the first prize in the Arpista Ludovico competition in Spain in 2009, and is now Principal Harp with the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cologne. He has also been honoured with the Kulturpreis Bayern, the Barischer Kunstförderpreis, and last season appeared as a concerto soloist with the Bremen Philharmonic, the Würzburg Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Schwerin, and the Utrecht Philharmonic.
Andreas’s duo with tubist Andreas Hofmeir is a central feature of his diverse chamber music activities: watch them here playing Piazzolla (arr. Andreas Mildner), live in the studio of the Bavarian Radio.
Between March 21st - 22nd, we will be in Onex, Switzerland, for a harp weekend with François Pernel and the association Harpes en Coeur. François has composed a Stabat Mater inspired by the music of Gershwin and Bernstein, for: counter-tenor and tenor solo, harp solo, a choir of twelve lever harps and four flutes. The rehearsals are well underway, with the classes of Elise Estavoyer, Sylvie Laville, and Alessia Lepori. The world premier of the Stabat Mater will take place at the Église du Christ-Roi, 6 chemin de l’épargne, 1213 Petit-Lancy, at 5PM on March 22nd.
Throughout the weekend's rehearsals and courses there will also be a Camac exhibition, and the chance to have your Camac harp regulated for free. For regulation bookings and exhibition enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from Katryna Tan, this time about Malaysia. Katryna's teaching centre, Rave Harps, has just moved to splendid new premises in Singapore, and there is also a substantial Malaysian division. On February 8th, an inaugural concert took place in the Cempaka Schools hall (Cheras Campus).
Cempaka is the only school in Malaysia that has a harp program, directed by Katryna Tan together with a team of dedicated teachers (who also form the Poise Harp Trio) - Dan Siew Yee, Yap Zhe Zhen, and Ong Foong Huang. The concert features 14 harps and nearly 30 harpists, with a variety of pieces from classical, to jazz, to combinations with the Malaysian gamelan, and collaborations with singers and dancers. Katryna also performed solo as a guest artist.
Katryna writes: "The concert was graced by the school's founder and mentor Dato'Freida Mohd Pilus, whose idea it was to have a harp programme some years ago. We had a full house, and it was a wonderful event for all the young harpists - so creatively done by the school's artistic team, Cempaka's music team and the Poise Harp Trio!"
Katryna Tan and her harp centres, Rave Harps in Singapore and also in Malaysia, are no strangers to Harpblog's pages. Be it concerts and recordings, books, awards, visits to France or an full-on harp opera - we never cease to be impressed, delighted and at times truly amazed by the creativity and professionalism of Katryna and her colleagues.
The Singapore branch of Rave Harps have moved into gorgeous new premises at 73 Ubi Road 1. I was lucky enough to get a video tour on Skype this morning. On entering the centre, you'll find a light and airy duplex with a concert / exhibition space in the centre. The ground floor also includes series of teaching and rehearsal rooms - the Ravel room, the Debussy room and the Mozart room (and yet another rehearsal room, the Beethoven room, in the basement) - plus a comfortable waiting room for parents. Upstairs are offices, reached via a walkway looking down on the central space.
"We would like the centre to be like a home from home for the sixty-odd young harpists who are now part of Rave Harps", explains Katryna. "Students are welcome to come and practise, look through music, practise performing in the central space, and basically hang out together. We wanted to create a really pleasant environment, peaceful, friendly and not crowded. This is important for making art and music."
The new centre's official launch party will be held on January 18th. Katryna will outline the plan of events for 2015 - including the fifth HarpFest - and there will be a chance for beginners to explore the harp, with "harp tasting" sessions. There will be performances by Rave Harpers - including a new, more professional division to the ensemble. "We have been teaching children for over a decade now", explains Katryna, "and some of them have grown up, gone on to university or other studies, but they miss playing in the group. So we are creating a new group, for graduates from our junior ensemble!".
The centre's official International Artistic Advisor, Isabelle Moretti, will return to Singapore in the summer for a series of masterclasses.
As well as feeling impressed, delighted and amazed, we at Camac all also feel very proud to be associated with such a beautifully-conceived organisation. Music education, and indeed music itself, is not only - or perhaps it is better to say, not exclusively - about music. It is also about teamwork, about self-expression, about learning how to handle pressure, and about the sparkling heights you can achieve if you work at something steadily and hard. Some children will go on to become professional musicians, others won't, and this is only as things should be. But the effect of dynamic and inspired music education on all children lucky enough to receive it can be immeasurably enriching, and something they will never forget.
Harp world togetherness, left-right: Raoul Moretti, Isabel Moreton, Isabelle Moretti.
You've got to keep your wits about you in the close-knit harp world. We're particularly lucky in our Isabelles, and indeed the Camac office has a special linguistic system to differentiate between Isabelle Moretti, and Isabelle Perrin.
You can find both wonderful Isabelles in Oslo next week. Isabelle Moretti is appearing with François Leleux and Det Norske Kammerorchester on January 13th. They will perform the Mozart K299 flute and harp concerto, on oboe and harp. It's the perfect chance to discover an intriguing new sound, in the New Year!
Not far away from this exciting concert is the Norges Musikkhøgskole, or Norwegian Academy of Music - where Isabelle Perrin is now Professor of Harp. Her appointment is another great chance: to study with one of the best harp teachers in the world, under very good conditions.
The Norwegian Academy of Music is Norway's flagship conservatoire and offers the full range of professional education: Bachelor, Masters, doctoral studies, and exchange opportunities (Erasmus programme), across the board of classical performance, music education, music therapy, music technology, church music, jazz, Nordic folk music, and so on. Of particular interest for classical musicians embarking on a performing career are the one-year graduate performance diploma, and also the internship scheme. Through this, Academy students can audition for a (paid) performance internship with either the Oslo Philharmonic, or the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. There is also an active programme of masterclasses by guest professors - for example, Isabelle Moretti this January, Ernestine Stoop in March, and Alice Giles in October. Throughout the year, students also benefit from specialist collaborations for early music, and Alexander Technique and healthy performance practice.
Norwegian tuition remains free for EU-students and, for the time being, also for non-EU students. The relatively high cost of living in Oslo is balanced by the free tuition, and the fact that it is a highly accessible city for foreigners. The majority of Norwegians speak English fluently, and indeed all classes at the Norwegian Academy are available in English from the third year of Bachelor studies.
What conservatoire, what city, which professor and even the cost are all a matter of individual choice and circumstance. But it is universally true that if you enter a music college, and do what you are told while you're there, you should exit it able to hold your own in an increasingly competitive international market. A conservatoire or teacher is not responsible for handing you a career on a plate, but you should nonetheless be given a broad and up-to-date sense of your professional options, and leave in a good position to advance professionally by yourself. It is not the case that every prestigious institution charging eye-watering fees is best equipping students for their futures - and equally, there are also fantastic new opportunities opening up. Students do well to be inquisitive and demanding customers. The dawn of 2015 is a perfect time to look North.
Germany has a fantastic tradition of not only big national orchestras, but also smaller local ones at the heart of their communities. There are so many orchestras, that they are categorised from "A" to "D", and I used to have a job in a "D". Apart from this grade always reminding me uncomfortably of my French homework, it also meant that the orchestra was small, and under financial pressure.
When I was due to leave and go and and work for Camac, the musical director summoned me to his office and announced that he thought it would be a clever money-saver if he dissolved the harp job. I could have first dibs on the freelancing if I supported the idea, 'cos it had to be approved by the orchestra at the annual meeting. A big fight an animated discussion ensued. I philosophized that binning a job would be short-sighted: the smaller your ensemble, the easier it is for someone to cut your funding. Instead, said I, warming to my theme, he should do more community and outreach projects to build audiences - more than no outreach projects, the current number - and also stop musicians calling in sick when they weren't ill, on which the theatre haemorrhaged money. I then was thrown swept nobly out of the office and encouraged my colleagues to vote against.
The upshot of it all was that the harp job survived. Its hours were even increased. It is part of a general trend: more jobs, like additional strings, have been created, there is an active programme of outreach work, and the orchestra is now a grade C and getting better all the time. This is more than can ever have been said for my French homework.
It is heart-warming when a musical centre grows and develops. In Geneva, the Conservatoire Populaire has taken the perspicacious decision to build on the excellent work of Isabelle Martin-Achard. They have found themselves with so many keen students that, on Isabelle's retirement, two new professors have been appointed. Céline Gay Des Combes and Blandine Pigaglio are now both teaching at the conservatoire, with the aim of building up two substantial harp classes once again.
"I'm very inspired by the open-mindedness and forward-thinking of this conservatoire", Céline explains. "The professors are given a lot of freedom in how they structure their teaching, and the school welcomes unusual and creative projects. There are also big dance and theatre classes, which give us a lot of opportunity to put on multidisciplinary shows. This is an aspect of teaching both Blandine and I value very much. We have both done several such shows before - for example, the Conte de Jakata show I organised with Marielle Nordmann and Elodie Wuillens. Next winter, we're hoping to put on a show Blandine has created based on Deborah Henson-Conant's Baroque Flamenco."
"My pupils and I have written a story to go with Baroque Flamenco", says Blandine. "It starts in the court of Marie Antoinette, and then continues with other Baroque and Spanish pieces along the way. I hope we can also get some flamenco dancers, from the flamenco class at the Conservatoire...it's great to be able to develop shows like this, it puts the music into context for the students and gives them a large-scale project to get their teeth into."
Another field vulnerable both to cuts, but also to short-sighted cuts is music education. It's sometimes forgotten that music education is not only about being able to get your fingers round some pieces on an instrument. It is about, for example, learning to stick at something and work steadily to achieve something special; emotional development and self-expression; teamwork and handling pressure. The Conservatoire Populaire has just launched a fantastic outreach project, in which Céline and Blandine's harp departments are taking part. We have sponsored it by providing three lever harps for the music lessons, and three lever harps for the students to practise on at home.
"This project began last September, in a school in a more challenging areas of Geneva", says Céline. "It's for twenty-one eight-year-olds, who would otherwise have no access to music lessons. The children are brought to the Conservatoire for two hours of music lessons on Monday mornings - eight professors are involved, so the children study instruments in groups of three, three pianists, three guitarists, three harpists and so on. On Thursdays, the class has general musical education all morning - solfège, rhythmique, etc. The best thing about the project is that it is going to last for four years, so it is not like one of these projects where middle-class classical musicians come in, do a workshop for an hour, and then disappear. The children are going to have had a substantial amount of real music training by the time they have finished. For the duration of the project, they are full members of the Conservatoire Populaire, with full library rights, access to all general classes, and everything else.
Their class teacher has already been surprised by how well some of the children have reacted to the music lessons. It is something special they can learn to do if they work at it. That is hugely motivating and confidence-building, because it's their achievement and nobody else's. I've already seen the results of this sort of motivation, even just regarding the harps. In order that the students could learn to take care of the instruments lent to them, and to tune them and have this sort of basic independence, I taught everyone for three months before they were allowed to take their harps home with them. When that time came, it was in itself an achievement. The students were delighted, and even glad to be assigned work to practise at home!"
The Polish Harp Society is ten years old, and to celebrate, their previously national Competition of Duets with Harp is going international for the first time. This competition, for any duo combination that includes at least one harp, will take place in Cieszyn, Poland in April 2015. Rules, information and application forms are available on the Polish Harp Society website, and the closing date for entries is March 1st, 2015.
In 1969, the indefatigable Aristid Von Wurtzler initiated the first US harp competition (in Hertford, CA) "and this was a great chance for the girls behind the Iron Curtain", Ewa remembers. "We were able to get visas to attend the competition, and then we found solutions to be able to stay on in the West. Aristid was a great support to us: he'd escaped from Hungary himself, hiding in a barrel, during the 1956 uprising. I got a scholarship for a year to study with him - in fact, I repeated the masters qualification I already had, but it's neither the first nor the last time a student has enrolled in a course for the visa."
Ewa subsequently spent seventeen years in Von Wurtzler's New York Harp Ensemble - a fascinating account of whose adventures you can read on Carl Swanson's website. The group took four harps to sixty-five countries in total, and it was with a great range of professional experience, very well-travelled, and with perfect English that Ewa came home to Poland - via two years as Principal Harp with the Ostatni Opera in Prague - after twenty-three years in America.
Now here's a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit all musicians need to survive. Charlotte Sager lives in Glasgow, and amongst performing, teaches at St Mary's Music School and Fettes College in Edinburgh. Looking to make a full day's work out of her Saturday commute, she walked into Blackwell's bookshop, found the head of their music section...and asked them if they would consider having harp lessons in the middle of the shop floor.
Within three weeks of teaching in the bookshop, Charlotte was fully booked from 12.30pm to 6PM on Saturdays. Most new students were attracted to the harp window display at the front of Blackwell's or had observed the lessons taking place in public, encouraging them to investigate further.
"The response has been fantastic", says Charlotte. "I was basically looking for a venue to expand my teaching in Edinburgh and I knew that the Early Music Shop in Saltaire had held harp lessons on the shop floor with great success. I teach on the middle floor of Blackwell's - in the basement is a coffee shop where people often buy a drink and then head up to peruse the books and to listen to the harp workshops. The area has been set up comfortably with sofas and a coffee table, providing a perfect setting that, despite being public, is far from intimidating even to the complete beginners!
It's been very beneficial to everyone. I get more students because people are browsing in the shop; Blackwells receive more customers because they've heard about the harp lessons; and the music section is now stocking harp books.
I teach on a Mélusine, which also attracts a lot of interest because it's larger than most of the clarsachs people are used to in Edinburgh. It's definitely helped that I'm in a city that boasts one of the biggest clarsach scenes in the world, but equally a lot of my new pupils are beginners from age 5-80, and never thought about harps at all until they witnessed the lessons going on. It just goes to show - nothing ventured, nothing gained!"
The new season means back to school, so I wanted to flag up a great new bumper book of exercises - Isabelle Frouvelle's Grand Livre d'Exercices, or Big Book of Exercises. It's a bilingual edition in English and French. From one-finger exercises to ornaments, rhythms, jumps and suppleness, it covers all key techniques in a good amount of detail. It will last your students well, and - very important - not make them feel like climbing out of the window.
We also warmly recommend Isabelle's method for child beginners, Play the Harp with Charlie the Kitten, which is available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and German. The French version has a fantastic accompanying DVD.
All Isabelle's books are, of course, available from the Camac e-shop.