Mike Parker welcomes you to the second Harp On Wight Festival 2015
In her book “The Right Instrument for Your Child”, Atara Ben Tovim wrote about how to pair physical and emotional characteristics of would-be musicians with the demands of musical instruments. The entry on the harp is short, and is mostly devoted to the difficulties of finding a harp, and a teacher, and moving the instrument about, but it finishes with a line that is oh, so true: “… but the harp child will know.”
Well, I was “the harp child”. I knew from my first meeting with a harp, at the age of 8, that it was what I wanted to do. It was, however, at that time in my life, impossible, and it remained a dream … a solitary, unspoken dream, but a dream that dominated my life. The Librarians at Ryde Library patiently put in all of my requests for books about harps (‘The Grass Harp’ by Truman Capote was a BIG disappointment!), and Teagues music shop in Union Street treated all of my pleas for harp music with very good grace, and managed to get a few books in for me. The dream, however, remained unfulfilled, until at the age of 15, I built my first very poor attempt at a harp … but it got me playing. A kit instrument, built in the woodwork shop at Ryde High School, with the help (and frequent correction) of Mark Hickman moved my playing on, and finally, a broken pedal harp for restoration meant that my dream became my reality.
What I did not know at that time in my life was that I was not alone. There are “harp children” everywhere! It is amazing how many times we hear “I always wanted to play the harp”. Many nurse the dream in silence, and never mention it. Some take the plunge and track down a harp, and some give up all claim to a grip on reality, and become harpists. That is where the amazing work done by the Harp on Wight team comes in. The dream of harp child Anna Sacchini, and her fellow harp children, the other players, and “interested others” of the Festival Committee, was realised last year with the inaugural Harp on Wight Festival, and it showed just how widespread the dream of the harp children truly is. People from all walks of life gathered to celebrate, share, and generally revel in the delights of the harp. A thousand years of harp music, from the worlds of “early”, Celtic, classical and pop music, performed by wonderful, world class musicians (and me!) showed that the harp isn’t just a big gold thing that sits at the back of orchestras and plays the occasional glissando (you know, that sound everyone associates with harps!). A pair of truly stunning compositions won a very well supported “New composition for Harp” competition, and a group of people took a workshop and built their own harps. All in all, a wonderful achievement, and all brought about by the drive, passion, and commitment of the harp children.
This year, the same amazing team is putting in work, hours and commitment again, and has, once more, put together what promises to be another wonderful Festival. This year the teaching faculty is joined by Kim Robertson from America, who is known as a performer of great excellence, and arranger, and an advocate for the non-pedal harp, who will bring her dynamic approach to the instrument, and its repertoire, along with her skill and enthusiasm. There will also be performances by Seckou Keita from Senegal, who plays the kora (though technically a lute, the kora has become an honorary member of the harp family in recent years), Clara Garde from France, Zita Silva from Portugal, Ben Creighton Griffiths and Keziah Thomas, both from Britain, Marije Vijselaar from Holland, and Christina Tourin from the USA. So, another round of workshops, lessons, concerts, exhibitions and explorations lies before us. Harp children of the world unite. Come and join us, and explore the wonderful world of the harp. If you have not already been bitten by the harp bug, try a hands-on “have a go session”, or visit the harp-makers’ exhibition. Come to the concerts and see what the harp can do, and let your inner harp child come out to play! Mike Parker