The fourth Harp on Wight Festival concluded on Tuesday, October 24th. Since it began in 2014, the festival has rapidly gained a reputation for delivering very high quality concerts covering the full range of the harp spectrum. Some world class performances at this year's event have enhanced that reputation. After the previous night's pre-festival dinner at Michelangelo Restaurant, the first concert took place on Friday 20th at All Saints' Church in Ryde and featured the festival's recently-appointed Patron Anne Denholm who is Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales. In an elegant performance, Anne's fourth piece was an intriguing folk elegy written for a shepherd by the French composer Bernard Andres which included a 'storm' element - very fitting for the following day - which reprised the full range of the 'box of tricks' at the harpist's disposal. Maintaining the classical theme, the audience who braved the high winds and heavy showers of Storm Brian to turn out for the Saturday afternoon concert were rewarded by witnessing performances by two leading young international harpists. The final piece by Nicolette Chin from Singapore was the delightful 'Rhapsodie' by Marcel Grandjany, while Noelia Cotuna finished with a lively and spirited 'Granada' which conveyed the atmosphere of her native Spain. At the beginning of this concert judge Fran Barsby announced and performed the winning pieces in the festival's Senior and Junior competitions to compose a new piece of music for the harp. The Saturday evening concert at Ryde Methodist Church by Italian harpist Adriano Sangineto was arguably the best performance in Harp on Wight's four year history. It included a jaunty traditional Breton song and another lovely rhythmic French tune. An entertaining second half medley of tunes, included 'Yesterday', 'Twist and Shout', 'Mamma Mia' and 'Billie Jean'. Other harp players at the festival - Ben Creighton Griffiths, Bethan Watson, Tamsin Davies and Fran Barsby joined Adriano onstage for a rousing ensemble finale. The extremely high standard was maintained for the remainder of the festival, with Scottish harp virtuoso Savourna Stevenson and saxophonist/flautist Steve Kettley delivering a spellbinding Sunday evening show. There were several Robert Louis Stevenson reference points. One piece was inspired by a trip that Stevenson took on a steamer to New York, while another, 'La Solitude', was named after the house in France that the novelist lived in. There was excellent subtle interplay and balance between the instruments. Monday evening saw the first Harp on Wight appearance of the delightful Welsh triple harp played by the masterful Robin Huw Bowen. His performance featured gentle Welsh folk airs and lively gypsy hornpipes all played with consummate authority. The closing day on Tuesday saw two very contrasting concerts. In the afternoon Netherlands' harpist Yolanthe Cornelisse gave a charming and intimate recital of pieces all inspired by the natural beauty of various locations on the Isle of Wight and The Lake District. The final concert was an energetic and intense debut performance by jazz fusion trio Chube - Ben Creighton Griffiths on electro-acoustic harp and keyboards, Aeddan Williams on bass guitar and double bass and Matthew Williams on drums. They delivered long, slow building pieces with Ben demonstrating a wide range of pedal effects on the harp. The concerts were just a part of the festival which also included teaching workshops, pop-up events featuring Island harpists Merlynna Johnson and Theresa Ellis, an exhibition of harps and a six day harp making course at Quarr Abbey led by Breton instrument maker Sylvestre Charbin. The large number of UK mainland and international attendees at the concerts and workshops delighted the organisers. "The festival reflected the varied colours of the harp rainbow. There were some unforgettable moments." summed up Festival Director Anna Sacchini. The shades and colours at this event were so vivid that it must have been a double rainbow.
The organisers were very pleased with the continued exceptional standard of musicianship at this year's festival. The opening concert showcased trio Arpatagora exploring pieces where the harp seamlessly blends with violin and cello. 13 year old Thomas Luke of Cowes celebrated becoming a teenager in style by winning the 2016 composition prize, inspired by the “music of the trees”. His piece, ‘The Willow Tree’, was played for the audience and a surprised, but delighted Thomas, by Mike Parker. Bill Taylor gave a fascinating concert of ancient Scottish music on Friday evening using two medieval harps. Music of the 16th and 17th century was expertly played in a gentle style where the resonance of the two instruments stood out. On Saturday afternoon All Saints’ Church provided a backdrop for Richard Allen and Jia Peng – first and joint second in this year’s Camac competition at the North London Festival. Jia’s performance began with a striking version of Bach’s famous Toccata in D Minor, whilst Richard ‘s technical prowess shone through during his three delicately played pieces. Harp on Wight would like to express their thanks to the UK Harp Association for their support in arranging this concert. Paraguayan harp master Ismael Ledesma thrilled the audience on Saturday evening with a dazzling and uplifting display of vibrant South American rhythms. The speed and dexterity of his technique greatly impressed as was evidenced by two encores and a standing ovation. Alaskan harpist Cheyennne Brown – now based in Scotland – gave an exemplary performance of Celtic music on Sunday evening. With subtle accompaniment from Graham Muir on guitar, bass and clarinet, a feature of the concert was the beautiful, clear acoustic sound. A new feature for the festival was a child-centred storytelling event entitled ‘Jack and the Lost Harps’ by Scotland’s Heather Yule. Heather gave two performances ending with an opportunity to come and try the harp at the end of each session. A six day course to make a 22 string lap harp took place in the serene setting of Quarr Abbey under the direction of Brittany harp maker Sylvestre Charbin. The standard of craftsmanship was very high, a reflection of how this year’s festival will be remembered.
The second Harp on Wight Festival concluded after six packed days of concerts, teaching courses, workshops, lectures and a popular showroom of harps made by leading national manufacturers. The first event of the festival on Tuesday evening was a sell-out harp-themed dinner at Michelangelo’s Restaurant where Dutch harpist Marije Visjelaar played for the diners and was warmly received. The opening concert was at Ryde School on Wednesday evening. After short welcoming speeches from the Mayor of Ryde Councillor Roi Milburn, and Simon Dabell, Chairman of Visit Isle of Wight, young harpists Clara Garde (France) and Zita Silva (Portugal) impressed with their virtuosity and technical prowess. Clara’s performance included playing the harp with a bow and striking it with a drumstick to produce unusual effects during ‘Feerie’ by Marcel Tournier. Clara and Zita were rewarded with a performance opportunity at the festival following their success in the 2015 CAMAC competition at the North London Festival. The prize for the composition competition, to write a piece of music inspired by the sea was presented to Christopher Pickett. After performing Christopher’s winning entry, Mike Parker presented ‘History of the Harp – Part One’ both describing and playing a range of historic harps in his usual entertaining and informative style. On Thursday evening Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita thrilled the audience at Ryde Methodist Church with a captivating and enthralling performance of instrumental pieces and songs, enhanced by images highlighting the theme of the inspiring music. Classical harpist Keziah Thomas presented a programme of British harp music on Friday night under the appropriate title of ‘Crossing Waves’ and won many admirers with her engaging and informative introductions to the pieces. ‘Rondeau Turc’ by Stiebelt was beautifully played. Two concerts took place on Saturday. Young Cardiff-based harpist Ben Creighton Griffiths created a real impression at All Saints’ Church in the afternoon with his selection of jazz music played on an electro-acoustic pedal harp. He chose pieces by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Hoagy Carmichael, interspersed with Ben’s own inventive compositions, incorporating harp and keyboard effects which took the harp into new territory. American Celtic harpist Kim Robertson’s Saturday evening concert at Ryde Methodist Church was full of lively jigs and hornpipes, together with more contemplative pieces, some with song. A real highlight came at the end of her performance when she was joined on stage by the Festival Director Anna Sacchini on sitar for a spellbinding version of ‘She Moved Through The Fair/ Tender Shepherd’. The festival ended on Sunday evening with a concert by American harpist Christina Tourin, who is a world specialist in the field of harp therapy. Christina played some suitably calming pieces, some enhanced by visual projections. Kim Robertson joined her for a duo piece with the two harps chiming like bells. The second half included a large degree of audience involvement, with members encouraged to accompany Christina on harps and hand bells. Vic King – one of the organising team – said “We are delighted with the progress that the festival is making in what is only our second year. There were good numbers attending the teaching courses and all the concerts were well supported. For me, the highlight was the extremely high quality of all the concerts across a very diverse range of styles”. Festival Director Anna Sacchini concluded “It was a beautiful festival”.
The first Harp on Wight Festival was hailed as a great success, both by those who attended the various concerts, lectures and teaching courses, and by the organising team. Held in the seaside town of Ryde during the last week in November, the week long Festival concluded with an informal music session/ceilidh at St Mary’s Centre. Before the music started, the audience were able to see the harps made by students at a two day course during the Festival. The winners of a competition to compose a new piece of music for the harp inspired by the Isle of Wight were also announced. Winner in the Under-16 age group was Matthew Brett with “Carisbrooke Cry”, whilst Theresa Ellis was successful in the Over-16 section with “Catch The Moon To Culver”. Mike Parker - such a popular figure during the Festival both as performer and educator - announced the winners before proceeding to play both of the winning pieces. Mike had earlier given a memorable performance in the Festival’s opening concert in which he played no less than nine different harps. Other highlights were an uplifting Friday night concert by classical harp duo Arcangeli, and an illuminating and informative Saturday afternoon performance by violin and harp duo Frances Mason and Jenny Broome. The latter focused on the music of Clara and Marianne Eissler who performed twice on the Isle of Wight - at Ryde Town Hall in 1892, and for Queen Victoria at Osborne House in 1898. Scottish duo Sileas enchanted the Saturday evening audience at Aspire, Ryde, with a heart-warming show of magical tunes and songs. A real Festival highlight was the wonderful exhibition in the St Therese Hall at St. Mary’s by Morley Harps, Pilgrim and Affairs of the Harp which attracted considerable interest. Audience numbers were good throughout the Festival which had a charming mix of elements to it - part folk festival, part classical recital and part Antiques Roadshow, given the considerable focus during the week to informing and educating the public about the instrument’s long, varied and colourful history. Vic King - one of the organising team - concluded: “Putting any Festival together in the first year is always difficult, particularly when you are only focusing on a single instrument, but we were absolutely delighted with how the event went and the positive response that we had to it”. For further information please visit http://www.harponwight.co.uk/ or telephone 01983 - 730930