The World Harp Congress, Cardiff 2022: day two!
July 24, 2022
Day two at the World Harp Congress, and the artistic programme is in full swing. It is always the case at the WHC that we wish we could clone ourselves so we could go to everything, but here’s some impressions of what we managed to get to!
We began the morning with a fascinating tribute to the late, great Welsh harpist Osian Ellis, given by Elinor Bennett and Sioned Williams. As well as solos and duos performed by Elinor and Sioned, we were treated to video footage of Osian himself, reminiscing about his extraordinary career and also playing.
Meanwhile, the WHC’s special Focus on Youth platform also began; this will run throughout the week, and features over thirty young harpists from all over the world. We couldn’t get into the packed hall for today’s FOY, which is our own fault for arriving at the last minute – listening with your ear pressed to the door is better than nothing, but we’ll try again for a seat tomorrow.
Other highlights included several harp ensembles from the British Conservatoires: our hosts, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Trinity Laban Harp Ensemble (the Royal Academy is tomorrow). All these colleges have also loaned harps for the Congress, which is surely not simple to organise and a lovely gesture of solidarity.
Another moment of solidarity came in the form of Veronika Lemishenko and Hannah Stone’s Ukraine/Wales recital, backlit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag and with music by John Thomas, Vasyl Barvinsky, William Mathias, Evgen Andreev, Valeriy Antonyuk and Paul Patterson (with Paul himself, always such a terrific support to harpists, in the audience).
Maia Darmé and Mohamed-Amine Kalai also introduced us to the combination of harp and kanun, and music encircling the Mediterranean: Turkish, North African, Levantine, Hispano-Andalusian, Italian, Greek…and French, finishing off with Aznavour’s La Bohème!
The World Harp Congress is a chance to experience the world’s finest harpists, and more new harp music than you could ever normally hope to find in one place. The evening concert had both at the same time, thanks to Gwyneth Wentink and Remy van Kesteren at Cardiff’s City Hall. Each artist has won some of the most important classical harp prizes, before carving out their own, original musical paths. Gwyneth opened the concert with her Elements Trio: harp, saxophones (George Brooks) and North Indian violin and vocals (Kala Ramnath). Their virtuoso fusion of Western and Indian art music was relaxing, thought-provoking and dynamic, included improvisatory elements, and introduced us all to new ways of thinking about chamber music. Remy would have followed with his incredible Robot Orchestra, but Brexit had prevented the robots from travelling. As one boundary shrinks, another however expands: Remy offered a solo set instead of great power and poignance by turns, with a plethora of truly unique voices for the harp.
Speaking of voices: the evening concert began with a glorious welcome from the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir. Those of us who had not had the opportunity to hear a traditional Welsh Male Choir before were blown away by the power and richness of the sound!
Home on the Camac exhibition stand, it has been a busy day meeting friends old and new. Watch out for our pop-up concerts, which may also include a refreshing apéritif! More news of those, and much more, tomorrow: keep an eye on the @CamacHarps socials throughout the day.