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The World Harp Congress, Cardiff: day five!

It’s been a day full of contrasts for team Camac @WHC2022, which really brings home the amazing variety of the harp in 2022! 

ORBIS

Ghislaine Petit-Volta performing ORBIS

We began with a special project for our augmented electric (MIDI) harp: Orbis, which was created over the course of several residences at the GIPSA-Lab studios in Grenoble. It’s a collaboration between composer Arnaud Petit, harpist Ghislaine Petit-Volta, signal specialists James Leonard and Jérôme Villeneuve, and an interface designed by Jean-Philippe Lambert. Orbis is a duet for two harps, both played by Ghislaine; the second harp is inside James Leonard’s computer, where he has modelled a full virtual harp. Ghislaine’s live playing on the physical MIDI harp triggers the virtual harp, forming a complex and precise counterpoint of harp sounds, voices/narratives, and lights. “If you wanted to fully exploit all the characteristics the augmented harp is giving you in terms of data”, says James Leonard, “which string is plucked, how hard, does it have pitch glide…you can write music with technology that respects and leans on the heritage of the harp as an instrument. This hasn’t had much attention yet in music tech spheres.” The concert was followed by a workshop to discover the MIDI harp, currently the only instrument in the world capable of this kind of modelling. 

Isabelle Perrin / French school lecture

Isabelle Perrin lectures on French sound and technique

Speaking of the harp’s heritage: Isabelle Perrin gave a lecture on the French sound and technique, which proved so popular that if you couldn’t get in, don’t worry, she’s repeating it again tomorrow! Clarity, elegance, simplicity and a natural, unforced suppleness were Isabelle’s key points, along with plenty of clear instruction about how actually to achieve it, and how it relates to Impressionism and the sound of the French language. 

Hélène Breschand

The matchless Hélène Breschand

In one of today’s dramatic contrasts, we moved from Isabelle’s lecture to Hélène Breschand’s solo performance which – as so often – was an intense moment suspended in time. The harp music began offstage before Hélène moved slowly into view, pushing the harp and playing it at the same time. We were lucky to hear Hélène’s own compositions “Minotaur” (which you can also watch online here for Les Jeudis de la Harpe) and “Le 7e sceau”, among others.

The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s splendid Carne Foyer was a light and airy backdrop for Christine and Thierry Lutz’s gipsy swing – and also Ben Creighton Griffiths, later in the day, with his terrific Transatlantic Hot Club band. Ben, Adrien Chevalier (violin) and Don Sweeney (bass) performed a set of French, Latin and swing standards, in the tradition of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and including a beautiful La Vie en Rose (you can also hear Ben perform this solo on…Les Jeudis de la Harpe).

Rubik's cube

Can you play jazz with one hand and solve a Rubik’s cube with the other? Park Stickney can…

Indeed, jazz lovers were spoiled for choice today. As ever, Park Stickney managed to be dazzlingly impressive and hilarious at the same time; his Cubik’s Rube (think about it) will never be forgotten by all who watched it. By the time he got to the end of the piece he had solved the Rubik’s cube, or by the time he had solved the Rubik’s cube he had finished the piece, depending on your perspective. Park also liberated the Hindemith Sonata’s jazz potential (no parallel fifths were harmed in the process), and created a rousing audience chorus about finishing a PhD. 

In the evening, three further legends of the jazz harp took to the stage: Rossitza Milevska with drummer Cédric Le Donne; Amanda Whiting with trio colleagues Mark O’Connor (drums) and Aidan Thorne (bass); and Pia Salvia with Noam Israeli. All received rapturous applause in the warm and enthusiastic atmosphere that has become characteristic of this Congress; there’s a real sense of delight that the event has finally been able to happen, and huge appreciation for all the fantastic harpists who brave playing to…audiences composed almost exclusively of other harpists. 

Leonard Jacome, Alfredo Ortiz, Jakez François

The maestro himself, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, stopped by to hear Leonard Jacome on the Camac stand

No Congress day would be complete without the Camac happy hour and today we were thrilled to welcome Leonard Jacome, this time playing the amplified acoustic llanera, rather than the electric llanera he performed on last night. 

In St David’s Hall, the evening concert was dedicated to unusual concertos, conducted by Sylvain Blassel. Congratulations to all the soloists: Mercedes Gomez and Lucrecia Jancsa (harps) and Cai Chalres (guitar) in Garardo Tamez’s “Dos Dalias” Concierto for 2 harps; Liucilė U. Vilimaitė performing her own, evocative “Grass Snakes”; Emily Mitchell performing Gary Shocker’s YiJing for Harp and Chamber Orchestra; Catriona McKay and Christ Stout in Sally Beamish’s dynamic and also deeply evocative Seavaigers Harp and Fiddle Concerto (performed in the presence of the composer, fortunately still in Cardiff after Hive on Sunday night); and Gabriella Dall’Olio in Marquez’s Másceras Harp Concerto. 

Wow! And if this isn’t enough to convince you of how much the 21st century harp is capable of – we’ll leave you with a little excerpt of how we rounded off the night. 

 

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