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Camac Festival, Belfort 2018

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Something we often see in our line of work is the impulse to make things international as quickly as possible. Many people want to run an international competition, hold an international festival, or have an international reach for their harp store. But for all this sounds grand, it’s nothing without a solid home base – and like most things without good foundations, it won’t work very well. 

On an artistic level, the importance of a regional foundation is substantiated across the board. Competitions: without the chance to cut one’s teeth on local, then national competitions, students may find themselves unprepared for the internationals, and that isn’t helpful to anyone. Studying music: if there is not good teaching at school level, come the conservatoire entrance exams, you are faced with hard-working young musicians dreaming of big careers, but who in reality are so far away from this in four years time, that the panel has to ask themselves if it is responsible to set them on that path. Everybody celebrates the professors at the big conservatoires, but without the teachers before them, they are impotent; they have nobody to teach.

As for concerts and festivals, international stars spend half their lives on tour because if you don’t bring music to audiences, only a few will have the time or possibility to travel elsewhere to find it. Of course it is important to encounter new inspirations, but these are far more accessible if they are connected to what audiences can experience every day. In the Camac sponsorship department, we particularly like to bring local and visiting artists together. This shows particularly young musicians that there are many beautiful ways to live a life in music, and this is good for the creative and resilient thinking essential for a successful career. 

Paris'Click. Photo : Sylvie Geoffroy

Paris’Click. Photo: Sylvie Geoffroy

We have returned from a very good festival in Belfort, not far from the Swiss and German borders in North-East France. Every year, over the third weekend in October, we visit a different francophone region, with a wide-ranging and top-quality artistic programme, and the biggest exhibition of our season. In doing so, we aim to celebrate the wealth of harp talent of the region we are visiting, and make it more convenient for clients to explore our instruments and benefit from our regulation services. 

If you are looking for a chance to try out as much of the Camac range as possible, together, this festival is your number one chance to beat those waiting lists! By Friday afternoon, everything had been installed and tuned up, and the general public began to arrive for our first evening of concerts. This year, we slightly modified our concert format to offer two concerts: classical recitals at 8PM, followed by a complete stylistic switch to another genre at 21:30.

Maestral. Photo: Antal Scholle

Maestral. Photo: Antal Scholle

Patrizia Tassini gave a superb recital of French and Spanish repertoire, full of verve, and the artistic wisdom born of a long career at the top of one’s profession. Unsurprisingly, this was also a great hit with the audience, and we only wish she had brought more CDs, for they quickly sold out afterwards! After a short break, the Celtic-Jazz fusion combo Maestral took to the stage: Anne Postic (lever harp), Pierre-Antoine Colas (trumpet), Yann Honoré (cellobass/bass), Herri Loquet (drums and percussion), and Erwann Thépault on the mixing desk. Like us, they’d had a long drive from Brittany, and leave you in no doubt – if you had any doubts – about the vivacity and flexibility of traditional music in the twenty-first century! Belfort harpists also had the chance to work with Anne in a Breton music workshop, on the following Saturday afternoon. 

Patrizia Tassini. Photo: Antal Scholle

Patrizia Tassini. Photo: Antal Scholle

Saturday dawned bright and early for Patrizia Tassini, with a long, intense and much-appreciated masterclass in the main auditorium. “It isn’t always the case that a wonderful player is also such a pedagogue”, said one audience member as they came out to see us on the exhibition stand. “It’s really important to make the most of it, when you find it.” On Saturday evening, we enjoyed another rapturously-received, virtuoso classical recital by Guan Wang, professor of harp at the China Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM), and principal harpist of the China National Symphony Orchestra.

Guan was followed by something completely different: alternative rock with Paris’Click! Those who left the hall because it was too loud only wanted a brief recovery period before they went back in, and everyone was on their feet dancing by the end. The merch stand was also stripped bare at the end (yes, even the vinyl sold out). We hadn’t known that so many well-known harpists were also crazy rockers, but every festival should also be an eye-opening experience. 

Guan Wang. Photo : Antal Scholle

Guan Wang. Photo: Antal Scholle

Sunday got going a little later in the day, in deference to its status as the morning after the night before. By 11AM, the Salon Nobel was full for a conference with Jakez François on how Camac harps are made. Over the years, our company has made many adjustments to the traditional harp build, and this lecture is your opportunity to discover them in detail, and also discuss them.

Meanwhile, over in the big auditorium, the tech dress rehearsal was already in full swing for the festival’s grand finale – and this was a particularly special project. Sophie Bonduelle, aka Sophie La Harpiste, has made a career out of being a harp clown. Together with Hélène Duchaillut, professor at the CRD de Belfort, she conceived a comic show with Hélène’s young class. We knew it had been a lot of work to put together, being a special and detailed project in a field the students had never experienced before. We thought it was going to be good, but we were blown away by the results. The sold-out performance lasted for an hour, featuring multiple costume changes, lighting effects, different musical styles, dance, harp ensemble – and it was hilarious. Hélène, Sophie and the young harpists of Belfort depicted our lives in the harp world through a hysterical kaleidoscope. There was everything from the range of student excuses for not practising, to Sophie’s sketch as a contemporary music specialist. 

Sophie La Harpiste. Photo : Sylvie Geoffroy

Sophie La Harpiste. Photo : Sylvie Geoffroy

As in all the best comedies, there were also moments of genuine pathos. Humour is a serious business, and has a lot to teach us. Many, many thanks to everyone who worked so hard on this show, and bravo for their well-deserved success. We hope there will be a repeat performance! 

Speaking of repeat performances: we were sorry to have to leave Belfort, surrounded as we were by so much enthusiasm and collaboration. It is this willingness and energy from everyone at the festival destination which makes the event; it is infectious for audiences, and brilliant fun for us. But we are comforted by the fact that plans are already afoot for the Camac Festival 2019…for which, you’ll have to watch this space.


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