The World Harp Congress, Cardiff: day six!
July 28, 2022
Day six at the World Harp Congress has stood out for the Camac team through its beautiful classical recitals on the one hand, and brilliant discovery of Wales and Welsh history on the other – with some gipsy swing in the middle!
Florence Sitruk’s solo recital took us on a musical voyage throughout Europe, from Italy (Pescetti, Scarlatti), Vienna (Mozart), Spain (Mudarra, Albeniz), France (Debussy, Tournier), Austria (Schubert) and Belgium (Godefroid). In her introductions to the pieces, Florence also stressed that a precious thing about the WHC is how, travelling to a different country each time, it brings old friends and creates new ones from all over the world. She also pointed out that this WHC is attended by a wonderful number of young harpists, and that the next generation would surely lead us to many more beautiful countries in the course of subsequent events.
Shortly after Florence’s recital and showing no signs of flagging after conducting four concerti the night before, Sylvain Blassel took to the stage to perform a characteristically virtuoso programme of Liszt’s transcriptions of Schubert Lieder. His performance of
Der Wanderer, Gretchen am Spinnrade, Das Wirtshaus, Der Müller und der Bach, Du bist die Ruh, Der Doppelgänger, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, and Das Sterbeglöcklein brought the house down. Not only does Sylvain regularly perform music few would ever have believed possible on the harp, but he performs great music. Far be it from this blog ever to question the quality of the harp original repertoire in general, but perhaps it is fair to say that the opportunity to hear something like these Lieder is special food for harpists’ souls.
Before decamping to St Fagan’s National Museum of History for Welsh night, we enjoyed Camac happy hour (at teatime, quite early for a happy hour, but equally it is day six of the World Harp Congress). Christine and Thierry Lutz gave us a wonderful gipsy swing set – and Christine invited her colleague in jazz manouche, Ben Creighton-Griffiths, to join them on stage for an impromptu duet at the end.
We felt like we had moved some harps and blinked a few times and it was already time to travel out to St Fagan’s, a fantastic living history museum. It combines exhibitions of Welsh history and culture with historic buildings that are being preserved by being transported to the museum grounds and then reconstructed, brick by brick. These include a church dating back to 1150 and lavishly repainted as it would have been in 1500; Welsh cottages through the ages; a miners’ institute, and much more. Throughout the museum and its grounds, we were treated to diverse performances, from Welsh folk- and clog dancing, to Gwenan Gibbard performing the Cerdd Dant songs in which she specialises. The Wales Harp Ensemble, who played at the start of the night, comprised no fewer than 59 harpists!
All this is also only part of everything that went on this Wednesday, July 29. As well as being Welsh night, it was Irish day, with the following Irish harp ensembles performing in the foyer at different points in time: the Bray CCÉ Harp Ensemble, the Laois Harp Ensemble, the Mayo Harp Ensemble, the Music Generation Harp Collective, the Louth Harp Ensemble, and Elver Harp Ensemble. On the Scottish side, Heather Downie and Catriona McKay both gave clarsach workshops.
On the Scottish side, Heather Downie and Catriona McKay both gave clarsach workshops; there were jazz workshops too, by Park Stickney and Amanda Whiting/Felice Pomeranz, both on themes of jazz etudes. Alfredo Rolando Ortiz gave a “Fire and Romance” Latin rhythm class, and the programme also featured some further tributes to important harpists. Sioned Williams lectured on John Thomas, Welsh harpist to Queen Victoria, while the “Just One Solo” shared recital series paid homage to the late Pierick Houdy, Murray Schafer, Ami Maayami, Sergiu Natra and Joseph Molnar.
It seems hard to believe that tomorrow is already the final day of the World Harp Congress. The Camac exhibition will stay open tomorrow throughout the morning before the “We like to move it, move it” great pack-up begins, while the artistic programme will continue throughout the day and evening. We’ll keep you posted!