World Harp Congress, Hong Kong 2017: Saturday, July 8th
July 8, 2017
Saturday morning, and events are well and truly underway with the first full day of the World Harp Congress. As you’d expect in Hong Kong, the programme looks set to span a particularly broad and interesting variety of musical styles. Yesterday evening, we could contrast the Hong Kong Harp Ensemble, on classical harp – and the Hongyun Konghou Ensemble. The Konghou is one of Jakez’s favourite harps – he brought it to France for the first time, when he invited Wu Lin to perform at Harpes Au Max 2016.
“From the very first time I had the opportunity to hear the konghou, twenty years ago, I immediately understood that it would be a perfect harp for jazz. It has very deep and dynamic basses which sounds easily like an electric bass, but the main feature of the konghou is the portamento possibility, which allows to bend the pitch of the notes exactly like a guitar does. It is a very interesting combination between the “usual” pedal slides, so there are two ways to modulate the pitch of the strings. I dreamt so much of this harp, and how I would play it, that when I had the first opportunity to play it (in Wu Lin’s tea house), time flew by. I thought I had only played a few chords, but in fact an hour had passed. I could tell that the two guests, Wu Lin and her teacher Mrs Pingqiu Yue, were quite surprised to hear jazz coming out of this traditional Chinese instrument! I was so excited about this experience that I could simply not sleep the whole night after they drove me back to my hotel.And since that day, it is my dream to have a konghou at home!”
If you’re interested to find out more about the Chinese Konghou, the WHC has a great intro on their Facebook page.
Wu Lin performs on the Konghou at Harpes Au Max 2016
Today, the WHC will travel from China to Paraguay to hear Sixto Corbalán, Artistic Director of the World Harp Festival in Paraguay. The Festival Mundial Del Arpa is something quite outside the experience of us Western harpists – with enormous concert halls packed to the rafters, and the feeling that everyone you meet, down to the policemen on the street and the hotel chambermaids, plays the harp. You can find a lot of Jakez’s photos from the event over on the Camac instagram.
We often feel that the WHC is particularly valuable for students and young harpists. You can get together with your peers at a competition; you can experience incredible artists at the top of their game in individual concerts; you can discover new music via special projects, often at college – but rarely can you do it all at the same time. The concert platform Focus on Youth is an WHC mainstay, and today in Hong there will also be a mock orchestra audition at 11:45.
The Camac sponsorship department is an upbeat one. Daily we experience that the harp playing level just keeps rising, that artists’ projects grow ever-more creative, and that classical music is not dying. Nonetheless, there are few things more distressing than witnessing somebody put a huge amount of effort into something, that is doomed to failure from the outset because nobody told them the rules of the game. Poor competition programming is one example, unrealistic preparation management is another – and getting an orchestral job is also not only an art, but a sport. The chance to train specifically for orchestral auditions is invaluable, and bravo to the WHC artistic committee for considering this essential part of many harpists’ education.
Speaking of opportunities for young harpists, the WHC will also feature several important performances from rising stars of the harp today. We’ll be able to hear the winners of recent international competitions – Lenka Petrovic, Elise Veyres and Emmanuel Padilla Holguin. Later tonight, Ben Creighton Griffiths will be giving the first of two performances this week. Originally a classical prodigy, Ben is now making more and more of a name for himself in jazz, and has recently released another album.
Before lunch, there’s yet another chance to think about world music, with an East Meets West concert. The 2017 WHC also has a featured composer, and one who could not deserve it more: Paul Patterson. Through his ongoing interest and support for the harp – including attending a truly impressive and touching number of harp events – has made an immeasurable contribution both to our repertoire, and to the harpists, young and more experienced, who have had the chance to work with the composer directly. In the first of the events featuring Paul throughout the week, he’ll be programmed alongside Japanese repertoire, with Marianne Gubri, Miho Kamiya and the Aletheia Duo.
In the afternoon, we’ll have the chance to explore Asian music in more detail, with a spotlight on Taiwan. This will feature our very own Meng-Lu Chiu, our exclusive partner in Taiwan, and colleagues. There will also be an intriguing Asian ‘Experimental Show’ this evening, featuring artists from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the USA. Keep an eye on our social media to find out what happens!
Tonight’s evening concert will take place in the City Hall, with Isabelle Moretti, Xavier de Maistre, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Isabelle will perform on the Canopée, one of the new Concert Grand models we launched yesterday to mark the start of the Congress.