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Telynau Vining Harp Weekend, Cardiff 2015

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We’ve returned from an action-packed weekend organized by our UK partners, Telynau Vining. The harp days we and/or our partners sponsor usually aim to provide a broad spectrum of artistic and commercial opportunity. There will be concerts, probably across different musical genres. There will be masterclasses and workshops, plus Camac sales & service, with an exhibition and regulation opportunities.

We also always try and strike an intelligent balance between input from international visiting artists, and local talent. Music is a universal language, but equally every country we visit has its own musical life to support and celebrate.

Telynau Vining expo Cardiff

Telynau Vining’s exhibition in Cardiff

Cardiff was no exception: Telynau Vining surpassed themselves with an ambitious programme for children, professionals and amateurs alike. From “Become a Harpist for a Day” for complete beginners, to masterclasses by Elinor Bennett, Eira Lynn Jones, and Val Aldrich-Smith, to a fascinating lecture from Meinir Heulyn about concert dress, and a grand finale with Deborah Henson-Conant live on video link from the US, the wide range of events had something for everyone – and this, not only.

It can be very enlightening when a programme offers things you can see are for you, but also explores what hasn’t been on your radar. Once you are there, curiosity entices you through the doors of classes you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. It is, for example, an education to watch a masterful pedagogue like Elinor Bennett teaching grades 1-4. Teaching beginners well is far from self-evident, particularly when you have just left music college, and grades 1-4 are a long time past in you own experience. It is similarly thought-provoking to see Eira Lynn Jones expertly handle a mixed ability masterclass. In such a group, how do you ensure that everyone has a constructive experience, whether they are playing or watching? How do you coax the less confident into performing, while showing the more advanced players in the group why this is also relevant to them? How do you be rigorous, so everyone leaves having learnt something, while simultaneously managing to inspire, not discourage? It was equally impressive to watch Shelley Fairplay work with her large ensembles of complete beginners (“Become a Harpist for a Day”, complete with T-shirts), and her own students, the aptly-named Dynamic Harps. Teachers like these are passionate, committed and they know that music is for everyone.

Everyone who wishes to explore music deserves to be taken seriously, regardless of their age and stage. Many an adult amateur will approach us apologetically at an exhibition, saying they are not “serious”. But, define serious – an amateur who practices, attends events, is curious and enthusiastic and who loves music, is IMO more serious than a conservatoire student – or teacher – who does not look about them, does not measure their own level against everyone else in their field, and who does not perceive that whatever your musical direction, fulfilling musical careers are built by being open-minded and flexible, as well as dedicated to high standards.

Ben Creighton Griffiths

Ben Creighton Griffiths. Photo: Tim Dickeson

Ben Creighton Griffiths, for example, is still known to many as a classical wunderkind. Now grown-up, he plays as much, if not more, jazz as he does classical music. In Cardiff, he gave an impressive concert on the Blue Harp, creating an entire sound world through the creative use of looper and effect pedals, and mixing standards with original compositions. Shelley Fairplay, as well as teaching the large ensemble classes, also presented her “Three Strands” concert, a full-length evening programme developed with her mentor, Deborah Henson-Conant. This also spanned many different types of music, indeed different types of harp. It was all about music that was personally meaningful to Shelley, that she felt defined her as a musician, and it was immaculately prepared and presented. It also featured a lot of Shelley’s recent work with the DHC Blue Light – the super light electroharp we created with Deborah – and looper and special effects pedals.

Having heard Shelley on Saturday night, harpists had the chance to work with Deborah the following day, live on video link from the USA, in a class about how to arrange music to suit your taste and purpose.

Congratulations to Telynau Vining! We, Camac France, brought extra harps for the special exhibition and Enric for regulations, but it was Vining who conceived and put the festival together. Their excellent organization ensured that everyone could make the most of the opportunities available, undistracted by logistical irritations, and their programme superbly reflected values we hold dear.

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