Friday, July 29, 2011

World Harp Congress - Day 4


I thought I'd stop in to hear a bit of Peter Wiley's Technician's Workshop and cut out early to catch the performance I had marked as "must-see" on my schedule. I got there late (really? still?) and hung out in the back. His information consisted mostly of don't-touch-anything-let-the-professionals-do-it, which as a mechanical engineer and tinkerer, Does Not Work For Me. Oh well.

The Pictures on Silence duo was first up in the Coffee Concert. I had wanted to see them especially because it's a harp and SAX duo. Would that work? How would that work? It turns out: perfectly. The harp and saxophone were so well balanced and complemented each other impeccably. They played "Alba" by Graham Lynch, "Empty Every Night" by David Smooke, and "Rumba" by Maurice Whitney.

"Empty Every Night" is described on their website as a "challenging work using many extended techniques." One of the techniques Jacqueline Pollauf used was tying a length of cassette tape around a couple of her bass wires, and pulling them through her fingers - like curling Christmas ribbon - to create a buzzy/droning sound. In the picture, Jacqueline is at the end of drawing the tape out. So cool! I will be trying this posthaste. They also just released a CD. Score!

I had 45 minutes before I had to be anywhere else, so I took the time to play harps from all the manufacturers. I have a brief note that says: "L&H & Aoyama tied 1st, then Camac, then Salvi?" It took me a few plays to get my hands warmed up and remember Prelude 1, but pretty much every harp sounded amazing.

Salvi Apollo
Salvi Daphne detail - Of course I'm drawn to the only ebony harp. And the accents are teal, yummy!

Aoyama showroom

Camac showroom

Lyon & Healy/Salvi showroom (be careful of the volume)

Next was a panel discussion on "Hand position and relaxation for better playing and preventing injury". I made it ON TIME. The panel was made up of harpists, harpists with medical degrees and a hand therapist. Guess what! Once again, my hypermobility means I have to work harder than "normal" people to play the harp. The reason my thumb bends completely backwards is because of the loose volar plate in my thumb (Thanks, Mom!). However, a lot of people have that "design feature" and are not hypermobile.

The panel talked specifically about hypermobility and had us test ourselves. I got a 9 out of 9, of course. But then they had people who were 9's raise their hands. Yes, I was the only one. (Besides a Alison Austin (teacher) on the panel.) AND THEN I GOT CALLED UP ON STAGE. Luckily, it was not only me - people who were (I think) 5 and higher were considered hypermobile and also got on stage. I didn't have to do any bendy stuff, just talk about what problems hypermobility creates for me (have you got an hour?).

Other interesting things from the panel:
  • Proprioception - Is something like compensating for the lack of tactile input due to calluses by increasing pressure used to pluck the strings.
  • Kinesthesia - Knowing where your thumbs are! Mind mapping is a way of looking at what the mind considers important - the thumbs are the biggest followed by hands and face. There were sculptures that showed this and were quite silly.
  • To find your comfortable playing position, hold your hands out like a zombie, wiggle your fingers over an invisible ball, slowly turn your palms as if they would face each other (keep wiggling your fingers), and stop when you get to the right spot. If you go too far, you'll know because your fingers won't wiggle as well.
  • During the day - do light activities first, then heavy (lifting weights). Don't do heavy before practicing. (I had already figured this out through trial and error.)
  • Mental practice - If you are injured, play hard two hours a day WITHOUT TOUCHING THE HARP. Apparently, you can learn up to 90% of your music this way! I must try this.

The lunch concert was "Renaissance to Early Baroque Music" by Therese Honey. She spoke a little between each piece and I finally know what a bray harp is (pegs are turned so they buzz against the string giving it a middle eastern flavor). It was sweet.

The afternoon concert was a tribute to Ceren Necipoğlu who was a well-loved teacher and who had passed away in 2009. The notable pieces for me were "Sultan-i Yegah Saz Semaisi" by Danyal Manti played by Sebla Akbulut and "Amhrán Slán" by Garrett Byrnes played by Lavinia Meijer. You can hear a sample of "Amhrán Slán" on Garrett's "works" page and I recommend checking it out. It really is beautiful.

The next event was a Master Class with Marie Pierre Langlamet. I did not know anything about her or the pieces; I had never attended a master class before and wanted to know how they work. It's basically like watching someone else's harp lesson. So I headed out to another performance at St. Paul's. I would like to say that I managed to walk straight there and back. No getting lost or turned around. W00t!

I wanted to catch Jennifer Swartz performing "Storm's Morrow: Haikus and harp solo" by Amit Gilutz. She narrated the haikus between each movement.

Back to St. Andrews for the afternoon recital with Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton. She is an incredibly expressive player and she was wearing an awesome sparkly floofy dress.

And Arpello Duo were wonderful together.

After dinner I headed over to the Orpheum Theatre for the evening concert with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It's really fancy.

The standout piece of the evening for me was "Baker: Harp Concerto" by Michael Conway Baker performed by Kristan Toczko. Modern yet melodic. The piece is "dedicated to [his] wife, Penny, who has always loved the harp and who has provided [him] a warm and loving home". So sweet! I found out the harpist had stepped in at the last minute (6 weeks) and had learned and memorized it in that time. Three orchestral movements, people! Holy. Crap.


  1. I absolutely cannot imagine playing that Salvi. It looks HUGE.

  2. I know! Looking at the picture, I look completely swamped by it! But I didn't feel that way when sitting behind it.