As harpists from around the globe gather in Hong Kong for the 13th World Harp Congress, Harp Column’s eyes and ears on the ground will share the highlights from each day’s events. Check back for updates!

The harp musical “Pluck and the Magic Banyan Tree” brought to a close the 2017 World Harp Congress in Hong Kong. (photo by Rave Harps)

Day 7

The 13th WHC drew to a close at midday today, and this week certainly has been a celebration of all things harp on a grand scale. But before touching on the final day, I want to mention two tribute concerts. Friday evening saw a moving tribute to Victor Salvi (1920-2015), starting with a filmed interview and documentary on the Victor Salvi Harp Museum, followed by performances of two works which he published – the Concerto in an Old Style by Malecki, (with Alessandra Magrini and Magali Pyka de Coster), and Walter-Kuhne’s Fantaisie on a Theme of Eugene Onegin, performed by Alisa Sadikova. Catherine Michel, who had organized the tribute concert, ended with Bochsa’s Harp Concerto No. 3 – the evening a fitting tribute to the man whose dedication, vision, and creativity changed the harp world in innumerable ways. Earlier in the week, Chantal Mathieu led a tribute concert for Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013), performing his Sonatine for Two Harps (with Veronica Lemichenko, harp), Aubade, Epigrammes et Madrigaux and Sicilienne variée.

The final day of the Congress started with the amazing harp musical Pluck and the Magic Banyan Tree with the Rave Harpers, Penang Harps and Cempaka Harp Ensemble, Kathryna Tan, producer/director. The cast of dozens of young harpists/singers/dancers entranced everyone with their talent, vitality and enthusiasm. The whole production – the music, the performers, the superb costumes, graphics, lighting and sound – was extraordinary, and brought cheers from the audience. This led into the Handover Ceremony for the 2020 congress which will be in Cardiff, and Catrin Finch, Ben Creighton-Griffiths and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Harp Ensemble performed and invited all harpists to join them in Cardiff. And so, after an incredibly full week of music making, the 2017 Congress ended on a decidedly up-beat note. Congratulations and thanks to the Local Host Committee, all the performers and all the volunteers who helped make the 13th WHC such a success.

 

Impromptu lunchtime jam session with (from l. to r.) Brenda Dor-Groot of the Jazz Harp Foundation, Deborah Henson-Conant, and Ricardo Medeiros

Day 6

Day 6 of WHC2017 and the pace is still energetic, with simultaneous events going on in the three concert halls throughout the day, and major concerts in the evenings followed by Late Night Jazz from 11 pm to midnight (or later) in some of the area hotels. But jazz has not been restricted just to late night programs – pop, jazz, and crossover performances have been interspersed throughout the daytime programs and several of the harp manufacturers exhibiting at the Congress are featuring a wide range of electric and electro-acoustic harps. There have been groups of jazz harp and vocals, jazz quartet with sax, double bass and drums/electronic effects, groups with harp, vocals, double bass and percussion, and a duo of electro-acoustic harp and chromatic harmonica. My one regret in this Congress is that I could not get to many of the jazz concerts as the schedule is so full, but some highlights for me have been the stunning Duo Sole (Vanja Contu, harp, and Valentina Nicoletti, jazz vocals) and the electro-acoustic jazz of Benjamin Creighton Griffiths. Yesterday another highlight for everyone was when many of the jazz harpists and musicians spontaneously took to the stage in the open mezzanine level for an impromptu jam session at lunchtime, with students from the Academy of Performing Arts joining in as the rhythm section.

In tonight’s evening concert, two of the all-time great jazz harpists played a double bill. Park Stickney was joined by Gan Guo – an amazing jazz virtuoso on the erhu (a 2-stringed bowed instrument). Park constantly surprises audiences by discovering new collaborations, and this collaboration was indeed a partnership of equals, with superb and extraordinarily effortless musicianship from both players – truly memorable. Next, the inimitable Deborah Henson-Conant was joined by Shelley Playfair on harp, and together they took the stage – and took the audience with them in an ultra dynamic journey into sound, rhythm and energy, providing a perfect ending for the last major evening concert of the Congress.

—Moya Wright

More scenes from Hong Kong (photos by Barbora Plachá)

(From l. to r.) Hong Kong Sinfonietta conductor Yang Jiao, and French harpist Nicholas Tulliez, and Mexican harpist Baltazar Juarez are greeted with applause following their double concerto performance of Manuel Moreno-Buendia’s Concierto Neoclasico (photo by Moya Wright)

Day 5

Day 5 in Hong Kong and the heavy rains and oppressive humidity of the first few days of WHC2017 have dissipated, and now Hong Kong has brilliantly blue skies, with temperatures around 900F. and slightly lower humidity. I am sure the fluctuations in weather are taking a toll on harp strings, although surprisingly I have only seen (or rather heard) one break during a concert – we have all been in that situation!

There have been 3 major evening concerts outside of the congress venue so far. On July 7 and 8 the Hong Kong Philharmonic featured Xavier de Maistre and Isabelle Moretti as concerti soloists on their regular subscription series – that in itself is an achievement to be able to combine congress programming with a major orchestra’s regular subscription series. Xavier de Maistre performed his own transcription of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459, and Isabelle Moretti first spoke briefly to pay tribute to her late teacher, Germaine Lorenzini, and then dedicated her performance of the Debussy Danses and Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro to her.

On July 9 the Wuji Ensemble staged the multimedia Sands and Beyond by Wing-fai Law, with Raoul Moretti (electric harp) and Ann Huang, Liya Huang and Amy Tam (harps). Described as “Atmospheric Music Theater”, Sands and Beyond was a serene, introspective and improvisatory multimedia experience, with the harp partnering with either flute, pipa, guzheng, voice or dance against a backdrop of lighting and video images. The program notes used the term “a state of quiescence,” and that perfectly described the performance and its effect on the audience.

Tonight was the Gala Concerto Concert with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and conductor Yang Jiao. Four soloists were featured – Annalean Lenaerts in Jongen’s Harp Concerto, Op. 129; Florence Sitruk in the World Premiere of Detlev Glanert’s Harp Concerto; Xiaotang Gao (konghou) in the World Premiere of Qing Yang’s The Road; and Baltazar Juarez and Nicolas Tulliez in Manuel Moreno-Buendia’s Concierto Neoclasico. Out of the three harp concerti, I think it is fair to say that the double concerto was the audience favorite, with its rhythmic drive, subtle dialogue between the two harps, and brilliant use of the upper register of the harp, and I think the opportunity to feature the work here at WHC2017 will certainly lead to a lot more performances of the work.

—Moya Wright

The Victoria Harp Quartet performs Paul Patterson’s “Mosquitos.” From l. to r. are Lauyee Yeung, Sunshine Lo, Kilby Li, and Natalie Man. (photo by Moya Wright)

Days 3 and 4

The 2017 WHC may well be the largest congress yet, having reached a milestone of 800 full registrants, with more people coming in each day to buy day passes and concert tickets. It’s a great achievement for the Hong Kong Committee! We are marveling at the daily sight of people patiently lining up to get into the concerts and events, sometimes with the line snaking around several corridors and even doubling back, while the door ushers keep a strict eye on anyone who tries to jump the line or get into the hall early.

One of the most popular events is the series of four masterclasses. In each masterclass, after the performer has played through their piece, the score is projected onto large screens so the audience can follow the passages being commented on. The audiences as well as performers have clearly been engaged as well as enlightened by the comments of the master teachers. Alice Giles led her masterclass with dynamic energy and clarity. Milda Agazarian interspersed fascinating details of the history of several works by Russian composers with a great deal of humor, all the while guiding the performers in the precise art of tone production. Later in the week Ayako Shinozaki will present a masterclass on the works on Toru Takemitsu.

The Victoria Harp Quartet with Paul Patterson (center) after the group’s performance of Patterson’s “Mosquitoes.” The RIP sign is the for the final “demise” of the mosquitoes in the piece!

Paul Patterson’s masterclass tomorrow will focus entirely on one of his most popular works, Spiders, but as the WHC2017 Composer in Residence an amazing total of 10 of his works will be performed this week, including two world premieres. The WHC Board of Directors also announced today that they have elected Patterson as a member of the Honorary Board of Directors – a well-deserved honor. Two of his latest works performed this week were Scorpions (with stings in their tails), Op.124, premiered today by the Duo Scorpio (Kathryn Andrews and Kristi Shade, harps), and the light-hearted theatrical gem Mosquitoes, Op.122, exquisitely performed yesterday by the Victoria Harp Quartet (Lauyee Yeung, Sunshine Lo, Kilby Li and Natalie Man) to a very appreciative audience. We all look forward to hearing more of Paul’s compositions in the remaining three days of the congress.

—Moya Wright

Ian Lim performs in a mock orchestra audition at the World Harp Congress 2017. (photo by Moya Wright)

Day 2

Day 2 of the WHC has just ended – but thinking about it, today was really a day of “firsts.” For the first time, the WHC is including an Orchestra Mock Audition, providing a great opportunity for young harpists to prepare for and experience what a real orchestra audition will be like. There will be a total of three preliminary audition sessions with four participants in each, then four people will advance to play in a “final round.” The panel of 3 judges (Isabelle Perrin, Karen Vaughan and Baltazar Juarez) gave general comments to the audience afterwards, then met with each participant individually. Ian Lim (18) from Malaysia, and Bianca Beng (18) from Singapore relished the opportunity to play for the panel. Ian has only been learning for 3 years, and plays in a community orchestra. “This is a challenge for me as it is the first time I prepare such high level and technically demanding pieces.” Bianca has played in a wind ensemble but not an orchestra, but both were excited to receive the panel’s comments.

Later in the day were more “firsts”, starting with the first performance of Paul Patterson’s Cantonese Images, commissioned by the Symmetry Duo (Judy and Jennifer Ho) for the 2017 World Harp Congress. Paul Patterson is the WHC Composer in Residence for the 2017WHC and I hope to talk to him in depth later in the week after his masterclass on his compositions. Another “first” – the first World Harp Congress Creative Media Competition was held in 2016 and several prize winning works were presented – or rather, “staged”. The First Prize was awarded to Jianmin Wang for A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge, arranged by Xi Wang and Qiang Zhou, and performed by Nan Wang (harp) and Wan Wei (guzheng). Based on a poem by Ji Zhang, it included a fascinating time lapse backdrop of sand painting – the ethereal nature of the sand perfectly illustrated by the subtle interplay between harp and guzheng.

More “firsts” – a program by two First Prize Winners of international competitions – Lenka Petrovic and Emmanuel Padilla Holguin. Many other new and award winning compositions – far too many to name – rounded out the list of “firsts” today. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

—Moya Wright

Day 2

Day 2 of the WHC has just ended – but thinking about it, today was really a day of “firsts.” For the first time, the WHC is including an Orchestra Mock Audition, providing a great opportunity for young harpists to prepare for and experience what a real orchestra audition will be like. There will be a total of three preliminary audition sessions with four participants in each, then four people will advance to play in a “final round.” The panel of 3 judges (Isabelle Perrin, Karen Vaughan and Baltazar Juarez) gave general comments to the audience afterwards, then met with each participant individually. Ian Lim (18) from Malaysia, and Bianca Beng (18) from Singapore relished the opportunity to play for the panel. Ian has only been learning for 3 years, and plays in a community orchestra. “This is a challenge for me as it is the first time I prepare such high level and technically demanding pieces.” Bianca has played in a wind ensemble but not an orchestra, but both were excited to receive the panel’s comments.

Later in the day were more “firsts”, starting with the first performance of Paul Patterson’s Cantonese Images, commissioned by the Symmetry Duo (Judy and Jennifer Ho) for the 2017 World Harp Congress. Paul Patterson is the WHC Composer in Residence for the 2017WHC and I hope to talk to him in depth later in the week after his masterclass on his compositions. Another “first” – the first World Harp Congress Creative Media Competition was held in 2016 and several prize winning works were presented – or rather, “staged”. The First Prize was awarded to Jianmin Wang for A Night Mooring by Maple Bridge, arranged by Xi Wang and Qiang Zhou, and performed by Nan Wang (harp) and Wan Wei (guzheng). Based on a poem by Ji Zhang, it included a fascinating time lapse backdrop of sand painting – the ethereal nature of the sand perfectly illustrated by the subtle interplay between harp and guzheng.

More “firsts” – a program by two First Prize Winners of international competitions – Lenka Petrovic and Emmanuel Padilla Holguin. Many other new and award winning compositions – far too many to name – rounded out the list of “firsts” today. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

DAY 1

The 13th World Harp Congress Opening Concert, held in the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts on July 7, was a truly impressive feat of logistics, coordination and cooperation. So many wonderful moments…an ensemble of 71 pedal and lever harpists performed in the first half of the concert, followed by an ensemble of more than 40 konghou players in the second half of the concert. Taiwanese harpist and composer Che-Yi Lee opened the concert with the Hong Kong Youth Harp Ensemble in an expanded version of his Enchanting City, which in part pays homage to Salzedo’s Variations on a Theme in Ancient Style. He also ably and energetically conducted the Hong Kong Harp Symphony Ensemble in his Harp Symphony, a delightful and quirky medley of well-known classical themes, woven together so expertly and seamlessly that the recognition of each new familiar theme brought smiles to the faces of the audience. Between the two large ensembles, twelve of the WHC Board of Directors and chairs of past Congress committees joined together to perform Fei Cheng’s A Magical Journey – a musical tribute to the host countries of previous congresses, performed against a backdrop of photos from past congresses. Dan Yu, Co-Chair of WHC2017 was featured in the traditional Chinese folk melody Spring on the Moonlight River arranged for harp and guzheng by Fei Cheng, providing a subtle focus on the theme of this congress – West meets East.

In the second half of the program, after more impressive stage moves by the precision team of volunteer harp movers, the Hongyun Konghou Septet and the 40-strong Hongyun Konghou Orchestra from China performed a selection of ensemble works on this rare and historic instrument. Taking the konghou far beyond its former role performing mainly traditional folk music, a new generation of contemporary Chinese composers is exploring and experimenting with tonal combinations and advanced techniques on the konghou to stunning effect. This was indeed an eye-opening concert of musical introductions and musical cooperation, and the next six days of the Congress will no doubt be an exhilarating musical journey as West meets East.

—Moya Wright

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share.

About Author

Editor of Harp Column, freelance harpist, private teacher, hot yoga lover, and grammar geek.

Leave A Reply