Leading up to the 13th World Harp Congress this July in Hong Kong, we’re talking with performers for the ever-popular WHC Focus on Youth showcase concerts. Check in each week as we present insights from these talented young artists.
Give us some background: when did you start playing, what’s your current age, and who do you study with?
I started playing the harp when I was 6. I am now 17, and am still studying with Katryna Tan.
Tell us about your WHC program. How did you choose your repertoire and what do you like about the music?
I will be playing Faure’s “Une Chatelaine en sa Tour,” Variations on a theme of Paganini, and “Water Dance,” a composition by my harp teacher, Katryna Tan. I have chosen these three pieces as they are all very close to my heart. I enjoy listening to and playing romantic French music in particular, and that’s why I chose to play the piece by Faure. I also wanted to bring something special from home, and so I picked “Water Dance.” The piece features soundscapes from Asia and takes its main inspiration from the sounds of the Guqin, a plucked seven-string Chinese instrument. It would be a wonderful opportunity to share the different flavors of Asian music with the international community!
Have you ever attended a World Harp Congress?
I attended the last World Harp Congress in Sydney and performed together with the Viva Rave harp ensemble during the closing concert. We had lots of fun hanging out, rehearsing and watching concerts together. One of the most memorable parts of the trip was attending concerts at iconic places like the Sydney Opera House. And not to forget, our daily trips to the cafes for milkshakes! You don’t find milkshakes that good here in Singapore.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get to Hong Kong?
It would definitely be going around Hong Kong to eat my favorite foods before the Congress starts. My family travels to Hong Kong almost every year. We go there mostly for the food, and so the typical itinerary would be eating round the clock!
Which harpist do you most admire?
One of my biggest inspirations is Isabelle Moretti. What I admire most about her is her refined style of playing, her sensitivity and her sincerity in making music. She brings out the delicacy of the instrument, and most importantly, she is able to make a deep emotional connection with the audience through her musicality. These are three things that I hope to emulate someday!
What’s your most memorable performing experience?
My most memorable experience would be performing in the harp musical “Pluck” during the Singapore HarpFest 2015. During the musical, I played a double role as the Guardian angel and the Conductor, so costume changes had to be lightning fast. The most memorable part of the musical for me was when I acted as the Conductor. I was standing close to the edge of the stage due to the limited space. At one point in time, I was required to spin around in circles quickly as the music went from presto to prestissimo. As I spun, I got a little dizzy and nearly fell off the stage! It was slightly mortifying, but definitely an experience to remember!
What advice would you give a young student wanting to start harp?
Music is a journey, not a destination. Being passionate about the harp and having fun is all that matters.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you?
“Have faith, do your best, and the rest will fall into place. As long as you set your heart on something, you can achieve it, regardless of what people think or say.”
When you’re not playing the harp what do you like to do?
When I’m not playing the harp, I enjoy cycling, swimming and reading.
Finish this sentence: In 10 years I see myself…
To be honest, I don’t really know what I want to do yet! I love music, but I am interested in becoming a pediatrician as well, so I’m still keeping my options open for the moment. All I know is that in 10 years, I will still be playing the harp, be it professionally or simply for my own enjoyment. Music has shaped me into the person I am today, and it will always continue to be a big part of my life!
Anything else you want Harp Column readers to know about you?
I come from a musical family where there is always some form of classical music playing in the background at home. My mom used to be a professional pianist, and while she probably influenced me to love classical music too, I was never interested in playing the piano. I actually got to try out the lever harp when my mom dropped me off at a friend’s place to have someone watch over me while she was busy. That friend turned out to be a harpist, and that was the day that I got my first taste of the harp! I started tinkling around with the strings and immediately fell in love with it! I loved the feeling of being able to produce such beautiful, warm sounds from the direct contact of my fingers on the strings. It felt like an extension of myself and being able to express my emotions through my playing brings me so much joy.