A MUSICAL JOURNEY WITH CATRIN FINCH ACADEMY
This summer, my student Teaguen and I took part in the second Catrin Finch Academy Summer School in Gwaelod Y Garth, near Cardiff, Wales.
It is always special for a harpist to go to Wales the country has the harp as its national instrument – many children learn the harp there in the same way that youngsters in other countries learn the piano.
It was a great opportunity to learn from Catrin Finch, who is a world-renowned musician and a former official harpist to the Prince of Wales, and Elinor Bennett, one of her country’s most distinguished musicians, Catrin’s former teacher, and, by the way, mother-in law.
It was such an inspiring week, although, we played eight hours per day, which I can tell you is no joke! But somehow, surrounded by all those talented people, you don’t notice the hours go by. We used fun technical games to improve our techniques, worked on known and not so well-known harp pieces, and, most importantly, listened to each other play – that’s such an essential part of the experience.
We also took part in lessons on the Alexander Technique, something which many musicians should be familiar with, as it is a system of relaxation and movement which helps performers, as well as others, find ways of relaxing, strengthening their bodies and avoiding muscle pain.
Part of this harp marathon was the Harp Fun Day where 30 harpists, aged five to 75, played solos, duos and then joined together for a mass harp ensemble at a concert, which was very inspiring.
We also literally took the harp to a higher level – climbed up to the top of the highest hill in the area, with small harps on our backs, and played songs from all over the world. It was a truly exhilarating experience.
Here’s a couple of insider tips in case you decide to join the next harp academy:
There are surprising amounts of biting insects in that part of the world, so, take your insect repellent with you.
Don’t forget your hiking shoes!
Other then that, I had the most remarkable harp week of my life. You can check Catrin’s website and sign up for the next academy now.
Hope to see you there!