Harpblog has moved! Harpblog.info will take you to its smart new look. Here, vintage Harpblog will remain online for the time being.
All the best,
The Camac France team is now on holiday! Both our ateliers in Mouzeil and l'Espace Camac will reopen on Monday, August 17th.
While we're on the beach, we leave a glorious legacy of frenetic pre-hols summer activity for you to savour in our absence. CamacCam returns to the silver screen, with an only slightly wobbly video about the Rencontres Internationales de Harpes Celtiques in Dinan. The Dinan Rencontres is a wonderful lever harp festival, now in its thirty-second year, and unmissable for us, the Breton harp community and lever harpists throughout the world.
It has been an exceptionally productive season in our lever harp ateliers, with the launch of not one, but two revolutionary new instruments. Also on video, you can experience the incredible power of our Excalibur, the new harp we have developed together with François Pernel. Our Ulysse, now our top-of-the-range lever harp conceived in collaboration with Elisa Vellia, marries ultralight weight and travel-ready strength with an acoustic sound of the highest concert quality.
If you or your students have questions about our harps over the summer period, don't forget that we have a wealth of information available online. For beginners, there are our video guides about string changing, tuning, harp care and transport and using the rod tuner. For all our harps, we have the technical manuals, and for the electric and electroacoustic harp, an amplification guide, and our blue dictionary. For your string orders once we reopen, we have our string charts.
We hope you all have a wonderful summer! We look forward to seeing you again at the start of 2015-16.
If you study history or English literature, or indeed music at a general university, you can take your BA and become a lawyer, a management consultant, an accountant, a business development manager, or many other things. You can even become a harpist, because many postgraduate performance courses do not require a first degree in music. If, however, you decide to study for a performance or pedagogic degree at a conservatoire or academy, your course is vocational - you definitely want to be a musician. Music colleges therefore have more concrete obligations than universities, to equip their students for the world of work.
The Akademie für Tonkunst in Darmstadt has known this for years: Germany's "oldest and most modern" music training centre is a "Berufsakademie", an academy for a job. It supports its students energetically, with a wide network of professional partners who provide diverse opportunities, from new music, to jazz, to pastoral directions. There is also a special focus pedagogic qualifications, with a sister music school allowing students to put their studies into practice.
Anne-Sophie Bertrand, Principal Harp with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, is the new teacher in Darmstadt. "I really appreciate the commitment the Akademie has to supporting its students, and preparing them for professional life", she says. "The students are motivated and enquiring, keen to seize every opportunity and make the most of what is on offer to them.
We are delighted to present our new lever harp to you: the Excalibur.
In the image of its namesake, the enchanted sword of King Arthur, it is impossible to resist its magic. Like the legend, Excalibur will leave its mark on history. This spectacular harp is the result of our collaboration with a sensational artist: François Pernel.
The Excalibur is a large lever harp. Its specially-designed soundboard gives it an exceptionally powerful sound, and an incomparably rich range of frequencies. Its 38 fluorocarbon strings have a balanced tension throughout the range, facilitating great virtuosity and precision for the harpist.
It is not the first Excalibur harp we have made. In the time of Joël Garnier, Excalibur was already part of our lever harp range. Twenty years later, it has been reincarnated in a state-of-the-art form. It is the result of long years of research carried out by our engineers and our master craftsmen.
The lever harp has earned its respected position in music throughout the world. Lever harpists lead their instrument in ever-bolder directions, more dynamic and contemporary by the day. It is this creativity and modernity which particularly defines the music of François Pernel.
The box office is now open for the 32nd Rencontres Internationales des Harpes Celtiques. This major, longstanding lever harp festival takes place every year in Dinan, Brittany, and always features a fantastic programme from the most important Celtic artists from all over the world.
This year, the festival will welcome Elisa Vellia (Greece), Ensemble Sangineto (Italy, Erik Ask-Unmark (Sweden), Eva Fogelgesang (Lorraine), Floriane Blancke and Dermot Byrne (Ireland), Harriet Earis (Wales), Laura Perrudin (Brittany), Maz Plant Out (Ile de France), Monika Stadler (Austria), Morgane Le Cuff (Brittany), Norma Ortega (Paraguay), François Pernel's Oak Ink Trio (Anjou), Quentin Vestur's Trio (Brittany), Raphael Pinel (Provence), Sirin Pancaroglu and Bora Uymaz (Turkey), and Amelia Saad's Trio Keynoad (Provence).
Myrdhin, Artistic Director of the festival since its beginnings, will also perform in Trio, with flute (Philippe Launay) and African kora (Tidiane Dia).
Running alongside the concert schedule is an equally rich course schedule, workshops on Breton dance, and also the chance to build your own small harp. At 590€ for materials, instruction and tickets to all concerts from 5:30PM, this is a great chance to get started with the harp, and gain insight into its construction at the same time. There is also a series of very reasonably-priced children's workshops, and "Harpes en rue", street music bring the harp to the local community.
For participants coming from afar, we have a special harp hire offer for Dinan: ring us in Mouzeil on +33 2 40 97 24 97, explain the harp is for Dinan, and we and the festival will organise the transport of the harp to Dinan for you.
The Camac team are also looking forward to welcoming you personally in the salon des luthiers, where we'll be sharing the exhibition hall with a fine line-up of artisan harp makers.
All information and bookings can be done via the festival website.
Isabelle Moretti will give two days of public masterclasses at the Conservatoirio Guido Cantelli in Novara, Italy, on June 26th and 27th. To register either to play for Isabelle, or as an auditor, please fill out the form below!
The event is also a collaboration with Enrico Tartarotti and Camac Italia, who will provide harps and hold an exhibition for the duration of the masterclasses.
Our MIDI concert harp, launched in 2009, is not available to buy but is instead reserved for special projects. You can explore everything that has been done thus far on Harpblog's MIDI harp project page.
Elisabeth Valletti is an instrumental figure in this harp's development. She, and her work, notably her "Harp Haikus", are largely behind the MIDI harp being awarded the QWARTZ / Max Matthews prize for technological innovation in 2011. A subsequent residency with the MIDI harp at the IRCAM and at the GRM de Radio France saw the creation of her latest album: "Sacrum 5", now out on Megadisc Classics.
"Sacrum'5" is a development of Elisabeth Valletti's interest in microcosmic sound. "Fascinated by science and its wonders", she writes, "I've always imagined what the quantum world as well as that of the microcosm inside the human body would sound like." Her first project on this theme was String Theory, part of her Orfeo Project; this was followed by 'Harp Haikus' for MIDI harp - an "imaginary recording of the multitude of sounds that fill the brain at particularly intense moments in human life".
+33 1 40 40 08 40 / email@example.com
Das Orchester, the German periodical for the orchestral profession (the one with all the jobs in), has a special point of focus in each edition. May's is "Beruf im Wandel: OrchestermusikerIn der Zukunft", or "Changing profession: orchestral musicians of the future". It examines the audition process, what lies ahead financially for orchestras in 2015, and how conservatoire students are prepared for work. The articles are in German, but there's an English overview here.
Coincidentally, it was also in May that we have been thinking about auditions. Our German partners the Harfengalerie Camac Berlin have sponsored two "Probespieltraining" (audition training) courses as part of their Vielsaitig touring project: one in Düsseldorf, one in Rostock, and both with Petra van der Heide of the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam.
Once you are inside an orchestra, you can engage with the dynamic issue of your band's role(s) in society. But to get a job in the first place, you'll have to play the auditions you're offered. You will probably do this many times: in Germany, by far and away the country with the most available jobs, one thousand hopeful graduates compete every year for one hundred and fifty vacancies. Nor are auditions famed for their splendid conditions, allowing musicians instantly to blossom into the best they can be. You have to train for them, wisely and hard.
Some people are in a position to do something about the suboptimal elements of the audition process - Thomas Bäurle, for example, of the Staatsorchester Stuttgart, launched a critique of the current system in a symposium in Cologne (January 2015). But for those seeking a job, there is little alternative other than to get on with it. "No 'ifs', no 'buts", Petra van der Heide told the assembled students in Düsseldorf and Rostock. "No 'I would have played better if' or 'but it is impossible to perform well because'. You will be asked to perform excepts on strange harps, that are in effect unplayable on strange harps. You will be expected to play without warming up. You will sometimes be given useless instruments, and/or treated with scant respect. If this makes you angry, be my guest and lobby for change. I hope that by the time I retire, I will have made enough noise about the audition process actively to have improved it. But for now, this is how it is, and the better you understand this, the better prepared you can be."
Petra van der Heide / Vielsaitig auf Tour
Petra's audition training covers a broad spectrum of issues. For example: what repertoire you need to prepare, how to prepare it, and indeed how to get hold of the parts, because you cannot just buy the harp part to Acts I and III of Tannhäuser. The orchestral excerpt bible many an orchestral office will still tell you to use is full of misprints, and a conductor will not be interested in hearing that the office told you to use it. Petra also frequently incorporates mock auditions into her training, using unfamiliar harps and forbidding any warming up, to help you get used to this peculiar type of pressure.
We may not be able to throw up 'ifs' and 'buts' from our lonely benches behind the screens, but the musical community as a whole - and of whom we are all part - does have the power for positive change. Concepts like Petra's not only help you deal with the realities of the here and now: they also raise awareness for the future. There is, rightly, growing pressure from students on their music colleges to include much more job-orientated training. It would also be good if college and professional associations, and maybe indeed also the State and other funding bodies, would exert growing pressure on orchestras.
Competition is fierce and no orchestra owes, or can give, everyone a living. They could however be much more transparent and accountable about their recruitment processes, which would both help musicians prepare, and the orchestras themselves attract the best talent. The harp world is, in comparison to violin, flute or cello, very small. Yet we still have plenty of nasty audition experiences, and it must be the same, times a hundred, for larger instrumental groups. It is particularly depressing when, despite the ever-more stratospheric level from auditionees, the job remains unawarded, sometimes for years; you ask yourself if they are waiting for King David to walk in, or otherwise what or who is blocking the job. An audition - I learnt reading this month's Das Orchester - costs on average 17,000€ in extra services paid to the existing members (100 musicians, each paid an extra service or two services of perhaps 170€). A top-calibre orchestra could easily cost several times that. Yes: an orchestra is looking for a colleague to work in very close and special conditions for the next thirty years, and this is to be decided carefully. But with the level as high as it is, is it right that an orchestra repeatedly spends twenty thousand plus of public money on an audition, appoints nobody (or throws them out after the trial year), does this repeatedly, and nobody asks why?
The results of the second and fourth categories of Dasson An Delenn are as follows:
Category II, fourteen years old and under:
First Prize: Céline BOURREAU
Second Prize: Emma PICHENOT
Third Prize: Klervi MONTFORT PERRIN
Category IV, twenty years old and under
Second Prize: Matthieu COURTEILLE
Congratulations to them all!
We have also been very touched and moved to receive a tribute from Mariannig Larc'hantec, who has been in the audience in Pontivy. Mariannig was so impressed after the first day of the competition, that she has written down how much it reminded her of when she launched the first Kan Ar Bobl competition. That competition was won by Kristen Noguès, the inspired Breton harpist who died too soon. And the first Dasson an Delenn competition has been taking place in the Rue Kristen Nogues...
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