We are very proud to have created a special Big Blue electroacoustic concert harp for Caroline Lizotte - with a pure chrome, mirrored finish. When the harp arrived in Montreal, Caroline wrote to Jakez: "I have been gazing at its reflections for three days now, and reflecting too that I was really spoiled in being able to collaborate on this crazy project with you ! You should be proud of it too, I have every respect and admiration for you. This harp is a perfect image of our friendship, determination, audacity and our freedom!”
Caroline and Jakez outside our ateliers in Mouzeil
We have been making chrome-plated harps for a while, but Caroline's harp finish presented a particular challenge because of the very clear mirror effect we all wanted. Before we started, we had to research and seek specialist advice about this process. We would be lying if we said this was also the quickest project we have ever brought to fruition, but the results have been worth the wait. Caroline continues: “You well know that before connecting it, I couldn’t resist exploring it acoustically and I must say I am very impressed by the sound. The bass is deep and has great soul, I love the middle register – it is absolutely exquisite – and I find the top subtle, with the flexibility that will take sound processing well.
And then, connecting it up! In these few days I have rediscovered the intense joy that I experienced in Vancouver in 2011 – I am finally back with such a powerful harp, which could fill the Forum de Montréal all by itself!
Now I am familiarizing myself with its electric side, with the incredible possibilities afforded by its four outputs. I have a life’s work ahead of me unlocking its technical and its physical potential, and there you have it, I am happy!”
The "Mirror Harp" safely arrived in the Maison Symphonique, Montreal
Caroline has been dreaming of a harp like this ever since she was seventeen. In the 90’s, she joined her brother's rock group Mange l’Ours Mange, and amplified her acoustic harp herself as best she could with all kinds of pickups. If you have ever tried to do this yourself, had a sound engineer crying as he or she tries to do it for you, or if you have read Jakez's Blue Dictionary - you will know that it is not easy to amplify an acoustic harp successfully. Especially not for rock, where everything is highly amplified, including problems. "Nonetheless, I knew this was a musical direction I wanted to continue", Caroline says, "and all the experiements I had to do with microphones and sound effects also influenced my compositions.
At the beginning of the noughties, I started playing with the techno group Eden 106. This inspired me to write my Concerto Techno for harp, live techno and orchestra in 2003, which techno parts were created and performed by Guy Pelletier, founder of Eden 106. And of course it also widened my experience with the amplification of a harp. It was also during my techno phase that I started to dream of a chrome-plated harp. I covered my black, acoustic harp with chrome-finish Mactac, which was better than nothing.
Caroline's harp covered in mirrored contact paper
In 2008 I was invited to perform at the World Harp Congress in Amsterdam, and while I was there, I also heard Edmar Castaneda give an extraordinary concert on the Camac blue harp (in silver finish). The next day, I went straight to the Camac exhibition. I was bowled over by the blue harp - it was exactly what I had been searching for, for so long.
When the next WHC came around, this time not so far from home, in Vancouver, I was able to borrow a blue harp for the performance of my Concerto Techno. That settled the matter - I had to have one, and I ordered it mirrored. Fortunately, Jakez was willing to collaborate with chromeurs to realize the idea. It's the first mirrored electro-acoustic harp in existence!
Performances, compositions and developments in instrument manufacture all support and energize each other, and I feel rejuvenated by the arrival of my new instrument. I’m currently working on my compositions specifically written for electroacoustic harp, and on the new possibilities I have with it as opposed to an amplified acoustic harp.
For example, in April 2015, I will give a concert of my own compositions - "Lizotte plays Lizotte" – among them I will give the world premiere of my Danses Métales opus 47 for electroacoustic harp, a series of miniatures that I have composed in the 90s on an amplified harp; my husband and multi-instrumentalist Étienne Ratthé and I will also perform the chamber version of the Concerto Techno opus 40 ; harpist Éveline Grégoire-Rousseau will join me for Stellae Saltantem opus 49 for acoustic harp and electric harp, a recent commission from the Atlantic Harp Duo.
I am very interested to expand the repertoire of the electric harp, and I can finally make it since I have now the instrument in hand!
I still have to pinch myself to check that this great dream of mine, which I have had for more than twenty-five years, has finally become real."
You may be starting to descend into a tinsel-strewn frenzy of festive cheer, but here's another deadline coming up in January worth taking a note of now. We are sponsoring the Académie Musicale de Villecroze. This long-standing, prestigious academy has decided to reopen its harp class, and 2015's professor will be Isabelle Moretti.
The course will take place from March 31st - April 11th, 2015. Application is by recording and the deadline for this is January 21st. All application information is available on the course site.
We are organizing a new lever harp competition, at home in our native Brittany - Dasson an Delenn. It is open to student harpists under the age of twenty-one, and of all nationalities. The competition repertoire features set works and free choice at all levels - but should all be of Breton inspiration, be it traditional Breton music, music composed by Breton composers, or Breton arrangements for the harp. Note the .bzh on the end of the competition website address, www.dassonandelenn.bzh. This means "Breizh", "Brittany" in Breton: we had to apply for this www., and we're very proud to have been accepted.
The competition will take place on May 23rd and 24th, 2014, and applications are open from January 5th. There are four categories, from beginner to young professional standard. There's no minimum age for any category, and you are also allowed to enter multiple categories. Regarding the age limit, you should be no older than twenty-one on the day the competition begins. All works should be performed from memory.
The number of places is necessarily limited and the earlier you apply, the better your chances of being accepted. If you are more used to working towards a closing date, here it is important to note the opening one! Applications may be submitted online from January 5th, 2015.
We are very grateful to our partners in this project for their support: the Conservatoire de musique et de danse de Pontivy Communauté, Savarez Strings, the Pontivy Communauté and the Conseil Général du Morbihan.
All information, as well as online application, is available on the competition site. If you have trouble deciphering it, as we've done this one in French only, don't hesitate to send an email to email@example.com and we will be glad to help you in English. You can also download the competition brochure below.
Ayelet's String, our partners in Israel, are official sponsors of the Israel Harp Festival in Tel Aviv at the end of December. There will be three days of competitions, workshops and concerts, with free regulations from Ayelet's Nadav Konieczny for the winners in each competition category. Nadav will also be giving two technical workshops - one on regulation, the other on the construction of the harp.
Ayelet's String will also be exhibiting a substantial number of new pedal and lever harps at the event. Jakez will be there too, so don't hesitate to come and find him and Nadav on the stand, for all the answers to your harp questions!
The Polish Harp Society is ten years old, and to celebrate, their previously national Competition of Duets with Harp is going international for the first time. This competition, for any duo combination that includes at least one harp, will take place in Cieszyn, Poland in April 2015. Rules, information and application forms are available on the Polish Harp Society website, and the closing date for entries is March 1st, 2015.
In 1969, the indefatigable Aristid Von Wurtzler initiated the first US harp competition (in Hertford, CA) "and this was a great chance for the girls behind the Iron Curtain", Ewa remembers. "We were able to get visas to attend the competition, and then we found solutions to be able to stay on in the West. Aristid was a great support to us: he'd escaped from Hungary himself, hiding in a barrel, during the 1956 uprising. I got a scholarship for a year to study with him - in fact, I repeated the masters qualification I already had, but it's neither the first nor the last time a student has enrolled in a course for the visa."
Ewa subsequently spent seventeen years in Von Wurtzler's New York Harp Ensemble - a fascinating account of whose adventures you can read on Carl Swanson's website. The group took four harps to sixty-five countries in total, and it was with a great range of professional experience, very well-travelled, and with perfect English that Ewa came home to Poland - via two years as Principal Harp with the Ostatni Opera in Prague - after twenty-three years in America.
Congratulations to the winner of the First Music Schools Harp Competition, Prague! Barbora Hurtanova was the overall victor across four age groups, and took home a Bardic 27 donated by Arpeggio, our partners in the Czech Republic. Barbora also won a prize for performing her own composition. We had a great time listening to Barbora, and over twenty young harpists from every music school with a harp class in the Czech Republic. Congratulations also to Vendulka Vaňková for her superb organisation of the event!
Barbora and Barbora (Placha, Director of Arpeggio)
If you look closely, you'll see that perched in a magnificent temple, high above these giant, mechanical and fire-breathing Chinese dragons, is none other than Rachael Gladwin with one of our blue harps. Rachael has been in China, on tour with La Machine. We've blogged about Rachael's work with the Nantes-based company before: their amazing animated sculptures take them all over the world.
No harps were harmed in the making of this spectacular
Barbora Placha, director of Arpeggio, our partner in Prague, has been busy recently with the sponsorship of two events in the Czech republic. Firstly, we all greatly enjoyed the Prague Harp Festival, a collaboration with the Prague Conservatory and Music in the Heart of Prague. The festival programme succinctly presented of some of today's finest exponents of the harp's rich variety of styles: the classical virtuosity of Anneleen Lenaerts, Nikolaz Cadoret's exceptionally dynamic and creative lever harp playing, and Ben Creighton Griffiths - who many of you may remember as a child prodigy, now grown-up and making a name for himself as much as a jazz harpist as a concert artist. Arpeggio also held a harp exhibition, and Camac client service was represented by Enric, who regulated harps throughout the festival.
In addition to the magnificent CamacCam video snapshots of the festival, there are some better equally professional and beautiful photographs by Lukáš Jančin on Arpeggio's homepage.
Anneleen Lenaerts. Photo: Lukáš Jančin
Nikolaz Cadoret. Photo: Lukáš Jančin
Ben's foot. Photo: Lukáš Jančin
On November 29th, we are very happy to be back at Arpeggio's side for the First Music School Harp Competition, which will take place at Prague's Pálffy Palace at Malá Strana. Organized by the Biskupská Music School, twenty-two harpists between seven and twenty-six years of age will take part. They will have the chance to perform for an illustrious jury, including Barbora Pazourová from the Czech Philharmonic, Dagmar Platilová from the Prague Radio Symphony, Lydie Hartelová from the Prague Conservatory, A. Jahnová from Karlín Theater, and Mrs. Antalová from the Bratislava Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Arpeggio is offering a Bardic 27 harp as the first prize for the overall winner.
We wish all the young Czech and Moravian contestants the very best of luck. Toi toi toi!
Grégory Cappoen has just released his debut CD: Du crépsucule à l'aurore, From Dusk to Dawn. It's a very personal musical journey, all original compositions. The disc also weaves a lightly chronological path through Grégory's own life, beginning with works he wrote a decade ago, and continuing from there. "The album is called "From Dusk to Dawn", Grégory explains, "because the time between the evening and the morning can be conducive to introspection and reflection. When I talk about this CD, I often describe a meditative pause, an internal journey", and reflecting back on one's own experience. That is because each composition is connected to an important moment in my own life.