Q and A with Isobel Mieras on the Edinburgh Harp Festival

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The Edinburgh International Harp Festival kicks off on April 4th. We asked Joint Artistic Adviser Isobel Mieras to tell us more about this year’s event.

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?
I am looking forward to the sheer diversity of the music to be heard at the Festival—everything from authentic Paraguayan, to classical music on pedal harp by way of traditional and contemporary tunes from Celtic traditions and, at the heart of the festival, our own thriving Scottish music.

Any not-to-be-missed events?
There are some exciting collaborations. Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson blend Scottish harp with Swedish nyckelahrpa —a skillful and fascinating fusion of sounds and styles. In partnership with dancer Karin Modigh, Andrew Lawrence King will transport us to the authentic sights and sounds of the court of Louis XIV. Edinburgh born harpist Maeve Gilchrist, now resident in USA joins with percussive dancer Nic Gareiss in what promises to be an excitingly innovative performance.

In the Hall of the Chieftain , an evening of music such as would be heard in halls, castles and the Scottish Court in 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, is set to be one of the most popular concerts in the Festival with a line-up including some of Scotland’s finest performers.

Every year we have a concert which features our Festival Orchestra and na Clarsairean, Edinburgh’s Harp Orchestra along with guest ensembles. At past Festivals we have enjoyed the music of Irish, Swedish and English groups. This year, in partnership with Drake Music Scotland, we have commissioned a new piece form Fiona Rutherford, for two disabled musicians, small ensemble and harp orchestra and look forward to its premier performance at the Festival.

How did you choose your performers this year?
We try each to build a very wide range of styles and personalities into a structured program. Recommendations come by word of mouth and performers make direct contact with us. We carefully consider what they can offer and how they will fit into our particular event, often called “The Friendly Festival.” As well as our concert series, we have a huge core of courses and workshops running through the Festival. Students have the opportunity to learn from, rub shoulders with and even play along at our late night sessions with some of the finest harp players in the world.

When was the first festival and how has it evolved since the beginning?
The first Festival took place 1982 and was started by Pilgrim Harps who ran it for 2 years, after which they asked the Edinburgh Branch of the Clarsach Society to take it over. As it grew and flourished, they in turn handed it on to the parent body of the Society who have organised it successfully ever since.

At first, it was a weekend event of two concerts and three workshops, but very quickly grew into a five-day Festival which it remains today. Two beginners’ classes were added in the third year and the Festival has since grown to include 14 concerts, 43 courses and 19 workshops on a beautiful residential campus.

Read more at www.harpfestival.co.uk.

 

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