The mill blades of the Netherlands turn again with a fresh wind. Regarding harp, the country has been the birthplace of many audacious projects: more than thirty years ago, the World Harp Congress was founded as an outgrowth of the Harpweken (Harp Week) on the initiative of the Dutch harpist Phia Berghout; created in 2007 by the Dutch harp players Sabine Meijers and Brenda Dor-Groot, the International Jazz Harp Foundation is based in the Netherlands. More recently, the Nederlandse Harpvereniging (Dutch Harp Association) and the Nederlandse Folk Harp Vereniging (Dutch Folk Harp Association) have launched a common event: Open Harp Dag. Centered on an international pedal harp competition held every two years, the Dutch Harp Festival also promotes other music played on different harps; workshops are scheduled all over the country with local teachers as well as musicians coming from abroad.
Anouk Platenkamp: I like to learn. But when I first played folk/traditional music I didn’t know where to start with it. People say “listen to recordings” but for a classically trained harpist like me, it was quite a challenge to know what to do without any sheet music.
At that time when I read that Gráinne Hambly was coming to the Netherlands to teach a workshop, I knew immediately that it was what I needed: learning from someone that has been playing this kind of music for years. The workshop was a great success for me: I learned about ornamentations and how to start arranging tunes. This first experience was so good that whenever I got a chance to take a class in the Netherlands, I would be there.
Jeanette van Nieulande organises workshops in her harp shop "De Zingende Snaar Harpen", in Leerdam. I went to some of them and taught improvisation and harp therapy myself.
Jeanette van Nieulande & De Zingende Snaar Harpen
Jeanette started her business a little over nine years ago. She had been playing the harp, but couldn’t find any instrument with the sound she wanted. An American friend living in the Netherlands suggested to try a Dusty Strings harp. At this time, these harps weren’t available in the country but Jeanette, being the entrepreneur she is, ordered one from the US. She loved the harp so much that she wrote to Dusty Strings to see if she could sell their harps. This was the beginning of De Zingende Snaar. After two years of being in Dordrecht, Jeanette decided to look for a new store a little more in the centre of the country. The amazing place, where she is now, is in Leerdam: a lot of space for harps, CDs, sheet music and even a room to give workshops in.
Jeanette is always looking for a new sound to complement the harps she already sells. She likes to find the instrument which fits every individual customer. Over the years she's found other harp brands hard to bring over here. De Zingende Snaar Harpen is now one of the two shops with a storefront in the Netherlands selling Celtic harps from all over the world, such as Camac, Harfonie Harps, Harps of Lorien, Silver Spear, Starfish, Teifi, Weissgerber and also pedal harps by Pilgrim.
From the Lowlands Harp Meeting to the International Harp Friends Meeting
In 2011, Jeanette offered me to come along to the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. We had such a good time that we ended up going to the Nordic Harp Meeting (which was held in Denmark that year) together as well. For both of us these kinds of events (whether it’s a single workshop or a festival) are more than just a place to learn a new tune or a technique, they give you the opportunity to meet new people as well as old friends, and getting excited about your own music. Without exception, the experience has given me / us a new motivation to play the harp.
On our way back from Denmark, we talked about how much fun these festivals / meetings are and how we would love to create something similar in the Netherlands. As a name we immediately thought of "Lowlands Harp Meeting", which sounded great. “Lowlands” is another way of calling the Netherlands (the Lowlands of Holland). We started organising the event, contacting the teachers, creating a Facebook page, when someone mentioned that we may not be able to use "Lowlands" in the name since a big pop-festival is already using it. We had to quickly change the name in order to start promoting the event. Jeanette came up with the Harp Friends Meeting which conveys everything we want it to be, so that became the new name.
Three years ago, Jeanette launched another big event promoting the Celtic harp: the Waregemse Harp Dag, in Belgium. Therefore we already had an organisational plan which could be used for the Meeting. Through this event, we’d like to stimulate the sense of community, with international harpers. Next to that, we want to develop the Celtic / lever harp in the Netherlands and give people the opportunity to experience the magic of a harp festival in their own country. Most of the harp players in the Netherlands play the lever harp. Even so, a lot of teachers (and players) consider the instrument to be a start-up for the pedal harp. That is why we have invited professional lever-harp players to perform and teach at the Meeting.
Dates: 9-11 May 2013
Venues: De Zingende Snaar Harpen & Cultuurcentrum GO, Leerdam, Netherlands.
8 harp workshops, 2 Irish dance workshops, 3 concerts, sessions and a harp exhibition during the Meeting:
Thursday, May 9th
11.00-12.30 Opening of the first International Harp Friends Meeting.
14.00-17.00 Workshop 1: MAGIC IN YOUR FINGERS by Nadia Birkenstock. All levels.
14.00-17.00 Workshop 2: INTRODUCTION TO SCOTTISH MUSIC by Tristan Le Govic. Beginners/intermediate.
19.30 – 21.15 Concert by Tristan Le Govic.
21.15 – 23.30 Late Night Session.
Friday, May 10th
9.30 - 12.30 Workshop 3: ARRANGING TRADITIONAL MUSIC by Tristan Le Govic. Intermediate/advanced.
9.30 – 12.30 Workshop 4: EFFECTIVE PRACTICING by Nadia Birkenstock. Experienced beginner to intermediate.
14.00 – 17.00 Workshop 5: LET'S TRY BRETON MUSIC by Tristan Le Govic. Beginner/intermediate.
14.00 – 17.00 Workshop 6: LAYERED SONG ARRANGEMENT by Nadia Birkenstock. Experienced beginners to advanced.
13.30 14.30 Workshop 7: IRISH DANCE by Micky van Wijnen. Children up to 12 years old.
15.00-17.00 Workshop 8: IRISH DANCE by Micky van Wijnen. For every one of 12 years and older.
19.30 – 21.15 Concert by Nadia Birkenstock and Steve Hubback (percussions).
21.15 – 23.30 Late Night Session.
Saturday, May 11th
9.30 – 12.30 Workshop 9: BRETON MUSIC: SWING AND STYLE by Tristan Le Govic. Intermediate/advanced.
9.30 – 12.30 Workshop 10: COMPOSING FOR LEVER HARP by Nadia Birkenstock. All levels.
14.00- 16.00 Final concert by Faerydae (with Anouk Platenkamp on harp), with Tristan Le Govic and Nadia Birkenstock.
The entire program can be found online here.