• Edinburgh Branch Events – May/June 2022

    26th May 2022 – special social evening with visiting harpists from the USA with their tutor Sunita Staneslow. Join us at 7pm on Thursday 26th at Craigmillar Park Church for an evening of informal playing together,  some solo performances, chat and refreshments.  There is no charge for the session.

    28th May 2022 – Branch meeting with Isobel Mieras and Rosemary McKerchar. 2pm at Craiglockhart Church Hall or live via Zoom.

    11th June 2022 – 2pm Craiglockhart Church Hall or live via Zoom. 

    Transpennine Harps Spring Strings 2021


    We are delighted to announce that our online activity continues apace! Join us on March 6th 2021 for another workshop-filled day! Lucy and Tamsin will be leading us through a number of classes loosely based around the theme of ‘chords’ – from ‘what exactly IS a chord?!’ for those who are new to music theory to how to actually USE them in your own arrangements.

    There will of course also be the opportunity to learn some new pieces (see programme below for more details), and of course, the TPH Common Room will be open for tea and chat throughout the day. Concert!

    The day will finish with an informal tea concert, where Lucy and Tamsin will be playing a selection of music including their own arrangements and also to showcase some new pieces that have been recently published that YOU TOO can play! Learning materials…!

    All of the sessions will be recorded and the videos of all the sessions will be available to review for FREE to all attendees.

    If you would like to view the materials for a course you did not attend in person, these (along with any relevant sheet music) may be purchased as a digital download for £3.50 and will be emailed to you after the weekend. Using Zoom to access online courses

    If you are unfamiliar with Zoom (though we feel like we are all much more tech-savvy than we were a year ago!), never fear – you don’t need any special equipment other than a laptop/phone/tablet and a reasonable internet connection. It is very simple to use and we are available for any troubleshooting!

    There will be spaces available for private lessons of 30 or 60 minutes with both tutors (£35/hour; £17/half-hour) – please contact them to book a slot and let them know what you’d like to work on so that they can prepare materials in advance.

    For further information, please visit Transpennine Harps.

    Wire Branch Report 2020

    The Wire Branch had its highest number of members ever in the year 2019-20. 

    We held a full programme of nine afternoon workshops in between September 2019 and June 2020, despite the coronavirus restrictions. Many of these took place in Edinburgh, as they have done so for over twenty years, hosted by Tony and Miriam Dilworth, who have generously supported us for such a long time. The workshops were led by Bill Taylor and welcomed players of all sizes of wire-strung and gut-strung harps, at all levels. When the restrictions prevented us meeting in person since January, we moved the meetings wholly online with Zoom. All of our members, including a substantial number who live abroad, could now regularly join the sessions. The arrangements were constructed to involve players at different levels, and included medieval sacred pieces, Gaelic song tunes, traditional airs and even a modern tune.

    In August we held a three-day course on playing music from the Robert ap Huw manuscript – the earliest harp music from anywhere in Europe. We were kindly invited to hold the course at the home of branch member Marianne McGhee on the Isle of Bute. As you can imagine, the summer weather and the idyllic setting made for a hugely memorable experience. We had a respectable number of participants (nine) who joined us, and there was a request that we might hold a follow-on series of classes to continue working on the music.  

    That gave rise to our online Robert ap Huw course, which consisted of one 90-minute session a month over six months, from January through to June. By making the course accessible online, the number of course participants more than doubled. We priced the course to give a branch member discount, and greatly increased our membership. Across the six sessions, we looked closely at two pieces in the original tablature and we look forward to holding another course starting in January 2021. 

    Additionally, the Wire Branch held a workshop in November for its Highland members, the self-named ‘High-Wire’ group. For the session, Bill invited participants to each bring a melody, with which they would learn arranging skills. We look forward to meeting together again once it is safe to do so. 

    Four newsletters were issued during the year, including articles about festivals, interviews with members and friends of the Wire Branch, advice on nail care, dates of upcoming courses, etc. 

    Bill Taylor, Secretary Wire Branch

    Wales Branch Report 2020

    I took over as Convenor of the Wales Branch on 21st July 2019, following which we held at least one more workshop before playing at a lunchtime concert in St Peter’s Church Carmarthen, where I am Director of Music. We played ten or so of our favourite pieces and all took turns to introduce each item. We had an audience of some 56 including Alan Shiers, founder of Teifi Harps,who was delighted to see and hear so many of his harps being  played. He had made seven of the eight harps that were played that day. We had hoped to return this year but due to the pandemic, the series was cancelled. Hopefully, we will be able to return in 2021.

    On September 15th, 11 of us attended a workshop led by Tamsin Dearnley. She taught us a very pretty piece called ‘Blackberry Winter’. After this we held three workshops in order to prepare for our Christmas outings.  

    The first outing was to the Llandeilo Festival of the Senses, where four of us  played for an hour or so in St Teilo’s church.  We then attended the Christmas Fayre on a very cold December day in a marquee  at Llanerchaeron, where the first person we saw was Marianne , better known as the mother of Catrin Finch! No pressure then! Seven of us turned up for that and we met lots of old and new friends who were milling around and chatted in between spots. This rounded off the year nicely.

    On 23rd February we were very pleased to welcome Monica Stadler back for a workshop, when we did some more improvisation and learned a new piece. 

    Finally, just before lockdown, we enjoyed a workshop with Meinir Heulyn, who brought 2 different pieces with her, one in three  parts and one in four.  I was delighted that Meinir thought the group had improved. 

    Transpennine Branch Report 2020

    A challenging but enjoyable year for TPH – a year of two halves!

    We have monthly core groups; one in the Leeds/Keighley area and one in Old Malton, near York.  Old Malton, led by Annie Jones, has a strong base of 12 members and enjoys a varied repertoire; the West Yorkshire (Riddlesden) group has averaged a core of 16 players at its regular sessions.

    We are so lucky to have two brilliant tutors, Lucy Nolan, who leads the Riddlesden group, and Tamsin Dearnley, who has been holding regular zoom sessions from Toulouse with the Old Malton group.  All our sessions are great fun.  They reflect the diversity of the harp and we are gradually extending our concert repertoire.  

    Lucy went to Old Malton to lead a much appreciated session with them too.   In February, we welcomed Tamsin Dearnley back to do a workshop with each group, again great fun, and that led to the zoom sessions.

    As a result of our ‘Try the Harp’ session we introduced 5 new members to the harp; our harp hire is very healthy, with all harps out on hire. 

    Transpennine Harps’ membership hails substantially from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, as well as from Lancashire and Greater Manchester.  Although our numbers overall are down this year, we hope to turn this around by extending our online reach as well as our physical meetings.  We do seem to have more coming along to both the physical and online meetings. 

    The latter part of the year has of course provided new challenges to us all, not least improving our IT technical skills!  Importantly, we are not aware of anyone succumbing to the virus.  We have had online committee meetings, and have started online play togethers.  Inspired by the Edinburgh International Harp Festival and the HNW JaNEWary Challenge, we were delighted to have an online workshop led by Mary Dunsford.  We now have YouTube tutorials which we are available to our members.  Everyone enjoyed the experience even though it was different not to be together for large parts of the day.

    TPH is a vibrant group of players from beginners/improvers to more advanced.  We share our passion for our harp, not just by playing together, but also by making friends at our sessions over coffee and home baked cakes!  And even online, we have some good chats and share our harp experiences.  Thanks to the committee and all who contribute so much to creating a very special group.

    Northumbrian Branch Report 2020

    Our year started in September at Bamburgh with our annual meeting with the Edinburgh Branch. We had 25 players this year and we had a very enjoyable day sharing and playing some lovely music. We had a delicious pooled lunch and a walk on Bamburgh’s beautiful beach before our afternoon session.

    We were very saddened to hear of the death of Jean Thompson in December. Jean had a very active musical life and  was a member of a harp trio along with Betty Matthews and Judith Anderson. She also had accompanied her husband Basil who had been a piper. She had been a founder member of the Northern Sinfonia Chorus and had also conducted many choirs. Jean had been a long term member of the Clarsach Society and she will be sadly missed.

    I would like to welcome Di Jevons as our new Treasurer – she took over from Claire Steel last September.

    Our meetings on the first Saturday of each month are popular and had been well attended until they had to stop due to the pandemic. Our usual third Monday had also been well attended.

    Our Saturday morning meeting in December was very popular – we played Christmas music with a break for coffee and mince pies. Our Christmas lunch at Fratelli’s took place in January.

    We held our annual Beginner’s day in January followed by the Children’s Workshop in February. There were 6 children  –  3 of Janet Bennett’s pupils and 3 of Judith Anderson’s – and it was a very enjoyable and successful day.

    The play away group started off in November playing for the  Newton Bywell WI. In December we played for the residents of Lowgate Residential Home followed by North Sunderland WI in February. Unfortunately we had to cancel any further dates. 

    It has been a challenging time over the last 6 months. So many activities have had to be cancelled and so many people being isolated. The virtual Harp Festival was a lifeline to many of us and I would like to thank all those who were involved in putting this together at such short notice. It was a tremendous achievement. 

    Many of us have had our technology skills greatly advanced! A very steep learning curve! Giving and receiving online lessons has proved “interesting” , but on the whole very successful .

    Finally I would like to thank the committee for their work and support through these challenging times.

    NE Scotland Branch Report 2020

    As all Branches will undoubtedly agree this year of 2020 has been unusual to say the least. Covid 19 affected most of the plans we set last year so we all had to find new ways of communicating.  Working apart but together became a new norm and I am proud to say that once more our NES Branch pulled out all the stops to create successes we would never thought possible.

    Last year ended as normal with a packed Kings College Chapel and our Harps Accord Orchestra enchanted audiences once more with a varied programmed supported by The Mearns and Deveron Singers.  We raised £665.50 for Archway Respite Care and we were able to add £204 to branch funds.  We also took Harps of Gold to Banff Academy.

    Before lockdown we were able to fit in a workshop by Wendy Stewart in March but the one we had scheduled with Corrina Hewat in April unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the Covid restrictions. Like many other teachers I had to quickly upscale my technology skills and quickly learnt the versatility of Zoom and through this medium I continued to teach my students in individual lessons. Through doing this I began to see the potential of this medium and soon started planning a Virtual Harp Concert which involved some of our wonderful harpers making their own video of a performance at home and these we brought together to an International Audience over Zoom. We were delighted to have people tuning from South Africa, USA, France, Ireland as well as all over the UK. Through donations this concert raised £180 for the Branch.

     After the success of this concert and taking inspiration from the Harp Festival Online, we further began to explore the possibilities of having online workshops so our first online workshop took place with Corrina Hewat and myself sharing the teaching.  

    Our format worked well and the feedback was very positive with comments like ‘I could really see and hear what the tutors were demonstrating and because everyone else was muted there were no distractions’.  We subsequently did another workshop with exactly the same format with Cheyenne Brown.   At the end of August we are having an online Masterclass in Technique with Karen Marshalsay.

    We have continued to increase our stock of Clarsachs and have just recently purchased another Bohemian Harp from Christoph Locherbach and hope to purchase 1 more by the end of the year.  This brings our stock of Clarsachs to 16 producing a steady rental income for the Branch.     

    Our membership stands now at 43 members.

    Although Covid 19 has placed unprecedented restrictions on our activities we have risen to the challenge and we intend to have a Virtual Harps of Gold so we are currently planning this and look forward to presenting this on various social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.  So I am pleased to report that our little Branch continues to break new ground and we are proud of our achievements this year.

    Irene Watt – Convenor

    London & South East Branch Report 2020

    Between July 2019 and February 2020 our branch held playing meetings and workshops in Surrey, south London, Hertfordshire, Hampshire/Berkshire, Suffolk, and Birmingham.  These included informal playing sessions without an invited tutor, as well as organised workshops.

    In the Hampshire/Berkshire area, branch members enjoyed an afternoon workshop with Stephen Dunstone, learning a couple of his ensemble arrangements.  In what has become a tradition, several members performed Carols with Harps concerts at the beginning of December.

    In London, tutors for the monthly ‘Meet and Retreat’ evening workshops included Olivia Jageurs teaching polyrhythms, and Tara Minton teaching a jazz workshop.

    The branch also sponsored several Harp Club Oxford sessions, which are taught by Steph West in Oxford for ages 8-18.

    Our branch annual residential Clarsach Course which is always held at the end of September in conjunction with Benslow Music in Hertfordshire was again well-attended and proved very enjoyable, led by two inspiring tutors, Keziah Thomas and Rachel Hair.

    We had been very much looking forward to welcoming Isobel Mieras to our branch to teach an ensemble workshop day in May, but unfortunately like so much else, that event had to be put on hold.

    Our last face to face meeting was in February, but in the months during lockdown, many branch members enjoyed being able to access the Virtual EIHF and other on-line (non-branch) workshops and concerts, including workshops taught by Ailie Robertson and Rachel Hair, and live-streamed concerts by Harriet Earis and Lily Neill.  Thanks to Keziah Thomas, the ‘Meet and Retreat’ monthly London meetings have continued online.

    Charles Hope, our branch harp hire administrator has been kept busy managing our branch hire harps, most of which have been out on hire for most of the year, and our four loan harps were allocated to deserving applicants.

    Our branch again sponsored the Harp on Wight festival and EIHF.

    Anne Chorley and Felicity Merchant

    Isle of Lewis Branch Report 2020

    There are currently 12 paid up members in the Lewis branch. 

    Earlier in the year, a small number attended one of the care homes on the Island and played a variety from the group’s repertoire.  Janet and Màiri played a duet of ‘Leaving Stoer’ and the ‘Rose of St. Magnus’, both written by Ivan Drever.  This was well received.

    Several members attended the, Virtual Edinburgh International Harp Festival.  One member followed  Rachel `Hair’s ‘Looking at a rainbow through a dirty window,’ by Calum Stewart and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  We were grateful that there was so much variety to choose from.

    Many of us watched several concerts and tutorials and downloaded the music which was fantastic and are now learning new pieces.  We all agree that if we can’t attend in person, this is the next best thing and indeed many of us who would never be able to attend the festival, found the experience invaluable.

    We are having regular  ensemble practices, using Skype.  We have learned new pieces during the Lockdown:   ‘Brochan Lom’ in three parts and ‘The Brown Island’.  Many of us have been surprised how much we have adapted to the virtual learning experience and are  able to move forward in our learning with this medium – the bonus being for the older ones, that our backs are a lot better for not dragging our harps about!

    Some of our younger members have done well in their various categories in competitions 

    Mod 2019 – Glasgow

    • Intermediate 1 – Fiona Langley (2nd)
    • Intermediate 2 – Mairi Anna Binns (1st)
    • 13-18 Duet – Mairi Anna & Fiona (3rd)

    Western Isles Young Musician of the Year (Feb 2020)

    • Junior Secondary Strings – Mairi Anna Binns (Finalist)
    • Primary Strings – Fiona Langley (Winner)

    Inverness Music Festival (March 2020)

    • Intermediate – Mairi Anna Binns (1st).

    We are understandably, extremely proud of their achievements.

    Highland Branch Report 2020

    What an unusual year for everyone!  Here at the Highland Branch it was even unusual before the pandemic hit, starting with all three tutors local to the Inverness area having big life events occurring all at the same time in the autumn:  Isbel Pendlebury flew off on her year’s travelling, Emma Wright moved a bit further south, and I had a baby!  The branch did support a late-September sitting of the Scottish Harp Graded Exams, with Gillian Fleetwood examining.  All 12 Highland pupils passed with flying colours!

    We started off 2020 with our usual winter workshops.  In January, Emma and myself led a workshop with a record-breaking 22 participants!  We were so excited that our numbers had nearly doubled since last year’s workshops.  Several of the attendees had just acquired their harps and hadn’t had much prior tuition, so wonderful they were keen to join in.  In February, we welcomed guest tutors Heather Yule and Ingrid Henderson, with another large group of participants.  Trying to cater for our beginners, we also had branch member Katie Ferguson take a small group of them so they didn’t feel lost in the big groups.  We were just gearing up for our third workshop and spring concert when the lockdown hit and these had to be postponed.

    The second edition of the Highland Branch’s Young Composer’s Competition was a great success this spring.  We had 13 wonderful new compositions submitted by primary and secondary school pupils.  Adjudicator Corrina Hewat gave some helpful and encouraging feedback to all the participants, and had the hard job of placing the winners!  Congrats to these winners in Category 1 (primary age): 1st place: Grace Scott, 2nd place:  Ava Williams, 3rd place (tie):  Jemma Sinclair & Ciara MacDonald.  Congrats also to the Category 2 winners (secondary-age): 1st place: Isy Maclean, 2nd place (tie): Isabella Sommerville & Eilidh Lamb, 3rd place (tie):  Eilidh Thom and Mhairi MacKenzie.  Although we weren’t able to hear these compositions as planned at our spring concert, we shared recordings or videos of most of them on our branch’s Facebook page, so now you could see them too!

    There was very sad news this spring with the passing of branch committee member Susanne Lloyd Jones.  Susanne was an enthusiastic workshop participant, performed wonderfully with her partner George at several branch events, and started teaching a community of harpists up in Thurso/Wick.  She will be missed at any future events and we send our best wishes to George and her family.

    Cheyenne Brown, convenor