The Bristol & West of England Branch continued to enjoy monthly harp meetings during the autumn of 2019 and the first part of 2020, learning mostly traditional tunes. There were two themed meetings: in December we learned a selection of Christmas carols and in January we learned Scottish tunes in preparation for Burns’ night.
We also invited two guest tutors to lead workshops. In October, Ben Creighton-Griffiths treated us to an exciting Jazz Harp workshop, subtitled ‘an introduction to improvisation for the beginner jazz harpist’. We looked at the reggae rhythm and at a Bossa Nova and experimented with using lever slides and with improvising over the rhythms.
In November, we welcomed Emily Harris, who taught us some Welsh tunes intended for performance by a big ensemble at the 2020 World Harp Congress (which was to have taken place in Cardiff earlier this year and is now postponed to 2021).
The arrival of the Covid-19 virus and consequent cancellation of our get-togethers led to our first online meetings, using the Zoom videoconferencing tool initially and, in later meetings, a combination of Zoom and Skype in order to accommodate members who were struggling with one or other of these tools. Our Convenor, Julia Hammersley, worked hard to get the online meetings up and running and to record and post online videos of the tunes. Though a few people experienced technical hitches, the meetings went surprisingly smoothly for most people and were usually well-attended, with some good feedback from members. The meetings took place weekly from April until July, when we moved to monthly meetings. We have learned a host of new tunes, from traditional Irish and English music to an Iranian tune and new compositions by Julia and by Isobel Mieras.
Contrary to expectations, the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions this year have caused us to do more harping as a Branch than in a normal year. We are looking forward to being able to meet again in person to play through all the new repertoire we have learned, but at least we know that, in the meantime, we can continue to meet and play online.
Catherine Dack (Secretary)