Sometimes I have to step back and really appreciate my job. Just this past weekend I found myself performing in the Kasteel De Hooge Vuursche – a gorgeous castle just half an hour out of Utrecht. The castle was built in 1912, so it has the rich, worn feeling of an old building, but it’s been beautifully renovated so that it’s now a luxurious venue for events. We had beautiful weather that day, and a gentle breeze waft through the building. When the doors were all open, you could see all the way from the concert hall, through the reception area to the magnificent fountain in the gardens out front. At moments like these, the practice hours are all worth it.
A few weeks ago, I got a message from Merel Vercammen, a good friend of mine here in Holland who not only is an excellent violinist but is just back from completing a master’s of science degree in Music, Mind, and Brain in London. She wanted to know if I would be interested in developing a concert idea with her which would incorporate some the latest research about how music affects the brain.
Several brainstorm sessions and rehearsals later, we have now come up with a fun and interactive concert format which invites the audience to participate in an experiment demonstrating how music combines with mood to enhance cognitive performance. With the help of a smart-phone app designed by software developer Gert Wijnalda, we’re going to be able to project data and results live during the show. We’re also incorporating a beautiful program of music for violin and harp by composers such as Mozart, Fauré, and Arvo Pärt.
Just this weekend, we pitched the idea to the Grachtenfestival (a summer music festival in Amsterdam), and they loved it! They decided to book the show, and we’re starting to even get interest from other festivals too.
I am delighted to be able to announce that I have just been offered the position of First Sub-Principal Harp in the Netherlands Camerata—a new orchestra that is currently forming in Amsterdam. It was a busy time of year during the month of December while I was preparing and video-taping the audition material, but the effort was entirely worth it. I had never dared to hope that a harp position would open up in the Netherlands so soon after I moved here—it’s an amazing coincidence! Several people have asked me for more details about what kind of music I’ll be playing, where the concerts will be, etc. But the first concerts start only in September 2015, so I don’t know too much yet. I’ll post updates as I find out more, and in the meantime, you can check out their website: netherlandscamerata.nl.
In an effort to get to know the Dutch Harp community a bit more, I’ve decided to try out for this orchestra audition training course in Amsterdam.
The course is run by Sandrine Chatron, who is the principal harpist for the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. The idea is that a maximum of eight participants go for four days of intensive workshop sessions this November and then compete in a final audition. The winner earns an invitation to play one program with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in the next concert season.
I’m still somewhat undecided as to how practical it is for me to do such a course (even if I win the audition I still pay a €200 tuition fee), but I can say that so far it’s definitely helping me get back in shape after the summer holidays, which is going to have a lot of side benefits. I’m busily brushing up my orchestral excerpts, and I already have a handful of blisters to show for it.
Ravel – Tzigane Cadenza
Strauss – Salome’s Dance
Stravinsky – Symphony in Three Movements, III
Wagner – Fire Music
Here it is at last: my website has launched! I’m finally set up with a proper domain name and a site to go with it. So, if you’re reading this, thank you very much for visiting me here.
Though this is my first blog post on the site, I’ve already done quite a bit of blogging elsewhere on the internet. At my previous blog spot, Beyond the Moment, you can still read about my experiences competing in the Israel International Harp Competition in 2009. I have also blogged for the Dutch Harp Festival, for all three of its editions. The latest edition was just this past February, and there is still an online archive of the first edition in 2010.
So then, why a new blog now?
Because this one is going to be something new. I am broadening my scope, expanding my theme. I plan to make this new website my outlet for sharing everything harp related with you, my readers. This blog is for you. In the coming posts, you might find tutorials on a harp topic, music recordings, observations about what’s going on in the harp world, my experience of harp events, or even ideas for the future. I hope that you will discover something useful to you here. But also feel free to reach out and tell me what you would like to read about. I don’t presume to know more or to be better in any way than my readers, only that we might have a common interest and that perhaps you would be interested in (or at least entertained by) hearing my perspective.
Here’s where I’m coming from:
I have 20+ years of experience playing, performing, and teaching harp. I’ve been all around the world with the harp, and I feel very much a part of the international harp community. I’ve just moved to the Netherlands from Thailand, and I’m completely in love with my new country. I’m all set up with my own bike, pedaling through Utrecht to and from Dutch classes and the Albert Heijn. There’s naturally a lot of new things I’ve had to get used to around me, but as I gradually reach a first-hand understanding of how things work here, it only increases my admiration for the Dutch. There is a great respect for quality of life and for the environment in evidence here. I love becoming a part of this society. Nonetheless, I am definitely still in the process of finding my place here.
So, let’s get started with this new online adventure!