Wednesday, 12 December 2012

2012 and the end of an era

Well, our final concert of the year has been and gone: a festively fantastic Christmassy programme for Dillington House on 8 December. We last played at Dillington in May 2005 so it was a lovely treat to return, this time accompanied by crisp, wintery sunshine and a roaring fire! We were wonderfully looked after during our stay and loved the chance to play all our favourite Christmas carols from The Holly and the Ivy to Jingle Bells (complete with sleigh bells and audience singalong) and Santa Baby! It was quite a departure from our usual programme but we managed to include a few well-known classical pieces too so there really was something for everyone.

The end of 2012 also marks the end of Angharad's time with the quartet. We are very sad to be saying goodbye after a wonderful six years of playing together and the quartet is musically so much more vibrant as a result of her contribution, but we wish her every success for her harp career in North Wales and hope to see her at any concerts we might have nearby!

We are excited though at the prospect of a new member and are looking forward to two days of auditions in January, after which, we will be announcing who is going to complete the new line up for 4G4H!!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Another great review!

We much enjoyed our concert for the Gower Festival on 21 July and were pleased to see a review of the performance in the South Wales Evening Post. You can read the review in full below:

4 Girls & 4 Harps: St Hilary’s Church,
IN the intimate setting of St Hilary’s Church,
Harriet Adie, Eleanor Turner, Keziah Thomas and
Angharad Wyn Jones of 4 Girls 4 Harps, enriched
their audience with floods of melody in an
eclectic yet well proportioned selection of
musical delights.
From Handel to Piazzolla, the audience was
serenaded with sounds that seemed as from
above, transported to bohemian Spain and left
toe-tapping to some spritely Scott Joplin rags in
the small jazzy encore. Between each sensitively
layered piece the girls displayed their heartening
camaraderie and musical savvy with ad-lib
narration and sassy quips. This
call-and-response inter-connectivity translated
seamlessly into both the jaunty jazz medley and
the transcendental Elemental (composed by
Harriet Adie). Adie’s composition was innovative
and well phrased, displaying a timely use of
percussive sounds chiming with contemplative
passages. A nest of warbling nightingales, 4 Girls
& 4 Harps gave us a bounteous evening
perfumed with delightful musical flutterings.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Babies, Premieres and collaborations - it has been a busy few months!

Well, it has been a little while since our last post, but in our defense, the birth of two quartet babies born to Eleanor and Harriet has kept us rather busy!

We are enjoying a lovely season of concerts so far, starting in Bournemouth on 5 May and with a visit to Tewkesbury on 22 June and Bradfield on 26 June completing the list for this month. We performed the World Premiere of Harriet's new piece Elemental on 26 May to a full house at The Hawth in Crawley and absoluely love playing it, even if it is very demanding! Our third visit to Leamington Hastings on 9 June turned out to be a concert with a difference as we ended up being 3 Girls on the night due to illness - we were very proud of our impromptu 3 harp programme assembled on the afternoon of the concert and received with rapturous applause!

Further concerts this year include return visits to Two Moors Festival on 20 October and Dillington House on 8 December, and our first appearance at the Gower Festival on 21 July.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Latest review in the Oxford Times

We really enjoyed performing at Holywell Music Room last Sunday (15 January) - a beautiful setting and great acoustics, in the middle of one of the most beautiful cities in the UK! We were also very pleased to read this review in the Oxford Times about the concert :)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Interview for BBC Radio Oxford

In a previous post we mentioned that Harriet had recently been interviewed about the quartet for the Jo in the Afternoon programme on BBC Radio Oxford. If you would like to listen to the interview then click here!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Camac Voice

We are thrilled to be chosen as the January 'Camac Voice' by french harp makers, Camac and the interview is below in full for any who may not have seen it on Harp Blog, the wonderfully entertaining and informative Camac blog written by our former member Helen Radice.

Camac Voice, January 2012: 4 Girls 4 Harps

January’s Camac voice is the exhilarating finale to a substantial work for harp quartet, commissioned and performed by the British ensemble 4 Girls 4 Harps. This work, ‘Saraswati’ by Edward Longstaff, is inspired by Saraswati the Hindu goddess of music (as well as of knowledge, art, science and technology). She is usually depicted with four arms, portrayed here by the four harp parts. For this recording, 4 Girls 4 Harps added a tabla line, from Sanju Sahai, to emphasise the work’s powerful rhythmic quality as well as its Indian influences.

Harpblog posted an article about 4G4H nearly two years ago, in February 2010. You can read about the group’s beginnings here. As they have scaled the ranks from student quartet to a highly polished professional ensemble, they have remained true to their wish significantly to expand the harp quartet repertoire - also for other harpists.

Despite band member Keziah Thomas now spending half her time in America, 4 Girls 4 Harps have gone from strength to strength, proving that an established ensemble can continue to work even if other commitments necessarily pull in different directions. Their CD from 2010 (on which you will find ‘Saraswati’) has been repeatedly played on Classic FM and BBC Radio 3. They have appeared several times on Welsh television (S4C and Nosen Lawen), were part of the opening celebrations for London’s major new concert venue King’s Place, and maintain a busy schedule of concerts around the UK. As for new original quartet repertoire, 4 Girls 4 Harps premiered Edward Cowie's ‘Nymphaeas’ at the Warehouse, London, in 2008, and also gave the second performance of Paul “Spiders” Patterson's similarly animal-themed ‘Avian Arabesques’ (originally written for the Royal Academy of Music Harp Ensemble). Adam Gorb plans to rearrange his Christmas work, 'Harp of Gold' for harp quintet, for the group too.

In addition, 4 Girls 4 Harps have commissioned ‘Celtic Springtime’ by Edward Watson, the Old Testament Quartet by the Rev. Phillip Joy, and - very important - two members of the group are composers themselves. Harriet Adie and Eleanor Turner have composed ‘Sun, Moon and Stars: A Middle Eastern Sky’ (Adie, 2004), ‘Rambla!’ (Turner, 2008), ‘The Island’ (Turner, 2002), and a new piece by Harriet - ‘Elemental’ - will be premiered in June 2012. Harriet and Eleanor are also responsible for the many fine transcriptions you can hear 4 Girls 4 Harps perform: Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, and Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals, to name but three. The Lichfield Gazette took note of their work in a recent review: “With the exception of Paul Patterson’s whimsical “Avian Arabesques”, most of the music we heard tonight was actually arranged or composed by members of the group. That included arrangements of Handel, Mozart and Khachaturian as well as a brilliantly effective original composition by Turner and – most impressive of all – Adie’s transcription of three movements from Ravel’s “Mother Goose”. With its whispered tremolandi, jewel-like harmonics, and deep, clangourous gong effects, this was superbly transcribed and equally superbly played. It made the more familiar piano version seem positively drab by comparison."

As well as tabla in 'Saraswati', 4 Girls 4 Harps have experimented further with adding other instruments to their sound. You can find videos of Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns and Ravel arrangements (the Rachmaninov 18th Paganini Variation arranged by Harriet, the rest by Eleanor) with choir and strings here. 2012 will see a new programme of arrangements for soprano and harp quartet, for the Bradfield Music Festival.

Sometimes, the quartet performs on matching pearlescent white Camac electric harps (which they commissioned from Camac in 2005). They use them for jazz or film music arrangements - such as music from James Bond, The Exorcist, The Wizard of Oz and Twilight!

You can order 4 Girls 4 Harps’s CDs here, find details of their concerts here, and follow them on their blog, on Facebook or on Twitter. Can’t get to a concert? Enjoy the videos on their YouTube channel, here. If you are interesting in getting hold of scores, you can buy some of Eleanor Turner's arrangements and compositions via her sheet music store, and you can contact Harriet through her website to ask about her work.

The review in the Lichfield Gazette quoted above begins like this: “4 Girls 4 Harps” was what it said on the poster, and four girls with four harps was exactly what we saw on stage at the Lichfield Garrick. That was it: no gimmicks, no stunts, no fancy costumes beyond elegant evening wear – just engaging chat and rather lovely music.” They are a great example of an ensemble that knows what it’s doing and does it very well. They are serious about the quality of their performance and the musical integrity of their arrangements, and realise that this does not exclude having fun with lighter music, adding other sound effects, or performing for a wide range of audiences.

Hello 2012

Well the New Year is off to a great start with an article about us on Camac Voice (see separate post for the article in full), and a live interview with BBC Radio Oxford - both in the same week!

We are also really looking forward to this month's concerts on Saturday, 14 January for South Holland Concerts in Spalding, Lincolnshire and Sunday, 15 January at Holywell Music Room, Oxford (the oldest concert hall in Europe!).

We hope we might see you at one of the concerts - a great new programme for the 2012 season featuring music by De Falla, Piazzolla, Faure, Mozart and our two resident composers Harriet and Eleanor.