Monday, 10 June 2013

Question time!

We frequently get asked all sorts of questions about the harp by curious audience members at concerts. It got us thinking that it would be fun to do a blog post answering some of them, and any other questions our fans might have about the group. Here are a selection of our favourite questions over the years:

1) How do you transport your harps?

We all have estate cars and travel individually to all our concerts. Contrary to popular belief, the car does not need to be a Volvo but we do need to take care that the car is big enough to fit the length of the harp and still have enough leg room for driving! For short distances we have trolleys to wheel the harps around.

2) What wood are your harps made of?

The most common wood to make a harp with is maple as it is strong enough to take the immense pressure that the strings put on the instrument. The soundboard is often made of spruce wood as it helps to create the mellow tone of the harp.

3) Do you get blisters?

We don't normally get blisters as we have built up hard skin on our finger tips over years of practise. We might get one if we went on holiday and then came back and did a lot of practise in one go as our fingers would have softened in the time away. Sometimes we get a blister if we are playing the harp in a way that we would not normally do.

4) Are all your harps the same?

Three of us play on Italian Salvi harps. Two of the harps are identical models (apart from their colour, one in dark wood and one in light). The fourth harp in the group is made by American company, Lyon and Healy. We love the difference in tone between the harps and try to utilise this when arranging music for the group.

5) What is it like playing in a group with four harps?

We love the chance to play together. As a harpist, one often plays alone, either in the orchestra or with function work, so it is lovely to have the opportunity to meet up with other musicians who know exactly what the challenges and fun bits of playing the harp are. We also enjoy the chance to have a good giggle and a gossip in rehearsals!

6) Is anyone the lead harpist in the group?

Not really - all the parts are equal and it is normally whoever has the tune at that point in the music that will lead the group. If we had to point to anyone it would probably be Eleanor because she is so easy to follow when she is leading.

7) How did the group come about?

Harriet and Eleanor were both at the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music where they studied harp ensemble with Daphne Boden. They enjoyed this so much that they started up a group which was originally managed by Harriet's mother and called the Barkham Harp Quartet. Keziah joined the group in 2000 and the group was taken on by Upbeat Classical Management in 2003. It was around this point that the group changed its name to 4 Girls 4 Harps. Elizabeth joined the group much later on after the departure of our previous member Angharad Wyn Jones and has been playing with us since January this year.

8) What has been your most memorable performance to date?

This is a hard one! We loved our performance for the World Harp Congress in Dublin. Playing for an audience of hyper-critical harpists was very nerve wracking and it was amazing that they were so enthusiastic in their applause! We also really enjoyed performing for the opening celebrations of London concert hall Kings Place as it was great to be taking part in something so exciting.

9) Do you ever wish you had taken up the flute?


10) How often do you rehearse?

We get together for a few days of intensive rehearsal at the start of each concert season. During this time we learn all the new repertoire and polish everything musically. After this, we tend to rehearse on the day of the concert and occasionally the day before if the concert is a slightly different format from our main concert programme.