Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama will host the 14th World Harp Congress in 2020. With visitors expected from over 50 countries, this will be a truly international festival of recitals, concerts, workshops and seminars, embracing all aspects of harp music and performance. Students will have a unique opportunity to experience the Congress and will be involved in numerous events leading up to, and during, the festival. Congress have been held in Vancouver in 2011, in Australia in 2014 and then in Hong Kong in 2017.
RWCMD offers world-class training and performance facilities within a lively capital city boasting an excellent musical provision and constant demand for harpists. While celebrating that Wales is ‘The Land of the Harp’, training in harp at the College encompasses an international perspective on all levels. Our diverse and challenging courses prepare harpists for a life in the professional world, whether that may be centred on solo performance, chamber ensemble playing, orchestral work, teaching, arranging and/or performing in popular idioms or jazz. Our aim is to produce a well-rounded musician with the skills necessary to sustain a successful career.
All harp students work closely with Caryl Thomas as well as with other dedicated members of the teaching team. Individual lessons concentrate on developing a secure technique while learning a broad repertoire of solo works including notable concertos and chamber pieces. Weekly performance classes provide an opportunity to play in front of your peers in preparation for public recitals, chamber music performances, masterclasses with distinguished visiting artists, assessments, and various concerts outside of College.
Several of our past students have competed successfully in both national and international competitions and support is given towards planning, repertoire choice and preparation. In College, the Royal Welch Fusiliers Harp Prize is one of a number of prizes contested annually with a significant prize for the successful competitor.
Catrin Finch is the College’s Artist-in-Residence and has a close working relationship with the Harp Department through masterclasses, workshops and performances. Meinir Heulyn and Valerie Aldrich-Smith cover the teaching of operatic and orchestral repertoire and Kathryn Rees ensures every student develops a secure technique, while Amanda Whiting gives regular jazz and arranging classes. Every year, internationally renowned soloists visit the College to give recitals and masterclasses; and students have had the opportunity to listen to, and to play for Xavier de Maistre, Isabelle Perrin, Emmanuel Ceysson, Florence Sitruck, Alice Giles, Cantal Mathieu, Lavinia Meijer, Maria Luisa Rayan and Sacha Boldachev.
For undergraduates, a range of supporting studies are covered, including a teaching skills programme together with lectures and seminars on vital topics such as promotion, career planning and business skills. Harp students are encouraged to work particularly closely with members of the string and woodwind departments, as well as with singers and composers. All this places a strong emphasis on the development of collaborative, professional skills and musical confidence, and builds a secure foundation upon which to establish a rewarding career. Many of our alumni enjoy successful and fulfilling employment in the music profession.
The College has two dedicated harp rooms with six full-size concert harps, one semi-grand harp, one Erard Grecian harp, two triple harps and a number of Clarsach. All student harpists are incredibly busy throughout the academic year playing with a broad range of College ensembles, as well as further opportunities with the College’s Hire a Performer and outreach programmes. They also have the opportunity to audition for the placement scheme we have developed with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera.