You are browsing the archive for 2015 January.

by Fiona

‘Harpas at Halsway Manor 2014

29/01/2015 in workshop review

stairsHarpas at Halsway has joined various festivals as a 'must do' entry on our calendar at the start of each year. Having attended all three so far I know each time I would have hated to miss the next one! Right from that moment of driving through the gates into the grounds of Halsway Manor there is that lovely feeling of belonging, homecoming and anticipation, all rolled into one. The surroundings are beautiful, the people very friendly and the music fantastic.

The weekend starts with a meal in the Manor dining room followed by a relaxed evening of session playing and getting to know each other - work starts in earnest on the Saturday morning, although Vicki always gives the complete beginners an initial lesson on the Friday. We have had different ways of splitting the group to accomodate the different ability levels, but everyone has had the choice to work at their own level as well as being stretched! Just the opportunity to play together makes the weekend worthwhile but add into that the new tunes, the input on playing technique and Vicki's enthusiasm and warmth and you have the recipe for success!

MedalsThe days are nicely split into different sessions concentrating on areas such as types of tune, chords, finger exercises, bow technique and looking after the instrument, punctuated by tea and coffee breaks and meals and the opportunity to hear what non playing partners have been enjoying in the local area. On the Saturday evening we have been treated to a brilliant concert each time, which was also attended by some of the locals. In the past we have shared the Manor with the pipers society, so the concert has been pipes and harpas, with many memorable performances from Vicki and Jonny as well as the piping tutors. Last year our group then indulged in the light entertainment of the Harpa Olympics, where events such as the Svingrumpa Marathon caused much hilarity! All were awarded gold medals at the end, (specially made by Vicki using ribbon and chocolate coins!) and the prize of another great tune and dance session.

Harpa-WheelThe Sunday provides lots of opportunities to recap new material and play in parts with rounds or arrangements created by Vicki, and last year we processed across to coffee to serenade the pipers! After a wonderfully tasty Sunday lunch we had a gentle afternoon and finished about three thirty with a devonshire cream tea, our brains stretched to their maximum!
The next one is booked and waiting - it feels very exciting to think about taking over the whole Manor and filling it with harpas - thank you, Vicki, for taking the brave leap!


by Vicki

International Days of the Nyckelharpa

26/01/2015 in workshop review

The 11th International Days of Nyckelharpa - Burg Fürsteneck, somewhere vaguely near Frankfurt
Cost: €330 - €380, includes tuition fees, accomodation and meals

This is a huge residential nyckelharpa course. Seventy nyckelharpa players in the same castle (not a huge castle, more a fortified manor house, but it has a lovely tower). To get to the International Days in time I flew Lufthansa from London and arrived at the airport railway station and met up with the Swedes. I was grateful to have company to help me find my way, but I think I would have been ok in finding my way. The train journey to the castle is around 2 hours and is easy enough, just one change and a taxi ride and you're at the castle.

I was booked as a tutor and as it was my first time at Burg Fürsteneck I was unsure what to expect. Would it be like my Halsway weekends? What was the standard of playing going to be like? Would I have prepared enough material? It's hard to write up about the weekend - there was so much happening and going on that it would be a really long essay!

On the first (Thursday) evening everyone gathers in the main hall and all the tutors get to introduce themselves and play a little. This is where the students all get to make their final choice as to which tutor they're going to spend their time with. Was I petrified? Absolutely. I played safe. My chosen topic for the weekend was British music on the nyckelharpa - I chose to play a couple of well trodden session tunes. I have never ben so scared! Not only were my heroes in the room also playing for the students, but I was in a room with 70 other nyckelharpa players. It was an incredible room to be in.

From this point on the weekend flew past. The first workshop session is on that Thursday night. and you stay with the same group until Sunday morning. There are a two sessions (called short workshops) where you can change tutor and learn something new. It was great for me to teach some tunes to the different groups and get a feel for the differing standards. I taught jigs, reels, slip jigs. I even taught a simple dance. In the evenings there is time to drink beer and session. There was the usual Swedish tune session and I started more traditional British session, but these tunes aren't so well known on the continent yet, but I'm pretty sure this is going to change. The makers take over one room and each display their instruments and talk about them. The concert on the Saturday night is open to the general public and each tutor gets to perform and some ensembles get to perform together. The standard of playing was incredibly high and it was wonderful to see so many different styles and genres represented.

There were eight tutors and students ranged from complete beginners to very advanced. Swedish music, British music, classical music, early music, ensemble music. There really was something for everyone.

I was booked as a tutor, so I can only give a tutor's eye view of the weekend, but I'd certainly love to be a participant and may well try to get to the castle in future years as a student. That won't be next year - I'm back as a tutor again. I'd better head off down to the pub and brush up on more British session tunes!