New Zealand Harp Society
I fell in love with the harp as a five-year-old, and have never looked back. To my ears then and now, it is the instrument with the most magical resonance and colour, capable of creating beautiful worlds of sound.
I was fortunate to have great family support for my harp dreams. I studied music at university, and went on to gain a Master of Music degree from Boston University. Playing in orchestra was not my favourite thing at first – but the opportunities kept coming and I changed my mind after a few thrilling experiences performing some of the greatest works of musical art with other inspiring musicians. After a lot of work taking auditions, I was appointed by the NZSO in 1989 as the orchestra's Principal Harpist.
I have now lived in New Zealand for over half my life, and long ago adopted the country as my home. I am incredibly grateful to have had a long career in this orchestra, playing music by incredible artists such as Mahler, Debussy, Britten, Puccini, and many more, and sharing the stage with wonderful colleagues from around the world. The NZSO is the country's national orchestra, so we tour both islands regularly – and I have been able to see so much of the country just by going to work!
Over the years I have also been fortunate to have a stream of wonderful harp students to learn from! And many opportunities to perform overseas, in places like London, Amsterdam, Beijing, Sydney, Geneva, and even Antarctica. But it is always my favourite thing to come back to my home in Wellington.
In recent times I have uncovered a new aspect to my journey with the harp: therapeutic music. I think of it as music without its fancy clothes and big house. This work is about bringing live, adaptable, individually tailored music (with a small harp) to vulnerable people in various settings. Using appropriately chosen simple arrangements, modal tonalities, and improvisation, this kind of music has been shown to be very effective in reducing pain, inducing the relaxation response, alleviating anxiety, and even helping to support vital sign stabilisation.
I am new to this work but already finding it so compelling and powerful. It seems to be coming full circle for me – the resonance and simple beauty of the harp's sound which first entranced me as a child, is now the aspect of the instrument which I am using the most in this intimate work.
Yi Jin (Auckland)
Music for me is a mode of discovery, a language which connects us with the intelligence of our universe. I enjoy using my inner hearing and senses to find music in the world around us - the myriad vibrations hovering behind our perceived reality. I like to do musical research projects, and I will most often present my findings in a kind of arty situation which is my favourite kind of performance.
I’ve been playing harp for nigh on forty years, and had the good fortune to play music around the world - many cultures and styles from symphonies to jazz, folk pop trad, the lot. Recently I studied the resonance of plants, and there I've found the music that I most love to play. My harp students often ask me to write out some tree or flower music for them. I also love to show people how to hear it for themselves. I teach harp and resonance music in workshops, schools, privately and online.
My harps include a Lyon and Healy Style 23 named Thizbee, a well-loved old style Andrew Thom named Red, a couple of colourful home-made cardboard harps which get high rotation between children and forests, and a guzheng.
I'm a proud Oceanic woman - Samoan Australian Kiwi. Born in Wellington, I've lived in Melbourne, Istanbul and now Cairns. I enjoy weaving, painting, gardening, reading, being in nature and spending time with my family.
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I own two L&H Style 30 concert grands. One is the NZSO's old harp and was my first pedal harp, and the other I got in 2006 when I outgrew the older harp's sound.
I first said I wanted to play the harp aged 4 1/2, and started lessons with Carolyn Mills in Wellington when I was 11. I did my BMus at VUW with Carolyn and then went on to further studies in Australia and Toronto. I came back home to NZ as a freelance professional in 2013, and in 2018 I was appointed to the position of Principal Harp with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. I now have a busy performance schedule alongside my private harp teaching.
I also have a Masters degree in Philosophy, and in my spare time (and in orchestra rehearsals during the rests!) I love to knit.
My harp journey started as a young child. I was fascinated with the harp. As a 7 or 8 year old, attending NZSO concerts, I would always look for "Principal Harpist - Rebecca Harris" on the programme. Decades later I attended my first harp lessons.
Although I had studied other instruments, progress on the harp was slow and more challenging than I had anticipated. Over subsequent years I have been grateful for the encouragement of my teacher, other adult learners, as well as younger harp students. I've tackled the challenge of sitting harp exams and taking part in performances and workshops. I've also had the privilege of attending harp events in New Zealand and overseas, and (in 2020) online!
My fascination with the harp continues as I enjoy expanding my repertoire, creating music with other harpists, socialising with harpists, listening to harp performances, and seeking opportunities to learn more about this wonderfully unique instrument.
I currently own two harps: a Rees Aberdeen Meadow 36 string harp and a Rees Morgan Meadow 23 string lap harp (pictured to the right).
I first wanted to play the harp when I was 9, we couldn't afford a harp so I took up the viola instead. Therese Elder Wunrow was the harpist in our youth symphony and I never lost the desire to play and loved the opportunities I got to hear her play. After graduating from university and working for a year I got my first harp, a Salvi Daphne petite pedal harp. I took lessons in Chicago, then moved for work and stopped playing much due to other life pressures, I then moved to San Francisco and studied with Marjorie Chauvel before work became all consuming. I sold my harp when we decided to sell up everything and go sailing for a bit. My husband tired of my saying I miss my harp, and surprised me with my 23 string lap harp which I enjoyed playing whilst we sailed the South Pacific. The harp is a fantastic icebreaker when travelling! After landing in New Zealand I attended one of Anna and Lisas Harpenz and started getting involved again. A few years later, after being part of starting a robotics company which was then sold, I got my first Aberdeen Meadows.
Outside of being a professional research and development engineer who enjoys being part of startup companies, I also once liked to draw and have resumed the hobby of drawing and painting again during lockdown.
As of very recently, I’m the proud owner of three harps! I’ve owned my Doug Eaton 36-string harp (pictured) since 2011, and in the last month she is joined by a Lyon & Healy 85CG and a 22-string Triplett Zephyr harp. This year I was lucky to have my Doug Eaton with me while performing boiler inspections in Christchurch, and I really enjoyed the acoustics of the workshop where I was living!
I like to be a bit of a nomad: I am living overseas in Queensland, Australia at present during the border closure, after coming back for my best friend’s wedding (playing harp, of course!). When I’m in NZ, I am based in Christchurch. I enjoy playing at weddings and other occasions for people, because it’s a great excuse to travel and have a harpy holiday!! I always get a kick out of the positive reactions from people who love the sound and the aesthetics of the harp. It also sparks interesting conversations with other people about their own musical stories.
I have been playing harp for 9 years. I first fell in love with harp in 2007 after seeing a video for “Sprout and the Bean” by Joanna Newsom on an Australian music TV program, “Rage”.
The beautiful thing about the harp for me is the personal joy and satisfaction, the wonderful people I have met through the harp community, and the opportunity to learn about life and music from my wonderful harp teacher, Ingrid. Music is a great puzzle that will mystify and entertain me for my whole life.
I own several harps starting with a paraceltic harp that I built in 2004. I Also have a Keith Harrison 35 string lever (Elizabeth model), Max Cherry 34 string lever, x2 harp of the South (Ketih Harrison) 26 string partially levered harpsicles, An Early Music shop 29 string levered harp, a 26 string Fulliscle levered harp and most recently, a 42 string Etude, Aoyama Concert pedal harp.
I've grown to love all things harp over the years and my daughters, Hannah (9 yrs old) and Ella (7 yrs old) are students of the harp. I have studied with Annemieke Harmonie (Nelson) and currently the girls and I are students of Natalia Mann (Cairns). This year, I have also studied through online learning with Amanda Whiting (Wales), Anna Dunwoodie (Auckland) taking part in her Tuesday tunes sessions and with Josh Layne (Canada) participating in his recent workshop series.
I was in a jazz ensemble through Hagley Community College as a vocalist with harpist Bele Malik in 2003. I started to play the harp after building my first and for several years I was self-taught until Bele introduced me to Annemieke Harmonie Jan 2014.
I have been a sponsor of the NZ Harp Competition for 3 years following placing first in Grade 2/3 category in the first year of the competition in 2015. I have played in a harp orchestra in Nelson, in the community and will shortly, return to playing in the community again.
I am keen to support children of Maori / Pasifika descent to learn harp and enhance and expand our harping community here in the top of the south, Te tau Ihu o te waka a Maui and across Aotearoa. .
I was a Women's Advocate for Women's Refuge in Whakatu (Nelson) and am currently training to support and teach Te Reo Maori with Te Ataarangi
I am a keen bee enthusiast and Hannah, Ella and I co-own a beehive in Nelson with two other whanau. We are also members of the Nelson Beekeepers club.