The harp, South American style


Earlier this month Charlie Grimsey and Cerys Beesley (year 2) participated in a fantastic workshop in Turner Sims:

On the 4th November the word quickly spread that there was going to be a harp recital at the Turner Sims lunchtime concert series. What we didn’t expect was the charismatic Columbian harpist, Diego Laverde Rojas, to take the packed audience on a whirlwind tour of his homeland. He played a vibrant mix of pieces from South America, mainly the valley Los Llanos between Venezuela and Columbia. The concert was well received by everyone in the hall and many refused to leave afterwards. Diego hosted a workshop mainly for the harp performance and composition students, but many eager audience members also decided to stay.

IMG_1732In the workshop he showed us the main techniques used to play his ‘lowland harp’, which is different from standard western harps as it is a lot smaller, has no pedals or levers and the strings are all nylon. Because of the lack of pedals and levers, he had to re-tune his harp in the middle of the performance to change key, or using pitch bending techniques to alter the tonality. Diego uses his fingernails instead of his fingertips creating a unique timbre, sounding more like a classical guitar. He went through several Latin American rhythms getting us to join in by clapping along to the set rhythm patterns. We had a question and answer session where his enthusiasm for his instrument and music was most evident. Then the lucky few harpists in the audience were given the opportunity to play on the harps that he had brought with him and try out the newfound techniques. It was a very interesting experience as the lowland harp was so different to the harp that we are used to. It was very exciting to try it out for ourselves after learning all about it.