Harpists of the World

This series of recorded conversations were conceived as a means of reaching out to distinguished harpists in countries all over the world to find out about their life and work and to show the  different types of harps that exist in other cultures. Over recent years, the means of connecting meaningfully over the internet by zoom or other platforms has proved to be a real boon. I have been extremely privileged, on behalf of the fifth Wales International Harp Festival,  to talk to harpists from many backgrounds and cultures to find out more about subjects that are of common interest to harpists wherever they may be. Many of the musicians play very different styles and kinds of harps – from early renaissance and Baroque harps to the Chinese Konghou, Latin American harps, the African Kora and of course the modern pedal concert harp.

As an innovation, the Festival has produced a series of online conversations with highly respected harpists who have made extraordinary contributions to the harp internationally but who are not able to be with us in person.

Paul Dooley

Esyllt Roberts

Esyllt Nest Roberts de Lewis was brought up in Eifionydd, Gwynedd and was surrounded by the culture of Wales and immersed in the art of Cerdd Dant and Folk Singing. She remembers being fascinated by the harp when she was having lessons from the Cerdd Dant specialist, Selyf, in Garndolbenmaen.
Esyllt started having harp lessons when she was 12 years old at Ysgol Penrallt, Pwllheli, and sang Cerdd Dant with Nan Elis, Pwllheli. She studied Welsh at Aberystwyth University and achieved a higher degree in Ethnology at Cardiff University in association with the Museum of Welsh life, St Fagan’s. She was Editor of Carreg Gwalch Press for almost 5 years and then followed a PGCE course at Bangor University. She was appointed teacher at Ysgol Bontnewydd, Caernarfon (where her grandfather, father and mother had previously taught) and secured a teaching position in the Welsh community in Patagonia in 2004. Shortly afterwards in 2006 she married her husband, Cristian Lewis, in the town of Y Gaiman and lives there with their two sons, Mabon and Idris.

Years later she was persuaded to give harp lessons at Y Gaiman, which she did on a voluntary basis for 2 years before being officially employed there as a harp teacher in 2015. This coincided with the 150th anniversary celebrations of establishing Y Wladfa and a fundraising campaign in Wales to buy harps for Patagonia. Now, in addition to being teacher of the Welsh language at Coleg Camwy College, she is also teaches harp at Ysgol Gerdd y Gaiman (Gaiman Music School) and is freelance editor and translator for publishers in Wales.

This video is available in Welsh. 

Masumi Nagasawa 

Welcome to another podcast in this series of conversations with harpists from many parts of the world ,  who play many different styles of harps. In this podcast,  I’m delighted to have the company of a most inspiring and accomplished artist who will introduce us to  two very different harps from  her collection.

Masumi Nagasawa is a versatile, internationally-acclaimed harpist.  Masumi  was born in Tokyo, Japan,  but spent much of her childhood and early education in the Netherlands.

Masumi’s  first harp lessons were  with the Japanese harpist, Watanabe, and she later studied  with Phia Berghout at the Maastricht Conservatoire.  She received her PhD degree from the University of Leeds, England, in 2018.

Masumi Nagasawa has a  broad  repertoire of classical and modern music for the pedal  harp, and is the leading  expert on the European single-action harp and  18th and 19th-century harp practice,  giving master classes in conservatories and universities all over the world.

Masumi has been the recipient of many awards  including the Prix d’ Excellence in the Netherlands and the Muramatsu Music Prize Grand Prix in Japan.

She  has  played in many  important concert halls in  Amsterdam, Tokyo, Budapest, Rome,  Copenhagen, Brussels and Washington DC.

Currently, she teaches both double and single-action pedal harps at the University of Music in Detmold, Germany.  

She also is an active researcher into the history of  the ancient  Kugo – the  ancient Japanese harp from the 10th century which was abandoned for many centuries but  has been revived recently. I look forward very much indeed to finding out  more about this fascinating instrument a little later – after we discuss her research and fine playing on the Single-action harp – the first form of mechanical harp which originated in Germany in the middle of the 18th century and became the favoured instrument of Royalty – especially in France.


But let’s ask Masumi about this lovely harp  and about the ancient Kugo.

Ann Hobson-Pilot

Released 20 April 2023

Ann Hobson-Pilot. I was thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity of meeting and talking to one of the United States of America’s most distinguished and famous harpists – an extraordinarily gifted musican who has played with some of the finest conductors in the world and premiered music by many of the world’s leading composers. She is the favourite harpist of the legendary film music composer, John Williams. Of particuar interest to harpists in Wales is the fact that she recorded WIlliam Mathias’ beautiful Harp Concerto in 1992 the year of the composer’s death. In our conversation, we talked about her early harp lessons in Philadelphia and her career as the first African American harpist working in a major orchestra in the States and the challenges that she faced as a black woman musician in 1960’s America. She was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 40 years, and since her retirement in 2009, has become very active in chamber music and as soloist.

Ion-Ivan Roncea

Released 5 April 2023

Ion Ivan Roncea is the most revered harpist and teacher in Romania, and has an extraordinary career on the international stage. I talked to him online at his home in Bucharest about his work as concert harpist and teacher. Ion Ivan Roncea studied at the National University of Music in Bucharest with Liana Pasquali, and later with Pearl Chertok in New York; Ion won many prestigious prizes on the international stage including the hugely prestigious International Harp Competition in Israel in 1976; he has given concerts as soloist with major orchestras and given recitals and masterclasses all over the world, and played with all the leading orchestras in major music venues internationally from Bucharest to Berlin, Salzburg, Copenhagen, Paris, Tokyo to mention only a few.

Isobel Mieras

Released 28 March 2023

Isobel Mieras is the President of the Clarsach Society, and the driving force behind the Edinburgh Harp Festival, which was established in 1980. As her opposite number in the Wales International Harp Festival , I am delighted to join her in this podcast to explain how both organisations began and how they evolved and developed into the successful Festivals of today. The inspiration for this recorded conversation came originally from Isobel Mieras, as we considered how best to deal with the fact that both the Wales International Harp Festival (WIHF) and the Edinburgh International Harp Festival (EIHF) would be held on exactly the same dates in 2023! In the past, both festivals have been held around Easter but exact dates have been avoided. There were technical reasons why this clash was inevitable, and both Isobel and I decided to make a virtue out of necessity by helping each other in whatever ways possible. Isobel suggested a joint podcast and I readily agreed and incorporated our conversation into the series made for the Wales International Harp Festival, with the intention of using it jointly to seek publicity for both festivals and attract new visitors and participants.

As “elders” of the harp Festivals in the two Celtic countries we share mutual respect for each other’s work. I have tremendous admiration for the huge success of the EIHF and was privileged to perform there several times in the past. Isobel came to Wales to perform and adjudicate. In this conversation we discuss the joys, trials and challenges of organising festivals and are glad to share information about the organisations that we were responsible for creating over 40 years ago.

Nathania Ko

Released 23 March 2023

Nathania Ko lives in Vancouver. She is a classically trained pedal harpist and composer, and is the only player of the traditional Chinese harp – the Konghou – in I was anxious to know more about this fascinating instrument which has evolved from the ancient  Chinese harp.  Nathania obtained her Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, studying the Harp with Elizabeth Volpé Bligh, and a Bachelor’s degree from Shenyang Conservatory of Music in China, where she studied the Konghou with Hong He. Nathania was a finalist at the 2022 World Harp Competition held in Utrecht, Amsterdam by the Dutch Harp Festival, and she was also a finalist at the Creative Media Competition held by the 13th World Harp Congress in Hong Kong, where she served as a member of the hosting committee. She is engaged in international World Music events and has been involved with music festivals such as the premiere Silk Road Music Festival in Xi’an, Yo-Yo Ma’s YMCG in Guangzhou, and Wu Man’s Improvisation Workshop in Beijing. She is an active performer in Vancouver and China, and her compositions became Konghou examination repertoires that have been awarded gold and silver prizes in major Chinese national competitions. Her students are located across the globe in the UK, China, USA, Canada, Singapore, Ireland, and France.

Andrew Lawrence-King

Released 15 March 2023

Andrew Lawrence-King is one of the world’s leading performers of Early Music, doyen of historical harp- playing and internationally renowned scholar. He is an expert on the harps of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. My conversation with Andrew led from how he started to play the harp to his work in re-writing one of Monteverdi’s lost operas, Ariadne , and his life as a resident of Talinn, Estonia since 2019. I feel so priviledged to have the opportunity of talking to Andrew, whose work I admire greatly and who has added so much to our knowledge of our instrument’s history. To learn more see Andrew Lawrence-King’s website.