Anouk Platenkamp: I like to learn. But when I first played folk/traditional music I didn’t know where to start with it. People say “listen to recordings” but for a classically trained harpist like me, it was quite a challenge to know what to do without any sheet music.
At that time when I read that Gráinne Hambly was coming to the Netherlands to teach a workshop, I knew immediately that it was what I needed: learning from someone that has been playing this kind of music for years. The workshop was a great success for me: I learned about ornamentations and how to start arranging tunes. This first experience was so good that whenever I got a chance to take a class in the Netherlands, I would be there.
Jeanette van Nieulande organises workshops in her harp shop "De Zingende Snaar Harpen", in Leerdam. I went to some of them and taught improvisation and harp therapy myself.
Jeanette van Nieulande & De Zingende Snaar Harpen
Jeanette started her business a little over nine years ago. She had been playing the harp, but couldn’t find any instrument with the sound she wanted. An American friend living in the Netherlands suggested to try a Dusty Strings harp. At this time, these harps weren’t available in the country but Jeanette, being the entrepreneur she is, ordered one from the US. She loved the harp so much that she wrote to Dusty Strings to see if she could sell their harps. This was the beginning of De Zingende Snaar. After two years of being in Dordrecht, Jeanette decided to look for a new store a little more in the centre of the country. The amazing place, where she is now, is in Leerdam: a lot of space for harps, CDs, sheet music and even a room to give workshops in.
Jeanette is always looking for a new sound to complement the harps she already sells. She likes to find the instrument which fits every individual customer. Over the years she's found other harp brands hard to bring over here. De Zingende Snaar Harpen is now one of the two shops with a storefront in the Netherlands selling Celtic harps from all over the world, such as Camac, Harfonie Harps, Harps of Lorien, Silver Spear, Starfish, Teifi, Weissgerber and also pedal harps by Pilgrim.
From the Lowlands Harp Meeting to the International Harp Friends Meeting
In 2011, Jeanette offered me to come along to the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. We had such a good time that we ended up going to the Nordic Harp Meeting (which was held in Denmark that year) together as well. For both of us these kinds of events (whether it’s a single workshop or a festival) are more than just a place to learn a new tune or a technique, they give you the opportunity to meet new people as well as old friends, and getting excited about your own music. Without exception, the experience has given me / us a new motivation to play the harp.
On our way back from Denmark, we talked about how much fun these festivals / meetings are and how we would love to create something similar in the Netherlands. As a name we immediately thought of "Lowlands Harp Meeting", which sounded great. “Lowlands” is another way of calling the Netherlands (the Lowlands of Holland). We started organising the event, contacting the teachers, creating a Facebook page, when someone mentioned that we may not be able to use "Lowlands" in the name since a big pop-festival is already using it. We had to quickly change the name in order to start promoting the event. Jeanette came up with the Harp Friends Meeting which conveys everything we want it to be, so that became the new name.
Three years ago, Jeanette launched another big event promoting the Celtic harp: the Waregemse Harp Dag, in Belgium. Therefore we already had an organisational plan which could be used for the Meeting. Through this event, we’d like to stimulate the sense of community, with international harpers. Next to that, we want to develop the Celtic / lever harp in the Netherlands and give people the opportunity to experience the magic of a harp festival in their own country. Most of the harp players in the Netherlands play the lever harp. Even so, a lot of teachers (and players) consider the instrument to be a start-up for the pedal harp. That is why we have invited professional lever-harp players to perform and teach at the Meeting.
The entire program can be found online here.