Festival 2023

4-5 November 2023!

Festival Bookings update: Thank you so much to all who have booked for this Festival - we are so happy about the incredibly positive response we have had!

However, to ensure everyone case receive all the relevant information in time, bookings for all courses are now CLOSED.

We are hoping very much to run similar events in the future, so if you have missed out this time, please don't worry, there will be other opportunities! We also welcome your ideas for workshops/ideas that you would like to see featured next time.

So, happy harping from all the festival team, and please excuse us now whilst we finish the preparations!

We're BACK! Our FOURTH annual Transpennine Harps Online Festival weekend will take place on the 4-5 of November 2023. Come and join us for another wonderful weekend of workshops, playing and sharing our love of the harp - accessible from anywhere!

As usual, we are offering a really wide range of workshops for players of all abilities, so whether you're a lover of all things Celtic, or whether you want to push the sonic boundaries of the harp by using extended techniques, we have something for everyone, no matter what your playing level might be!

There will also be the annual informal live-stream tea concert and chat, hosted by our fabulous tutors, Lucy Nolan and Tamsin Dearnley.

The Festival is open to all and provides a wonderful opportunity to learn, ask questions, and to meet and chat with other harp enthusiasts!

Just show me the courses!

Not convinced yet? Here are just some of the lovely comments we got after our event last year:

As with previous events, all workshops will be held using Zoom and the relevant links and materials will be sent out to participants in good time for the classes.

All of the sessions will be recorded so you can review them later, and there will be handouts and printed music with each class for you to download and keep.

**HUGE thanks to our talented member Joan Dearnley for the absolutely FABULOUS artwork she has produced this year - we're sure you'll agree it's stunning, as usual!**

Cost and how to book:


Each harp workshop will cost £5 (or the equivalent in your local currency). All attendees will receive course materials and a video recording of the session after the event.

If you can't make a live session, recording only bookings are also available for a reduced price of £4 (this includes relevant materials).

The Saturday tea concert will be free, but donations are always very much appreciated to help us cover our costs.

We will be using the beautifully straightforward booking system 'Zestival' (if you have been to previous events you will be familiar with this - if not, we promise it's super easy to use!). It would be very helpful if you would provide us with a phone number when booking (this will not be kept after the Festival) so that we can get in touch quickly in the (hopefully unlikely!) event of any technical issues before or during the workshops - we don't want anyone missing out because they can't connect!



You can view and download a quick-view timetable of the weekend here:

Open quickview timetable

For more information on the exact content of each course, please look at the links below.

If you have any questions at all about the content of the workshops, please do not hesitate to contact the relevant tutor: Lucy Nolan or Tamsin Dearnley.

Saturday 4th November

Level indicator (but please do read the descriptions or contact us for more detailed information if you are unsure whether a class is suitable for your level or not - most things are adaptable!)

B = Beginners/Post-beginners

I = Intermediates

A = Advanced

ALL = All playing levels welcome

Please note that the classes will be aimed at the levels indicated, but you may of course attend any workshop that interests you! Just be aware that the class may be faster/more involved or slower/less involved depending on the intended audience.

Please tap the relevant workshop title to take you to a more in-depth description of the class:

Morning timetable:

Afternoon Timetable:

Sunday 5th November

Morning timetable:

Afternoon timetable:

The Classes:
9:15 - 10:00 MG1: Meet & Greet (ALL) back to top

The morning 'Meet & Greet' sessions are a time for us to introduce ourselves, say hello to old friends, and generally enjoy each other's company before the classes begin. (If you're not a morning person, don't worry - attendance is not obligatory!)

10:00 - 11:15 - L1: Scandinavian Lullabies - a Darker Side...(B-I) back to top

Lullabies are traditionally thought of as soothing songs for children, but delving into the Scandinavian lullaby tradition we see a much darker side to some of these with warning lyrics of fantastical beasts and haunting melodies...

In this session we will explore arrangements of some of these beautiful tunes for harp.

10:00 - 11:15 T1: Soup up Your Scales! (ALL) back to top

Do you ever wish your scales sounded, well, a little... better? More even? Smoother? A little but more like that harpist you hear in your head who warms up with such panache that even their exercises sound like Beethoven...?

Scales are one of the fundamental aspects of playing the harp (or, indeed, pretty much any instrument!), yet it's surprising that so often, after we 'master' them early on, we don't often go back and polish them up in the way that we do other things.

This workshop will put a microscope to your scales and really focus in on the 'little things' that will help you to improve your fluidity and sound. If you want to level up your playing, this is the workshop for you!

11:30 - 12:45 L2: The Magic of Miriam Makeba (I-A) back to top

Zenzille Miriam Makeba was a South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist and one of the first African musicians to receive worldwide recognition and bring African music to Western audiences.

Her music is joyful, sorrowful, humorous... and the list continues! Nelson Mandela himself claimed that 'her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us'. We will have a glorious session exploring arrangements of this music for harp.

11:30 - 12:45 T2: Siren Songs (B-I) back to top

Yes, yes, we know that technically Sirens aren't mermaids at all, but what can we say, we like alliteration! Stories of mysterious sea-dwelling creatures that sing so beautifully that sailors are lured to their death appear in many different cultures throughout the world, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the melodies that come to be associated with these creates are often of an almost unearthly beauty.

In this session we will be learning a bewitching tune from the Hebrides which is said to have been sung by a mermaid to her young daughter...

14:00 - 15:15 L3: Not Just Plucking...!(ALL)back to top

As well as plucking our strings with a beautiful hand position and creating a perfect rounded sound (!), there are many other ways we can create different and exciting noises on our harps.

Ever started a beautiful arrangement and then been floored by that frustrating harmonic at the end that just never quite sounds?! Or had a complicated moving bass part that just ends up buzzing for England?

In this session we will explore other commonly used playing techniques examining the notation, what it means and how best to execute it from single harmonics to double harmonics, from etouffe to glissandos, from staccato fingering to damping. All too often these techniques are something we just add on or throw into a piece without really stopping and working them out so now is your chance!

14:00 - 15:15 T3: Pretty! Tuneful! (I) back to top

Tamsin is an accomplished and extremely eclectic composer, creating pieces such as the boundary-pushing 'Suite for Lever Harp' and the award-winning jazz solo '16,237 (.47)'. Her music has also made it into the Trinity exam syllabus, as well as having been performed at the International Harp Competition in Singapore.

In this session, you will be learning one of her latest compositions - one her new collection of what she terms quite simply 'Pretty Tunes' - simple yet beautiful melodies that are written for the lever harp by a lever harpist, are satisfying to play and lovely to hear!

15:15 - 16:00 MG2: Tea + Harps + Chat (ALL) back to top

We all need a break from playing - join us in the common room before the tea concert to meet other attendees and have a relaxed chat about, well, anything really!

16:00 - 17:00 C1: Informal Tea Concert (I-A) back to top

Join Lucy and Tamsin for a relaxed late-afternoon performance and see just how versatile the harp can be as they share their very different approaches to the instrument.

9:30 - 10:45 L4: Blast of Beethoven (I-A) back to top

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most well known and influential composers and his music spanned from the classical to the romantic with much in between. The tales of him turning completely deaf by the time he was in his 40s have fascinated musicians and non-musicians alike and only added to his revered composer status.

Apart from the 'six easy variations on a Swiss song', composed for the piano but published for the harp or the forte-piano (probably for commercial reasons), Beethoven has only written one piece for the harp: the adagio of the creatures Prometheus. Despite this, his works fit exceptionally well on the lever and pedal harps that we build today and in this session we will explore a 'blast of Beethoven'!

9:30 - 10:45 T4: A Look at the Left Hand (B-I) FULLY BOOKED back to top

So you have a lovely tune in your head - maybe you wrote it, or perhaps you just heard it somewhere. Maybe you have some chords you've been trying with it. But is it just somehow... not working?

If you struggle to coordinate the left and right hands together, don't worry - you are not alone!

In this workshop we will take a simple tune with some chord suggestions, and then look at some ways of both creating an accompaniment and ways to practise so that the hands work better together.

11:00 - 11:30 GT1: Yoga for Harpists (I) back to top

Sitting at your harp in front of a computer for long periods of time can make you very stiff!

This year, we have invited a guest tutor to guide us through a gentle yoga session specifically aimed at harpists, to help keep us in tip-top shape for playing!

PLEASE NOTE: this session will not be recorded for later viewing.

11:45 - 13:00 L5: Tudor Tunes (I) back to top

Music was of paramount importance in the Tudor period, particularly at the royal court where musicians were employed to entertain monarchs and tutor their children, often rewarded with extravagant tips and personal praise from the king or queen. Henry VIII himself was an enthusiastic musician. Travelling back in time we explore some of these melodies on our harps!

11:45 - 13:00 T5: Write your own Mermaid Song...! (I-A) back to top

Have you ever wanted to compose, but weren't sure where to start? Does it seem like a mystery to you how tunes come to be?

Get your creative juices flowing at this workshop where we will be looking at setting some mermaid-themed lyrics to music (don't worry, singing is not obligatory!). We will look the structure of several folk tunes to help uncover how they work, and use some (provided) chords, prompts, lyrics and ideas to help you get started writing your own.

The aim of this workshop is not necessarily to produce Your Best Work (although we hope that you like the results!), but simply to Write Something (Anything!) - which in itself is one of the biggest lessons a composer needs to learn: not everything you produce will be 'Great', but as you never know what will end up sounding good you need to be prepared to welcome all ideas that come to you!

You don't have to be a harpist to come to this workshop - musicians of all stripes are welcome! It helps if you can play or sing well enough to work out your ideas on your instrument, but even if you're not there yet all are welcome to come and listen.

**A basic knowledge of music reading and theory will be useful as we will be using scores to help us understand the structure and chords of some pieces, and some of the prompts to work from will consist of written notation.**

If you're not confident in your music writing to notate your tune, don't forget you can record your ideas on your phone's voice memo function and then work out how to write it down later!

13:30 - 1500 - General catch-up and goodbyes! MG3 (ALL) back to top

An opportunity to get together with everyone who's been attending the Festival and discuss what you've learned.

This session is FREE for all Festival attendees - everyone will receive the link closer to the event.