- What’s on
- Venue hire
- Your visit
- The Gift of Music
- Support Us
- What’s on
- Venue hire
- Your visit
- The Gift of Music
- Support Us
This January, we host the Manchester Harp Festival, featuring world-class performances, workshops, meet the artist events, children’s activities and an exciting competition for harpists of all abilities – and we’re delighted to welcome performer and workshop leaders from across the harp world. You can find out more about who is performing, and when you can see them, below.
Rachel Dent began studying the harp with Dorothy Gilbertson of Harrogate before accepting a place at the Royal Northern College of Music in 1997, studying with Eira Lynn Jones. She graduated with an honours degree in June 2001. In 1999 she received the Dearden Award for Achievement and the United Kingdom Harp Association Award.
As a soloist, Rachel has performed at St Ann ‘s Church, Manchester , St Mary’s Church, Nantwich, Flixton House, Hull University , Emmanuel Church, Didsbury, and she has played Handel’s Harp Concerto with Sale Chamber Orchestra. She has also provided music for a scene in Granada Television’s production of “A & E” and for BBC “Songs of Praise”.
Rachel has given recitals as part of an organ and harp duo, performing in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Summer Recital Series 2001, the Bridgewater Hall as part of the Royal College of Organists Performer of the Year 2000 and other churches in Manchester.
Her freelance orchestral career includes working with the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester Camerata and Sinfonia ViVa. As a member of Chiron Duo (flute and harp), Rachel has performed in Manchester Town Hall, the East Riding of Yorkshire Recital Series, and for music in Granada Television’s “My Favourite Hymns” programme
Esther Swift explores ritual, connection, isolation, and the natural world in her performance with pedal harp and voice.
A prolific, boldly innovative Scottish harpist, composer and singer, Esther works across genres as diverse as classical chamber music, folk, jazz and free improvisation, and writes for ensembles large and small. Having studied at Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Music School and the Royal Northern College of Music, and received numerous prestigious commissions and featured in many international collaborations.
She has travelled to Vietnam, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, and beyond with her music, and shared international, music lead collaborations with musicians
and other artists around the world.
She has recently been commissioned by Celtic Connections, Chamber Music Scotland, Manchester Jazz festival and The Edwin Morgan Trust and performed internationally with her band Emergence Ensemble.
(Image credit: Sara Porter)
A versatile and experienced musician, Louise’s playing has taken her to prestigious concert venues around the UK including the Royal Albert Hall, Cardiff’s St David’s Hall and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. It has also given her the opportunity to perform with some of the country’s most respected ensembles: the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra and Manchester Concert Orchestra. She has been invited to perform live on BBC Radio 3, and made her television debut performing live on BBC 1 for the Heaven and Earth show with soprano Katherine Jenkins.
Some of Thomson’s early notable successes included winning the Harp Finals at the world renowned Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales Competition in 2003 and performing as a Finalist in the London International Harp Competition in 2005. In April 2007 she was short-listed to audition for HRH The Prince of Wales for the position of Royal Harpist at Clarence House and performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at The Royal Variety Performance in the same year.
Louise was awarded a place at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester to study with Eira Lynn Jones. During this time Louise won the Ida Carroll String Prize for outstanding musical achievement, and was subsequently awarded an entrance scholarship to study at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Completing her undergraduate course in 2005, with a First Class BMus (Hons) degree, and her post-graduate diploma (PGDip) with Distinction in Performance in 2006, Louise went on to complete a Masters Degree (MMus) in 2007, again with Distinction in Performance. She concluded her time at the RNCM by winning the Concerto Competition. After graduating, Louise was immediately invited onto the Live Music Now Scheme (founded by Yehudi Menuhin) which involved extensive touring around the country giving solo recitals and educational workshops to an enormous range of audiences.
In addition to her solo work, Louise recently launched a new collaboration with young vocal ensemble the Corvus Consort, featuring music for upper voices and harp. Louise and the Corvus Consort have enjoyed performances for Church Stretton Festival and Sounds Sublime Festival at King’s Place, curated by The Sixteen, and they look forward to upcoming engagements including the Whiddon Autumn Festival in Devon.
In 2022 Louise was selected to perform at the World Harp Congress in collaboration with presenter Polly Ives. Polly and Louise frequently present in schools and theatres together as part of Concerteenies, an award-winning producer of musical events and activities for young children and their adults in Sheffield and beyond.
Recent highlights have included Buxton and Ryedale Festivals, and Louise looks forward to forthcoming engagements including Ripon International Festival and Malvern Concert Club, as well as a residency at the 2023 Whiddon Autumn Festival.
Louise also takes great pride in her harp teaching and has built up a highly vibrant harp community around the North of England. She teaches harp at Chetham’s School of Music, Withington Girls’ School and The Manchester Grammar School. Louise is also the harp tutor at Huddersfield University and a visiting tutor at both the Royal Northern College of Music and its Junior department.
See Louise perform live in the Opening Recital on Friday 19 January.
Leading harpist of her generation, Dr Anne-Marie O’Farrell from Dublin performs all over the world, and is frequently invited to perform and teach at international conferences and festivals, including several World Harp Congresses. She is particularly recognized for her expansion of repertoire, and for her innovations on lever harp, as a result of which the world’s leading harpmakers Salvi Harps redesigned their lever harps to become concert instruments. She has given multiple premieres of many works for pedal and lever harp, some commissioned especially for her.
Numerous orchestral and ensemble performances include those with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland with whom she was concerto soloist for her lever harp concerto, In Light Anew. Her groundbreaking developments in composition, arrangement and transcription for the harp are documented in her substantial output of publications, including critical editions of works by J.S. Bach. A prolific recording artist, she has released several solo CDs, including Just So Bach, Harping Bach to Carolan, The Jig’s Up, My Lagan Love and Embrace. New Directions for Irish Harp; Double Strung and Duopoly with Cormac De Barra; and Harp to Harp with harmonica player Brendan Power.
In recent years she has been commissioned to compose several large-scale works featuring the harp, including a lever harp concerto commissioned by RTÉ Lyric FM, a five-movement work for large harp ensemble commissioned by Harp Ireland, and several chamber pedal harp pieces. Her works have been performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestral of Wales, the BBC Singers, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and numerous other international performers.
As Head of Harp at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, she runs a thriving harp department, and also teaches on their junior conservatoire programme. She is frequently invited as examiner and jury member in conservatoires and international competitions. Currently she is also training to become a teacher of the Alexander Technique (ITM). www.annemarieofarrell.com
See Anne-Marie perform live in the Opening Recital on Friday 19 January.
Orchestra playing has always been Marie Leenhardt’s first love. She was a member of the French and European Youth orchestras before taking the position of principal harp in the Hallé orchestra.
She also enjoys the intimacy of chamber music and has been part of several chamber ensembles (Ensemble 360, Trio Fauve…)
She performed most of the concertos from the harp repertoire with the Hallé and various orchestras. (Ginastera, Debussy, Mozart, Haendel, Reinecke,…)
In addition to her performing role, she devotes herself to teaching the harp at Chetham’s School of Music.
She discovered the Alexander Technique in England. It has been such a game changer for her practice and performance that she decided to train, and in 2011 qualified as a teacher.
Acclaimed by the New York Concert Review as ‘Stupendous…totally original and engaging’, at her Carnegie Hall debut recital, British harpist Keziah Thomas enjoys a reputation of a lively and engaging performer and educator. At the heart of her work is the belief that the power of music is for everyone, a value which drives a diverse freelance career.
Keziah’s creative programming strives to expand the repertoire and platform for the harp, and she is as equally comfortable performing at major venues and festivals throughout the world such as touring Japan for Aoyama Harps and giving recitals for Astral Artists in the USA as producing educational concerts for babies and playing in healthcare settings as a Breathe resident musician.
In recent years, Keziah has developed a particular interest in arranging which had led to the creation of the first solo transcription of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the album of which was released on Convivium Records in 2022 to critical acclaim.
Her previous album Crossing Waves included newly commissioned works by British composers, James Young, Huw Watkins, and Andy Scott and was hailed as an ‘imaginatively programmed, winningly played recital’ by the BBC Music Magazine.
Keziah is principal harp with the Covent Garden Sinfonia and her work as a chamber musician with the Aoyama Trio and 4 Girls 4 Harps has been described as having ‘Scrupulous attention to the harp’s dynamic and rhythmic possibilities’ by The Times.
The winner of the London Harp Competition, the Camac Harp Competition and the Contemporary Record Society Performing Artists Competition, Keziah Thomas was taught by Danielle Perrett, Daphne Boden and Alison Nicholls and holds an ARCM diploma and bachelor’s degree from the Royal College of Music and a PG Certificate in Performance Teaching in Higher Education from the Guildhall School.
Keziah is a creative educator and entrepreneur and is the founder of two popular harp programmes; Retreat to the Harp, a series of workshops and study weekends that bring together those who share her love of the harp and Little Harp Social, the group learning programme for adults. Keziah is Professor of harp at the Yehudi Menuhin School and Guildhall School.
Keziah will be performing as part of our family event for ages 3-5 and their grown-ups – Stoller Story Sounds: The Snowbear’s Story on Saturday 20 January.