Why The Harp Consort?
At Musica Viva we often get asked why we tour the musicians that we do, and how artists are chosen to tour. Artistic Director Carl Vine tends to give a simple answer: they’re good. According to Carl, “Musica Viva’s core principles remain as vital as ever: quality endures, and inspiration is irreplacable.”
The Harp Consort is unique for a number of reasons. Unlike, say, a string quartet, they are not a fixed ensemble. Rather, director Andrew Lawrence-King chooses performers according to the repertoire for each program, being careful to balance each personality and the collective wisdom of the group. According to Andrew Lawrence-King, “when it comes to selecting colleagues to play with, there’s a mix of historical and modern performance considerations. From the historical side, we’re looking at the particular instruments for that repertoire, for that particular country and time, but from the point of view of performance, I’m looking for the right mix of personalities. And so for example if one of our regular players is not available for a certain gig, I might not replace them with someone who plays that exact instrument. More likely I’ll replace them with somebody who plays another instrument which is appropriate to that period in time and somebody who is also a strong personality, rather than replacing them with somebody who just happens to play the same instrument. And that means that each time we play the same concert, it’s going to change, because of the mix of the people who are there. When so much of the music is improvised, then changing one person for another perhaps changes the instrument, but it will change the personality, and that makes a big change.”
Steve Player says “a person who plays in the Harp Consort has to have more than a musical ability. They have to have a personality… the Harp Consort is a group with umpteen persons with personality, and they have to bring their personality to the show – not just their musical ability, but also their own character, their own integrity… If you choose people that have a natural and a strong personality, that personality gets added into the mixture, and that’s what makes it quite special. It’s not just one man and his band. It’s one man and his friends who share the same notions of how you should perform music.”
Carl Vine sums up this fluidity of repertoire and personnel nicely. “The Harp Consort is an ever-changing assembly of remarkable musicians invariably united by its director and seer, Andrew Lawrence-King. One can never be sure exactly how each one of his projects might be constituted – which instruments might be used or which, and how many, players might appear – but rest assured that it will be thoroughly researched, beautifully presented and executed with brilliance and joy.”