Manchester Harp Festival

January 23, 2024

In January, Withington’s Harp Ensemble showcased their exceptional talent performing at the Manchester Harp Festival which took place at The Stoller Hall.

Under the guidance of Louise Thomson, Artistic Director of the Manchester Harp Festival and WGS Harp Teacher, they performed alongside a line-up featuring some of the most distinguished harpists from around the globe.

The ensemble comprised some of Withington’s youngest pupils in Year 3, right up to Sixth Form, Dr Sue Madden, Assistant Head, and Class of 2020 alumna Shamae Griffin, who had travelled from London for the performance. They presented a diverse repertoire of classical masterpieces and contemporary compositions that showcased their skillset.

The inaugural festival offered world-class performances including the headline recital by Anneleen Lenaerts, Principal Harpist of the Vienna Philharmonic, workshops, meet the artist events, children’s activities and a competition for harpists of all abilities.

Withington pupils took part in different activities throughout the day and the WGS Showcase was billed after a workshop led by Joris Beets, inventor of the Harp•E. Withington has five of these new instruments, which were central to the performance at The Stoller Hall.

Paid for by the Ad Lucem Fund, the acquisition of the Harp•Es has further enhanced the school’s music programme and increased the accessibility of harp learning. Designed to be lightweight, durable and easy to transport whilst not compromising sound quality or string tension, this instrument offers a unique
playing experience for both beginners and advanced students.

The simplicity of the wooden exoskeleton sparked a project between the Music and Art Departments to personalise each instrument. A competition was run for pupils to create a design to embellish the Harp·Es. A winner was selected from each key stage and an overall winning design was chosen for the fifth harp. The visions of the designers were brought to life by A Level Art students and GCSE pupils using acrylic paint pens.