Experience the harp up close and personal!
Over the past years, I have enjoyed presenting the harp in private concerts to families, companies, rotaries, etc.
A private concert can take place in your home, at an event location, a museum, a restaurant, etc. It can be presented as a whole like a regular concert, or in smaller chunks (of e.g. 15 minutes) in between dinner courses or other activities.
Count on seeing at least 2 different harps, and of course a bit of jazz and blues will always be included. For private concerts, I like to present the harp from prehistory to present. As I wrote in a Facebook update once:
"Nice when gigs include publicly making bow-and-arrows with the great-grand-son, sitting around an imaginary Scottish campfire with the kids and a lap harp, making teenagers count the pedal changes in the 1st movement of the Pescetti sonata, and give the grown ups their share of technicalities, classical music, jazz ánd blues."
Vision Improv is a musical love affair between a bassoon and a harp. Marieke voor de Wind (bassoon) and Brenda played together for the first time in 2008. Their instant musical connection and interplay made them realize what playing music actually meant to them, and how they could get closest to this, by free improvisation. Without any preset structure, key or even idea, they are able to connect through playing and in constant interplay make original, comprehensible and passionate music.
They have made several escapades by improvising live with a painter, a dancer, and a storyteller; all concepts worthy of future revisiting. Currently, they are experimenting with percussion, recorded beats, amplification & effects, and alternative singer-songwriting.
Brenda started playing harp at the age of 7.
At Codarts University of the Arts (then Rotterdams Conservatorium), where she started studying with Teresia Rieu when she was only 13, she developed a very solid base both technically and musically.
After graduating as a Bachelor in Music in 1998, Brenda received a grant to study in Germany with Prof. Helga Storck, where her performance skills and orchestra playing were brought to a higher level. This resulted in winning the 1999 auditions for both the European Union Youth Orchestra, where she played under the baton of Bernard Haitink, and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra, led by Christopher Eschenbach.
She concluded her classical training by returning to Codarts, where she further refined her technique and musical skills under the guidance of Godelieve Schrama.
A collaborator at heart, her work as a classical musician mostly focused on chamber music and choir accompaniment, in the Netherlands and Germany. A highlight since moving to the UK in 2016 was the performing Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols with the St Paul's Cathedral Choristers led by Andrew Carwood, in December 2020.
Since 2005, Brenda is actively involved in the world of jazz harp. Both in playing and in spreading the gospel: together with fellow harpist Sabine Meijers she founded and leads the international Jazz Harp Foundation.
Parallel to her classical music education, she had already made some early escapades to jazz harp by taking lessons with Park Stickney, Deborah Henson-Conant and Carrol McLaughlin, and during her 2 year stay in Boston, USA, in 2002/2003, the jazz & blues bug bit her again and didn't let go.
Her journey continued into the field of free improvisation through the discovery of a strong and intuïtive musical connection with fellow musicians Marieke voor de Wind (bassoon) and Sietse van Gorkom (violin), and working with dancers, visual artists, story tellers and house DJs.
After moving to the UK in 2016, Brenda has further developed her performing and teaching skills in blues and jazz. Both as a soloist and as a band member she is equally at home on the pedal harp and on the lever harp (acoustic and solid body electric).
As a free lance musician, Brenda has the luxury to be able to integrate all the above mentioned genres into her professional life. At any given time, one might find her performing jazz in a combo, presenting the French impressionists in a recital, accompanying a choir, playing the blues at the corner jam, improvising with a bassoonist and a painter, or grooving with a DJ at a club or event.
Brenda teaches general harp lessons with an emphasis on form awareness and chord knowledge, solid and refined technique and posture. She also teaches specialized blues harp and elemental jazz harp lessons. With London, UK, as her current home base, she teaches workshops and co-organises jazz harp jam sessions throughout the UK and abroad.
Brenda is an amateur violin and cello player, and mother of two boys whose cello and drum set are happily sharing the music room with her bunch of wood and a lot of strings ;)
Those who want to learn about the basics of jazz, blues and improvisation for harp are welcome for private lessons in my studio in London, UK, at Harp Studio Rotterdam in The Netherlands, or by Skype/Zoom.
I am available for more 'traditional' harp teaching as well. By this, I mean teaching technique and more classically oriented music at a beginner, intermediate or intermediate/advanced level. Do count on your share of talk about musical structure and chords;), which will by the way greatly improve practicing and gaining insight in your classical and traditional pieces as well.
Should you be interested in graded music exams, I teach both the Trinity and ABRSM curriculums, and all of my students who went in for their exams have passed, most often with merit or distinction. I have had the honour of contributing to the new 2020-2023 Trinity repertoire lists, both by advising on jazz related repertoire, and with a blues composition of my own (grade 6 lever harp).
Harpists with a special interest in jazz can also attend one of the workshops or courses organised or supported by the Jazz Harp Foundation. The calendar at www.jazzharp.org lists these and more education opportunities worldwide.
Want to really dive into learning jazz harp on a higher level? Then consider to attend the Jazz Harp Academy intensive courses, or check in with us at www.jazzharp.org for more info on private lessons with the jazz harp greats.
Great for festivals, concerts and clubs:
Jazz harp, in various combinations or solo
the Real Blues Harp Band
Violin&Harp Improvisations on beat based music
the concepts of Vision Improv
At request, solo recitals are possible as well, whether as a public or a private performance. I do prefer to include both classical and jazz playing, and ideally even 'the story of the harp' and some folk and blues as well.
Guaranteed fun and intense performances!
Isabella has a great personality and a mesmerizing voice. I love that she can beautifully sing a classical opera aria with appropriate force and vibratos, and minutes later be velvet-y and grooving in a jazz song. Check it out in the video at the top of this page.
Harpzz is an eclectic harp duo, in which Brenda collaborates with fellow harpist Sabine Meijers.
As they run the Jazz Harp Foundation together, jazz is naturally part of their repertoire. But they also enjoy tango and classical repertoire.
They do like to present the harp with an original twist, like showing, within their arrangements, the struggle that classical harpists encounter when getting into jazz playing, or by combining lever harp and pedal harp into one act, played on a blue solid body electric harp and a cool chrome electroacoustic pedal harp.
Digging deep, climbing high...
What if you play the harp (not the harmonica..), and you love the blues? You give in and buy a guitar... or you bend over backwards and do it on a harp!
Brenda got herself a solid body electric harp and found a guitar teacher willing to explore the blues-ness of the harp with her. Several years later, she moved to London where she is currently upping her game in the midst of blues piano players. Exploring a righteous function and place for the harp in blues (and americana) is her quest for this decade.
It turns out that the equipment is an issue, and she made a true technical research project out of trying to improve the harp's bending possibilities and to get the right sound. That is still ongoing, but both the blues idiom and the combination of major and minor chords and scales appear to suit the lever harp quite well!
Apart from all that theory: it just a blast!