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 the Rotterdam Conservatory (nowadays called Codarts University of the Arts), where she started studying with Teresia Rieu when she was only 13, she developed a very solid base both technically and musically.
After graduating 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 auditions for both the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra in the Summer of 1999.
She concluded her classical training by returning to Codarts, where she refined her technique and musical sensitivity under the guidance of Godelieve Schrama.
Parallel to her classical music education, she already made some escapades to jazz harp by taking lessons and workshops with Park Stickney, Deborah Henson-Conant and Carrol McLaughlin. 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.
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).
Currently, her main focus as a performer and a teacher is blues and jazz, played solo or in a band, both on the lever harp (acoustic and solid body electric) and the pedal harp.
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 classy combo, presenting the French impressionists in a recital, playing the blues at the corner jam, improvising with a bassoonist and a painter or a story teller or grooving with a DJ at a club or corporate event.
Brenda teaches general harp lessons with an emphasis on form and chord knowledge, solid technique and posture, as well as specialized blues and basis 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 who's 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.
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 pieces.
Harpists with a special interest in jazz can also attend one of the workshops taught by Sabine Meijers and myself for 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.
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. 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. 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!
Driven by the urge for a direct and honest connection with her instrument ànd her audience, Brenda started to explore the possibilities of pure improvisation. No limits, no boundaries, no rules other than maintaining a certain tension, breathe, and connect with the harp and the listener.
Sometimes, the improvisation can be guided by a (real or imaginary) situation, or, as in the video below, by a piece of art.
The result can be lyrical, rough, more traditional, or exploring the very limits of the instrument. It is always intimate, and full of passion.
Free improvisation can become even more exciting with other players, and Brenda has found a perfect match in Marieke voor de Wind (bassoon). More info about their unique collaboration here: LINK