Multi-award-winner Jemima, still only in her mid-thirties, performed for an enthralled audience at Huntington Church near Kington, last Saturday. We were extremely fortunate as previous audiences have included all members of the Royal Family, after Jemima was appointed the Prince of Wales’ official harpist in 2004. She played at his wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall, at the reception hosted by the H.M. the Queen for the 2012 Olympic Bid and she has played in both Houses of Parliament as well as internationally in Japan, Europe and the U.S.A.
The harp, you think. A quiet and decorous evening, rather stiff perhaps and formal – Pride and Prejudice and a soiree given by Mr. Darcy perhaps. Well think again. Just as Mr. Darcy provided a few surprises, so did this evening’s concert. Jemima plays the electro-acoustic harp, which gives her the flexibility to play Baroque and Classical pieces, for example, in the style with which you may be familiar, but she can also plug the harp into a box which provides effects like an electric guitar, manipulating the sound, and/or another box which can record what she has just played and then provides a backing track on a loop for her to play over. This facility allows Jemima to become her own one-man-band, as she told us, allowing her to make rhythmic sounds by knocking on the harp, for example, which added an extra dimension to our enjoyment.
Her programme on Saturday ranged from the rippling notes of Watching the Wheat, a favourite of Prince Charles’ and one of many transcriptions that John Thomas (a 19th Century Royal Harpist) made of Welsh Folk Songs, to the Rock anthem Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses. We also listened to pieces by Debussy, Handel and Mozart played acoustically, and the electro facility was used for more contemporary items like a 1950s Jazz piece by Pearl Chertok, the theme tunes to the Bond film Skyfall and Game of Thrones and even a hip-hop piece. The variety of the programme ensured that it appealed to everybody in attendance. The music was wonderful. It is clear that Jemima is at one with her harp as she played with eyes closed and without music. Her sure touch filled the church with the most glorious sounds, whether acoustic or electro-acoustic, (although during her work as a harp teacher and clinical music therapist – she has a Masters in Music Therapy – she uses the acoustic harp more).
Jemima introduced every item and spoke with such enthusiasm and knowledge that everyone, old and young, was drawn into the magic of the evening. She explained the evolution of the harp from the Baroque variety which had no pedals but three sets of strings through the Single Action harp and thence to the Double Action harp devised in the early C19th. She was lively and entertaining and took questions (of which there was no shortage) at the end of the concert.
It was stunning and certainly the best night out this Church Mouse had spent in a long time. As Jemima lives in the Forest of Dean, we hope to see much more of her.