One of the world’s top harpists has come to the rescue of an international festival after Catrin Finch was forced to pull out because she is battling breast cancer.

According to Isabelle Moretti, she will dedicate her performance at the fourth Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon to the former royal harpist who recently announced she was undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with grade three breast cancer.

Isabelle teaches harp at the Paris Conservatoire for Music and Dance and is a Visiting Professor of Harp at London’s Royal Academy of Music.

She paid tribute to Ceredigion-born Catrin, who became the first person since 1873 to hold the post of Royal Harpist, and described  her as a “winner”.

She said: “I will be playing my concert at Galeri in Caernarfon on April 5 but I’ll be thinking only of Catrin and I’m sure the music will reach her wherever she is. I first met Catrin when she won a competition in France as a young girl.

“I like her a great deal, Catrin is a very authentic and open-minded artist. She’s a winner and I have no doubt she will beat this disease. I love the freedom she brings to her music and the harp as an instrument. She is a gift to music and we need many more like her.

“It’s a pity Catrin is unable to perform but I will do my best to give a performance she would enjoy and approve of.

Catrin Finch

Catrin Finch

“And the harp is such an important instrument in Wales; it belongs there and makes the music of the mountains, the forests and the rivers.”

Other highlights of the festival  include a celebration of the life and work of the globally-renowned harpist, Dr Osian Ellis, to mark his 90th birthday.

As well as being the Professor of Harp at the Royal Academy of Music, Dr Ellis was for many years the Principal Harpist with the London Symphony Orchestra and he was held in such high regard by Benjamin Britten that he wrote his Harp Suite specifically for him.

More than 100 harpists from countries as far afield as Japan, America, Russia and Thailand will be coming to the festival, which has Galeri as its main venue, from Easter Sunday, on April 1, to Saturday, April 7.

Another major event during the festival will be the Welsh premiere of a new piece of music to remember the controversial drowning of the village of Capel Celyn in the Tryweryn valley above Bala in 1965 to create a reservoir to provide water for the city of Liverpool and the Wirral.

The piece was commissioned by the supremely gifted harpist, Sioned Williams, whose grandfather Huw T Edwards led the campaign against the submerging of Capel Celyn.

She will be playing the piece, written by composer Michael Stimpson, at St Mary’s Church in Caernarfon on Easter Monday, April 2.

Isabelle Moretti plays a harp made by Camac Harps in France which makes high quality instruments around the world and she is married to the company’s president, Jakez François.

She said: “I’m a very lucky lady, like any harpist my instrument is an extension of me, it’s a part of me.

“I’m really looking forward to playing at Caernarfon although I wish it had been under different circumstances.

“I’m privileged to be asked to perform in Wales which is so closely associated with the harp. I know how much audiences in Wales appreciate music and of course, I want to make Catrin proud.”

Festival’s director Elinor Bennett is delighted to be able to welcome Isabelle to perform at the festival.

She said: “Obviously we are devastated that Catrin Finch is unable to fulfill the engagement and we all wish her well in and a speedy recovery following her diagnosis.

“Isabelle is a wonderful harpist. She plays with such warmth and sensitivity and can play many styles equally well. We are so very fortunate that she is able to perform at Caernarfon, the audience is in for a real treat.

“The Chamber Music concert on April 5 will be a delight as it contains some of the most beautiful music ever written for the harp.

“The wonderful “Introduction et Allegro” by the French composer Maurice Ravel was recorded by Osian Ellis and received great critical acclaim.

“The Danses Sacree et Profane  by Debussy marks the  centenary of the great composer’s death and there will also be solos by Fauré.

“Six musicians from Ensemble Cymru, who are based in North Wales, willperform with Isabelle in the concert

“I am delighted that France’s top harpist will come to Wales to perform this programme of French music  in Caernarfon with an Ensemble from Wales!!

Dr Osian Ellis

She also revealed that Dr Ellis has returned to the recording studio at the age of 90 and has written the introduction to the collection of pieces on a CD encompassing over 60 years of performances.

Dr Ellis recorded three songs were recorded at the Sain studio near Llandwrog a few days after he celebrated his 90th birthday on February 8.

Elinor, who was also one his pupils, said: “Osian’s work has influenced generations of harpists and inspired many composers from Wales and beyond. He is the King of Harps.”


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