Heaven-sent musical goal

Heaven-sent musical goal

HK's first school harp ensemble hope to master the 'most beautiful instrument on Earth'

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French harpist and teacher Isabelle Perrin with students of Yan Chai Hospital Wong Wha San Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O.
French harpist and teacher Isabelle Perrin with students of Yan Chai Hospital Wong Wha San Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O.
Photo: Nora Tam
The harp is one of the oldest of all musical instruments and the second biggest string instrument in a modern orchestra. It dates from 4000BC when the Ancient Egyptians played harps. Christian artists often drew harp-playing angels when depicting heaven.

"It's the most beautiful instrument on Earth; it is music from heaven," says renowned French harpist Isabelle Perrin, professor at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, and vice president of World Harp Congress.

She was in Hong Kong this month performing with young harpists at Yan Chai Hospital Wong Wha San Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O.

The event was supported by the French Consulate and the Hong Kong Harp Chamber.

"It's impressive to see that they're working so hard and playing so well," Perrin says. "The harp is a challenging instrument; to play it well, you really need to want to learn it, and love the instrument. You need to have a computer-like brain. Your fingers and feet need to synchronise very well."

Regina Tang Wing-yiu, 13, one of seven students in the school's ensemble, says: "The sound of the harp is very soothing; it is like a bird singing. I feel like a member of the royal family when I play it."

Fellow student Bebeanna Ng Tsz-ching, also 13, says. "I like to learn the harp because it's elegant. And the music is very beautiful."

Stephanie Cheung Yee-lam, 12, says: "It's difficult to play with both hands and when the strings all look the same. You need to practise a lot,"

The school, which has six harps - two of them worth more than HK$200,000 - is the first in Hong Kong to have a harp ensemble. It was formed last July and is taught by mainland harpist Dan Yu, music director of the Hong Kong Harp Chamber.

Music panel chair Hui Yuk-ling introduced the harp to the school. "I want our students to have a chance to learn and understand the instrument," she says.

The harp is one of many instruments taught at the school. Under the "One Student One Instrument" policy, all junior form students learn to play one instrument.

"Music is for everyone, Our students are not from rich families, but we don't want them to be deprived of the chance to learn to play and appreciate music." Hui says.

The girls in the ensemble had the chance to go on a nine-day-trip to France and attend Perrin's master class. "It's a great honour to learn from Perrin," said Bebeanna before the trip. "I want to see the Eiffel Tower. I am going to take a lot of photos there."

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