At this year’s Nordic Harp Meeting, Helen Davies presents her research about Johann Andreas Kirchhoff (1722-1799). This is part of a research project about harpists and harp music in the Nordic countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Royal Theatre Orchestra (Det Kongelige Kapel) in Copenhagen is the oldest still existing orchestra in the world and there is a published list of all the musicians who have been employed there, starting with a trumpet corps in 1448. The first harpist named was Florian, who played in the orchestra from 1558. Every musician has a number, and Kirchhoff is number 410. He was appointed in 1772.
Helen Davies’ career as a harpist is diverse and eclectic. Her wide-ranging musical life has seen her combine a distinguished orchestral solo-harpist career in Ireland and Scandinavia with scholarly research in 18th and 19th century harp music, arranging and performing Irish traditional harp music and the harp music of her native Wales, and since 1989, working in the field of contemporary improvised music and electronics with her husband, trumpet player and composer Palle Mikkelborg, with whom she has performed throughout Scandinavia, Australia, the Far East, China and the US. She has also worked closely with the renowned Copenhagen Royal Chapel Choir and has toured extensively with them. Together with the harpists Mette Franck and Anne Marie Høst, Helen has also multiple times organised the Harpestævne på Fuglsang – a gathering of harp pupils from Danish music schools at Fuglsang castle on the island of Lolland.
Helen studied harp in Wales with Ann Griffiths and music at Birmingham University (UK). In latter years, apart from her professional career with Palle Mikkelborg, her interest in early music and the Northern European folk tradition has inspired her to establish a duo with Poul Høxbro (flutes and percussion) and more recently a trio with Poul and well-known Norwegian musician, Gunnar Stubseid (hardanger fiddle). Helen has published several books of harp music and has featured on numerous recordings. Her solo CD Open the Door Softly was nominated for a Danish Music Award, and her most recent solo CD Chasing the Breeze was nominated for a Danish Radio Listener’s Prize.
At the Nordic Harp Meeting 2016, Helen taught two workshops: One for harp beginners, and another one for advanced harp players that focused on tunes found in some of the 18th century Danish collections (Ålholm, Reventlow, von Bulow, Rasmus Storm) which fit well on the harp. (Read more on Helen’s website)