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47 Harp Strings, 3 Strands and 1000+ Botanical Plants!

Harpist Shelley Fairplay officially launches her new concert “The Three Strands: Passion, Sorrow and Joy” 2.30pm at the National Botanic Garden of Wales Harp Weekend 5th/6th July 2014.


The Harp is the National Instrument of Wales yet many of people living in Wales have never touched one! This July the National Botanical Garden of Wales will host its third annual harp weekend, two days of events and concerts including hands on harps workshops for those who have never touched the harp before and the official launch of Shelley”s new concert ‘The Three Strands; Passion, Sorrow and Joy’.


Throughout generations tales have been told of harpists” playing three musical strands. The details differ in each story, but they”re always played by a harpist, and they always encompass the human experience. This is a tradition that”s not about “traditional music”, but a tradition of expression. Exploring this through the harp, every musician can create a completely unique style.


Shelley has spent the last six months working on arranging, composing and learning music that reflects the three strands: Passion, Sorrow and Joy. The program weaves a story of three strands from diverse styles including Celtic, Classical and Flamenco to Doctor Who and Starwars! The program not only includes the harp being played traditionally but also uses a looper pedal and amplification for parts of the concert. 


Shelley, who has just returned from a 26-concert tour in Guernsey for the Healing Music Trust, is so passionate about engaging people with the harp that she likes to create “harp petting zoos” at her concerts so people who have never touched a harp before can put their hands on it.  In addition to teaching & performing she has also created two harp ensembles, called “Dynamic Harps” – one for adults and one for teenagers – both of which are performing at the harp weekend with Shelley leading the groups from her harp.


The official launch of “The Three Strands: Passion, Sorrow and Joy” takes place at

2.30pm on Saturday 5th July and Sunday 6th July 2014 as part of the National Botanical Garden of Wales Family Harp weekend. Events run from 10:30am to 5pm and include The Three Strands concert, try the harp for the first time at a Hands on Harps workshop, listen to the ensemble group Dynamic Harps perform, become a Harp Detective, attend a Harps Uncovered demonstration and to enter our Draw the harp in the Flowers competition.


All the concerts and most activities are free of charge once you have paid to enter the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Normal Garden admission is £8.50 for adults (£7 concessions), £4.50 for children with a family ticket (for 2 adults and up to 4 children) priced at £21.


If you have any questions regarding this event please email Shelley Fairplay via email address:


For further information regarding the full weekend of events please

Camac Voice, June 2014

Camac Voice, June 2014: Shelley Fairplay

Thank you so much to Camac and Helen Leitner for this following blog article written for ‘Camac Voice 2014’:

The Three Strands Concert: Passion, Sorrow and Joy
Shelley Fairplay

Our Camac Voice for June comes from Shelley Fairplay, a busy performer and teacher in Cardiff.  Her work is a great example of what the biz calls a portfolio career – or, ‘never stopping at one particular style, because I love it all!’, as Shelley says herself. From immaculately professional appearances at weddings, events and concerts to teaching (including two large student harp ensembles), Shelley”s diverse activities make for a very busy, dynamic and interesting life in music. June”s Camac Voice is a jazzy arrangement of ‘Scarborough Fair’, taken from Shelley”s debut CD The Cherished Harp. It’s an attractive collection of favourite folk songs from across the British Isles (and ‘Amazing Grace’, documented on the sleeve notes as an ‘American visitor’).

Folk music is also at the heart of one of Shelley”s most exciting current projects: a mentorship programme calledHarness Your Muse, with Deborah Henson-Conant. Deborah will need little introduction to most Harpblog readers, and the lucky ones among you will also have had the chance to see one of her shows. Her mentorship programme is about helping other harpists find their voice. Perhaps they are seeking something unusual, they want to explore other disciplines, and above all, they want to express their individual voices and stories.

‘The show I am developing under Deborah”s guidance is called “The Three Strands; Passion, Sorrow and Joy”‘, Shelley explains. ‘Because I love doing so many different types of music, I decided to make that the focus of my show. I”ll be performing a mixture of classical, jazz and folk music, so those are the three strands in one sense. The idea of the three strands also links back to Celtic mythology. Throughout generations tales have been told of three musical strands (or “Nobel Strains”) that a harpist should master in order to communicate to their audiences. The details differ in each story, but they are always about human experience.  The three strands/strains are generally detailed as the goltrai (the strain of weeping), the geantrai (the strain of happiness), and the suantrai (the strain of sleep). In many tales these powerful emotions played on the harp are used to avert disaster or end conflict, such as the harp being played to lull enemies to sleep, or laugh and dance with such merriment that they cannot continue to battle! The idea of these three strains really connects with me as expressing emotion through music and connecting with an audience is of course really what performing is all about. You will notice that I have exchanged the strand of sleep for the strand of passion in my show, for me personally this is much more fun to musically explore!

I”m fascinated by dance rhythms of all kinds, so there”s a lot of musical dancing in the show, linked of course to the strand of joy. There”s also a piece of my own – for the section about sorrow – based around the tritone and using a looper pedal;  many of my own arrangements; plus Guns n Roses and Deborah”s Baroque Flamenco (which undoubtably covers the strand of passion!).  It”s not about reinventing the wheel. It”s much more about putting together what I love most, in an effective way. That”s the challenge that all musicians have to face, finding out what you want to do, and where you want to go.

The mentorship programme takes the form of a skype call every other week, mostly on this subject and as such is quite intense. I”ve found it very inspiring, and I”ve also really benefited from Deborah”s advice on promotion, how to market a show, how to use social media, create promotional materials and so on. I also went over to Boston to work with her in person, and ended up performing with her in Nantucket, which was amazing! I want a DHC Blue Light now’

Deborah”s Harness Your Muse mentorship programme lasts six months. Following performing the show in Guernsey as part of a 26 concert program for the Healing Music Trust, and a recital in St Peters Port in June, Shelley will officially launch “The Three Strands” in Carmarthen in Wales in July as part of the National Botanic Garden of Wales Harp Weekend.

As part of her busy teaching studio, Shelley also runs two impressive harp ensembles in Cardiff, Dynamic Harps. One is for adults, the other for children. ‘The harp is Wales”s national instrument, and it”s fantastic how many people want to learn it. I”ve got fifteen students in the ensembles now, and I think we will go up to a maximum of twenty four. I arrange the music the students want to play and we do all sorts: Classical, Show, Film, Jazz and more. The teenagers are always asking for weird and wonderful tunes so we have performed Sweet Child of Mine, In the Mood and music from The Hobbit this term. All the students create so much positive energy and enthusiasm in the group. It is a joy to arrange, write for and teach these groups.

I run these ensembles privately. I did use to work for the music service, but at the end of the day there aren”t enough hours to do everything. I have to say though that it is really depressing to see the bursary music lessons from the service cut, and to hear of so many music services around the country struggling to keep going. Where will the next generation of performers and audiences come from if there is no encouragement and training provided for children from all backgounds to learn an instrument?

On a more positive note, I also used to give music workshops (using fifteen lap harps) with the music development team in Cardiff. In these difficult times of austerity and cuts, Emma Coulthard’s team of outstanding musicians/teachers have worked tirelessly to enable schools to keep the whole class music workshops going. The schools in Cardiff given the power to make their own decisions have been very clear-sighted about their priorities and have found decent solutions to music funding cuts.

I also worked for two years as a primary school teacher before I got too busy as a harpist, and that showed me the other side of the coin, what happens when you do cut music lessons. I arrived at my school to discover that from nursery age to year six students had never sung anything to live music, they had only ever sung to backing tracks. Because backing tracks are so beat heavy and often played very loud, you can”t truly hear what you”re singing, and the result of this was that many of the children couldn”t pitch at all. They couldn”t hear a line and sing it back, scarcely beat time and they couldn”t make any sort of normal, natural music because they”d never had the chance to use it. May this be a message to us all that music making must not be cut from our teaching curriculums.

It was this close-up experience of the music cuts that also inspired me to write a harp tutor book. The point of my book – which isn”t out yet, but will be soon – is that it is all possible on a non-chromatic lap harp. I”ve got fifteen lap harps I use for workshops. The harp is elitist, because it”s expensive. For those who cannot financially gain access to a lever or pedal harp to begin learning on, it is much more practical to be able to start on a lap harp within a two and a half octave range. That way harp can be taught in school just as the recorder is (as I did with the Music Development Team for many years). At the end of the day, music needs to be accessible for children, and if it”s too expensive, we need to find ways that are cheaper but which don”t lose sight of what music is for in the first place. Some children might go on to be professional musicians; others serious amateurs, where music plays a huge part in their lives and certainly all children should be given the opportunity to play a musical instrument. Even if they only learn for a short time, it creates the ability to know how to listen to music deeply, and enjoy hearing others perform. Every child deserves this opportunity, and every child should be able to sing.’


Find out more about Shelley on facebooktwitter and on her website.

Harp Ensembles / Workshops

Dear Harpists,

Following the success of the new harp ensembles in Cardiff meeting on Monday nights “Dynamic Harps” (Student 11-18years and Adult evening class), I am delighted to announce our dates for the spring term, please see below.

For returning members I very much look forward to seeing you again to begin our next adventure and for anyone looking to join us the groups have been wonderful, friendly, supportive and dedicated so we are all very keen to welcome you in to the group!

The two ensemble workshops are as follows:

·         Dynamic Harps (Students 11 – 18 years): A harp ensemble with a twist which will focus on show, pop, film and jazz tunes. This is for secondary school age harp students at grade three level and above.

·         Dynamic Harps Adult Evening Class: This is an ensemble class for adult learners working on repertoire from traditional, classical, world and modern musical genres.

These ensemble classes are intended to run in addition to one to one harp lessons.

If you would like to read further information please email me and I will send you details:

The sessions will take place at the Radyr Methodist Church, there is an excellent adjacent car park and good access for bringing your harp in.  

The dates for the ten spring 2014 sessions will be:

13th, 20th, 27th January

3rd, 10th February

NO SESSIONS on 17th or 24th February (please note this is a two week break from sessions).

3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st of March.

Provisionally I would like to suggest some sort of St David”s day themed gathering March for the two ensembles and perhaps another “appearance” at the end of term – I believe some of our members have some ideas so we will discuss this at the start of term.

So the big questionwill you like to join Dynamic Harps (Student or Adult) in January? If so please email me to confirm and I will email you over directions and a sign up form. You can then bring your sign up form and cheque/cash payment for the 10 weeks along to the first session on the 13th of January.

I look forward to hearing from you with your confirmation! I am really looking forward to starting the sessions and I hope you are too.

Wishing you a “Harpy New Year!”


Shelley Fairplay – Harpist Web: Email: Tel: 07960 718663

CD Now Available! The Cherished Harp

Latest musical arrangements are now available on CD ‘The Cherished Harp’

If you have not yet heard my brand new CD ‘The Cherished Harp’ I do hope you will enjoy listening to it when you get the chance!

I greatly enjoyed bringing together a collection of my favourite traditional tunes and creating my own arrangements reflecting influences arising out of my musical journey so far. I greatly enjoyed working with the tunes and with this wonderful instrument, The Cherished Harp. I truly hope you will gain enjoyment listening to the resulting music.

Track listings:

1) Skye Boat Song | Scotland

2) Ash Grove – LLwyn Onn | Wales

3) The Water is Wide | English

4) Cader Idris | Wales

5) Keel Row | England

6) Scarborough Fair | England

7) Brian Boru’s March | Ireland

8) Amazing Grace | American Visitor

9) Myfanwy | Wales

10) Sumer Is Icumen In | England

11) Down by the Salley Gardens | Ireland

12) Londonderry Air | Ireland

13) Lullaby РSuo G̢n | Wales

14) All Through the Night – Ar Hyd y Nos | Wales


Copies of the CD are available from Amazon via this link: