Catrin Finch, Live at NPR

England's Royal Harpist Performs, Discusses Her Music

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Harpist Catrin Finch in NPR's Studio 4A

Harpist Catrin Finch in NPR's Studio 4A. Nerissa Paglinauan, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Nerissa Paglinauan, NPR

At the age of five, Catrin Finch heard the Spanish harpist Marisa Robles in recital, and knew immediately that she wanted to play the harp, the national instrument of her native Wales.

Born in 1980 in the small town of Llanon, Finch began harp lessons with Elinor Bennett at age 8, and for the next 8 years made the four-hour round-trip for two-hour lessons every other week. At 16, she moved to London to study at the Purcell School and eventually moved on to the Royal Academy of Music.

In 2000, Finch was appointed Royal Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales, who revived the age-old tradition that had ceased in 1870 under the reign of Queen Victoria.

As Royal Harpist, Finch must play for the Prince of Wales about four or five times a year at various functions. In an interview with NPR's Fred Child, Finch reveals, "The whole idea is that it does give the chance for a young Welsh harpist." Though the appointment was to last only two years, she was reappointed last year for another two.

With her latest CD, Crossing the Stone, her debut on the Sony Classical label, Finch attemps to bring the harp into the 21st century. "The harp has kind of been stuck in time a little bit," she says. "It's had it's problems becoming a solo instrument, you know. It's still only really just being accepted as a solo instrument, and capable of doing all these things, playing all genres of music. For me, we did the CD to show really that the harp is capable of everything and anything."

Crossing the Stone, a collaboration with Karl Jenkins, Finch's fellow Welshman and composer of Adiemus fame, presents some familiar tunes in new ways, crossing classical, jazz and rock elements.

"It's about time [the harp is] moving on from the heavenly kind of thing its got about it," says Finch. "Modern harps are such strong instruments, so robust [and] people are writing accordingly for them these days."

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