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ARTIST PROFILE

The Harp Consort ("Missa Mexicana")

BIOGRAPHY

The Harp Consort is an ensemble that excels at improvisation within the distinct styles of baroque, Renaissance and medieval music.

The group takes its inspiration from the 17th-century harp consort formed in England at the court of Charles I: in contrast to the homogeneous string orchestra (also formed at this time), the Consorte brought together diverse types of solo instruments -harp, lutes, keyboards, strings- and voices, to create colorful new combinations in the fashion of the day.

Like the 17th-century Consorte, The Harp Consort is formed around the accompanying instruments of the basso continuo and brings together an international team of musicians who create a rich variety of timbres.

Although continuo-players have a written bass-line, they must improvise harmonies and melodic figures on different instruments and in the appropriate style for the period and country. The Harp Consort takes continuo as a model for all kinds of performance, combining the spontaneity of improvisation with careful attention to the particular colors of each repertoire.

The Harp Consort’s programs range from medieval drama and solo songs to baroque opera, from new works for early instruments to exuberantly danced suites. The ensemble’s stage-shows of 17th-century Spanish dances, early Irish planxties, and German baroque dances have delighted audiences around the world. The Harp Consort is much sought after for its chamber-music recitals and has made a distinguished series of award-winning recordings.

 

The English virtuoso harp-soloist and a uniquely versatile continuo player, Andrew Lawrence-King, is recognized as one of Europe's leading early music artists, leader of The Harp Consort and the rising new star of the baroque scene as conductor 'from the continuo' of orchestras, choirs and staged operas.

His musical career began as Head Chorister at the Cathedral & Parish Church of St Peter Port, Guernsey. At the age of 17 he gained the LRAM diploma and won an Organ Scholarship to Selwyn College, Cambridge. Having graduated in Mathematics, he completed his musical studies at London Early Music Centre. He studied there Voice and Continuo, and his teachers included Emma Kirkby, Roger Norrington and Nigel Rogers.

After finishing his studies, Andrew Lawrence-King pursued a double international career as counter-tenor and continuo-player. He took up the harp quite by chance, and in the absence of a modern school of baroque harp-playing, taught himself to play, using period treatises and iconography. He has a large collection of harps copied from Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque originals, and has made particular study of the original techniques of “striking” the harp. He quickly established himself in London, performing and recording with nearly all the leading specialist ensembles: he has made over 100 recordings of music ranging from Troubadour lyrics (with Paul Hiller for ECM) to new music for early harp (John Paul Jones' 'Amores Pasados' with The Harp Consort for DHM) and including two accounts of the Händel Harp Concerto - with The Sixteen, and with Andrew Parrott's Taverner Players.

After six years as harpist and keyboard player with the Baroque ensemble Tragicomedia, for whom he created many musical arrangements and concert programmes, most recently a recording of Anna Magdalena Bach's 'Notenbüchlein', Andrew Lawrence-King formed his own ensemble, The Harp Consort in 1994. Taking its inspiration from the original 17th century 'Consorte' created by Charles I, The Harp Consort is a mixed vocal and instrumental ensemble that brings together world-class soloists in various line-ups, according to the repertoire being performed.

The Harp Consort's combination of detailed historical research with the dramatic spontaneity of improvised performance won them instant critical acclaim. Their debut recording, Ribayaz's 17th century collection of dance music from Spain, Italy, South America and Africa, 'Luz y Norte' forms the basis of a Baroque stage show of improvised music and dance. Luz y Norte toured America for the first time in 1996, and will be given at Australia's Brisbane Festival and in the Sydney Opera House in 97.

Andrew Lawrence-King's schedule for performances - solo, with The Harp Consort and as a guest conductor - takes him this season to Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Scandinavia and Japan. The Harp Consort has two USA tours as well as a busy recording schedule, turning their attention now also to medieval music. DHM has recently released their second CD, Carolan's Harp: dances, airs and laments by Turlough O'Carolan, "the chief musician of all Ireland".