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Welcome - As your new President, I'm delighted to contribute a few words of welcome, and wish to thank everyone in the UKHA for the honour that you have bestowed on me. I follow in the footsteps of one of the UK's most distinguished harpists and thank Sioned Williams for the extraordinary work that she accomplished as President for many years.

The UKHA has been part of my life ever since I came to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London in 1964, the year that the Association itself was formally established, as part of the Association Internationale des Harpistes et Amis de la Harpe. A few years later, I was asked by the first secretary, John Marson, to assist him as Editor of the UKHA Newsletter, which I did for a few years. As a young aspiring musician, I was thrilled to meet and work with eminent and distinguished harpists who were icons of the harp world - Maria Korchinska, Sidonie and Marie Goossens, John Marson, Michael Jefferies, Tina Bonifacio, and many others. One of the privileges was to interview famous people like harp maker and repairer, John Sebastian Morley and veteran professor and soloist Gwendolen Mason, for the Newsletter.

When I returned to live in Wales with a young family, I passed on the work to someone else. In those early days, most of the members were professional harpists based in London, but several years later, the emphasis shifted significantly when the name was changed from UK Harpists Association to the UK Harp Association. By inviting me to become your President, the UKHA states emphatically that the Association belongs to every harpist throughout the UK. In the Welsh language there is a saying - Mewn undeb mae nerth - which conveys the conviction that working together in unity with others, strengthens every individual member.

The achievements of the UKHA over the years is immense, as evidenced by the number of activities, the HARP Magazine, the financial support and platform that it gives to young harpists. The availability of global interaction on the internet has transformed the reach of our instrument and also acquainted us of the extraordinary variety of harps in cultures all over the world. I grew up in a culture  where the harp is an integral part of Welsh folk music and poetry. There were not many harps available and the choice was restricted to Erard, a few other makers of the same period and one or two Lyon & Healy's. The whole harp scene was transformed in the 60's and 70's when wonderful new instruments were manufactured in several countries, enabling the development of the vibrant, dynamic harp scene that we know today.

The UKHA website is an excellent place to share information about upcoming events, and different projects happening all over the UK. Please let us know about your harp concerts, workshops, masterclasses, lectures and festivals to everyone's advantage!
Next April, two international harp festivals will be held concurrently - the annual Edinburgh International Harp Festival and the Fifth Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon in North-West Wales. Both festivals will be collaborating on various aspects of the programmes to mutual advantage, and after the Fifth Wales International Harp Festival, I will pass on the role of Artistic Director to another harpist.

I look forward to working with the UKHA Team to continue the worthwhile work that has happened in the past, and to provide ready support for all harpists in future. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in one of the UKHA events!

Elinor Bennett

November 2022.
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