Meet the Artist……Tomos Xerri

Who or what inspired you to take up the harp, and make it your career?

My older sister began learning the harp when I was 2 years old so I grew up to the sounds of her playing which was the original inspiration to learn. I think since then I always knew I wanted to make it my career, as there was never anything which gave me that same thrill.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

I’d have to say hearing recitals by famous Welsh harpists from a young age (especially Catrin Finch) inspired me to want to work harder and eventually become like them, and competing at the Welsh National Eisteddfod every year gave me a lot of national pride.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think anyone who decides to become a musician knows that there will be a lot of hardships to go through, especially the beginning of your career – these last few years at music conservatoire have really put me through my paces as the level between playing in local competitions as a teenager and playing at conservatoire-standard competitions is huge.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I’m very self-deprecating and am always my harshest critic after a performance, but I think one of the few times when I came out of a concert feeling truly proud of my playing was after my concerto debut at Eton College, playing Gabriel Pierné’s Konzertstück with the school orchestra.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I’ve been studying at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Aragón in Zaragoza since September and have played with the orchestra at the Sala Mozart del Auditorio de Zaragoza and it is just the most beautiful venue to perform in; the acoustics are fantastic and the size is perfect to make it feel impressive and yet still intimate.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I’m a romantic at heart and love anything that makes the audience really feel something; my favourite composer to perform is Debussy (who I truly believe was writing for the harp when writing his piano pieces!) and my favourite to listen to is probably Messiaen.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite harpists are Catrin Finch, who has revolutionised the harp and just always been an inspiring figure to me, and Marie-Pierre Langlamet, principal harpist of the Berlin Philharmonic with whom I was lucky enough to partake in a masterclass last year and whose playing for me is flawless and stunningly beautiful. I also have to include my teacher Gabriella Dall’Olio who has opened my eyes these last few years and never fails to astound me in her ability to create magical sounds on the harp. As far as non-classical musicians go, I love Sufjan Stevens, Björk, Arthur Russell, Bon Iver, and so many more, and hope to one day get a chance to play with artists such as these as well.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I used to wear glasses when I was younger and once, after finishing a concert in Swansea when I stood up to take a bow, and my glasses fell off, so I reached down to pick them up but obviously without being able to see and in my state of nervousness and humiliation couldn’t find them… I guess it could have been worse; they could have fallen off during the performance!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

One of my favourite things about teaching young children is their enthusiasm and sheer joy at being able to create stories and emotions through music; I think it is so easy to forget this joy as you get older, as music turns into just another way to make money and pay the bills. Sometimes it’s nice just to be a child again and play for the love of playing without worrying if it’s good enough to win this prize or to be successful in that audition.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently I am trying to build my repertoire and am working on a lot of new pieces at once, which can get frustrating as the learning process can be tedious when all you want to do is be able to play the pieces! The pieces are C. P. E. Bach’s Sonata in G for harp, two Scarlatti sonatas (k208 and k209), Henriette Renié’s Legende, Berio’s Sequenza II for harp, the Prélude, Fugue et Variation originally for organ by César Franck, and with my trio we’re learning Sofia Gubaidulina’s Garten von Freuden und Traurigkeiten and the Sonata for harp, flute & viola by Debussy.

What do you enjoy doing most?

I love traveling, exploring new places and meeting new people, so hopefully one day I’ll have a career that allows me to go to all the places I’ve dreamed of going to.

Born in Cardiff in 1991 Tomos attended Ysgol Pencae, Llandaff, a Welsh medium primary school, where he studied harp and piano lessons from 5 years old. After four years as a choral scholar at The Cathedral School, Llandaff he gained a major music scholarship to Eton College on harp and piano where he studied with Helen Radice for the first three years and Sally Pryce for the final two.

Tomos was then awarded a scholarship to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance to study with Gabriella Dall’Olio. He is currently spending the 3rd year of his undergraduate degree on the Erasmus programme at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Aragón in Zaragoza with Gloria Martinez, returning to London in June to complete his final year at Trinity Laban.

www.tomosxerri.co.uk

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