Review of The Friars residential course 2009

It was my first time at the Friars in Kent, my first Clarsach Society event, and I was nervous.

It was a hot drive, and I was tired. The traffic had been murderous and kicked off the bank holiday weekend in true British style. But, I had arrived with half an hour to spare before the evening meal was to be served and I began my first foray with the London Branch.


Small in number, with a light supper in front of us, our group settled down and the introductions began. Everyone was excited, energetic, and really looking forward to a weekend of harp. The conversation flowed easily and I was made to feel very welcome. My nerves eased as I looked forward to a wonderful weekend.

The Friday evening saw us have a workshop on improvisation led by Lynne.

TheFriars-May09-03Laughter followed the music as we all relaxed and enjoyed the evening. The snippets of wisdom were wonderful.

Many a light bulb switched on over my head that evening as ideas, directly attributed to the workshop, floated into my mind. It really did set the tone and get us all in the mood for a weekend of music.

Saturday saw the excitement begin all over again as classes were held with Sue Rothstein and Isobel Mieras.


The group was split into two according to ability with the elementary players starting the day with Sue, and then spending the afternoon with Isobel.

Both tutors provided a good steady pace of learning intermingled with gems of advice and encouragement.

Contrasting in character, both rewarded the participants with exuberance and enthusiasm from Sue, and patience laced with a wicked sense of humour with Isobel.

On the Saturday evening we were privileged to have a recital from Isobel with many Scottish tunes played and accompanied by the relatively unknown tales behind their origins. TheFriars-May09-06

This made for a fantastic evening where we didn’t just listen to the music and song, but also through Isobel’s knowledge, became more familiar with it to understand the notes on a more personal level.

A real treat and a wonderful evening – thank you Isobel!

Sunday held a similar adventure to that which we experienced on the Saturday. Sue’s enthusiasm had not waned, neither had Isobel’s humour!

After being made to work hard through the day, the evening provided a time to relax and enjoy the ceilidh.

Anne had tirelessly pulled together a list of performers that included pretty much everyone. Although some were more at ease than others at playing in front of a crowd, those who performed did so with grace and aplomb.

Monday heralded a merging of the two groups into one where it was hoped that the pieces we had been learning over the weekend would emerge like a butterfly as we presented them as an ensemble.


The success regarding this was somewhat mixed, but with Isobel gently guiding us, we moulded our efforts into something quite beautiful and worthy of the effort put in over those days.

With a contented sigh, lunch came and went.

Cars were packed and people made their way homes hopefully as re-energised as I felt.

For those who have previously been to the Friars in autumn, the summer residential brought a few memorable images…

Firstly, the buzzing bush on the way to the food hall full of bees and pollinating insects, singing a chorus of tones as they went about their business.

Second, the lovely black mallard (I think!) duck who shone emerald in the light.

Third, the stonework of the buildings as they soaked up the sun and rested in the shade, and finally, the sun kissed grounds which beckoned the feet to keep walking in and out of the trees and around on the grass…

(review by Adele Coles; photos Bruce Halls and Sue Rothstein)