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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
New harpist relishes royal role
Jemima Phillips
Jemima Phillips took up the role last month
Performing for royalty has to be one of the highest accolades for any young musicians but for one Welsh harpist, it is just part of the day job.

Last month, 22-year-old Jemima Phillips took over from Catrin Finch as Prince Charles' official harpist.

The post was created to encourage talented young Welsh harpists, and Ms Phillips was delighted to have been chosen for the two-year appointment.

She now hopes to use the role to raise her profile and plans to record a CD.

Ms Phillips, from Ebbw Vale, was first asked to perform for the prince at the end of last year.

"I played background music for Prince Charles at a private event in December," she said.

"I don't know if it was a test, but I wondered why Catrin [Finch] wasn't doing it.

I hope to be able to raise the profile of the harp with the general public
Jemima Phillips

"Then earlier this year, I was asked if I was offered the position, would I take it?

"I said yes, but I wasn't allowed to tell anyone about it."

In 2000, the Prince of Wales revived an ancient Royal tradition by appointing Catrin Finch as his official harpist.

She was the first to receive the post since it was last granted in 1871 by Queen Victoria to John Thomas.

Ms Finch, from Llanon, near Aberystwyth, had to relinquish the role after passing the job's upper age limit of 25.

Catrin Finch
Catrin Finch is now too old to hold the post

Then, during Prince Charles' visit to Wales in July, she was presented with a special brooch which is only given to the official harpist.

Ms Phillips has been playing the harp for 13 years, and is now doing an intensive masters course at the Royal College of Music in London.

"I knew by the time I was 11 it was what I wanted to do," she said.

"Now I am the first harp student to be accepted on the intensive masters course."

High hopes

As a young harpist in Wales, she said she was well aware of the official harpist role, and had hoped to get it.

"I have known Catrin for years - she talked to me about the things she had to do in the four years she has done it.

However, she is not expecting to be rushed off her feet.

It is nice to think it will carry on for many years to come
Catrin Finch

"Catrin has told me it is about five or six engagements a year, and I am waiting to hear what the next one will be."

But she knows what she wants to achieve.

"I want to be good at my job, and also use it to promote my own profile, and get a CD out."

"I hope to be able to raise the profile of the harp with the general public and bring it into the 21st century."

And Ms Finch is urging her successor to enjoy the job.

"She is very lucky, and she should use every opportunity she gets," she said.

"For me, it was a major part of my career - I had my stint, and I feel pretty honoured.

"It is nice to think it will carry on for many years to come."




SEE ALSO:
Funding cut for music tuition
13 Apr 04  |  Wales
Prince appoints Royal harpist
11 May 00  |  Wales



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