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Michelle Velvin | SOUNZ Community Commission 2019

Wellington-based harpist and composer Michelle Velvin is the recipient of the 2019 SOUNZ Community Commission. Michelle will be writing a suite of dances for the Auckland Harp Orchestra. We caught up with Michelle to find out more about the project.


Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am a harpist and composer living in Wellington. I studied both harp performance and composition at the New Zealand School of Music, finishing in 2015 with distinction in my postgraduate performance diploma. I am very lucky that Wellington has an incredibly diverse set of musical groups, as this means that I am constantly performing with different groups and being exposed to new music! Among others, I frequently play with Orchestra Wellington, NZSO, Stroma, and Duo Eolienne, (my own saxophone/harp chamber music group).I have been exploring adding more improvisational aspects to my live performance this year, which has flowed really nicely into recording harp for NZ musicians, such as Cory Champion and Mara TK. 

Could you describe your project?

My project is to create a new suite of dances for the Auckland Harp Orchestra with live dancers incorporated into it. The Auckland Harp Orchestra is the brain-child of Auckland harpist and composer Anna Dunwoodie and has been running since 2013. The AHO comprises of anywhere between 15 to 20 harpists, teenagers and adults, who regularly perform to a community audience. Within this group there are some talented student dancers, so the idea is to encourage and support these keen dancers and harpists by combining music and dance in this project. 

Photo: Nic Manders

How did you become involved with AHO? Had you played with them before?

I have been involved with the 'Harpenz' ensemble workshop that Anna Dunwoodie runs every two years, and the AHO was founded from this group. Also, in general the harp community in New Zealand is very small so we tend to know one another!

How will you incorporate the dancers? Who will be doing the choreography?

The dancers will be creating their own choreography in response to the music and concepts that our collaboration discovers/explores. The dancers will be as important as the music, so ideally they will be incorporated throughout the entire work. 

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to meeting the harp players and talking to them about my ideas, and hearing about the kind of music they like to play. I am excited to discuss concepts and try out different sounds and movements with the group and dancers, but also I am very excited to hear and watch my final project when it's completed! I will be really pleased if the AHO enjoys playing my composition and enjoys the collaboration process.


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