Initially the academy began with six students centred around the city of Brisbane, reflecting the fact that luthier Doug Eaton had been making three and a half octave chromatic harps for a number of years. Early in 2007 classes and demonstration performances were held for Sydney based harpists, at Gosford, in the huge workshops of luthier Brandden Lassells. This was followed by a similar set of classes in Victoria for harpists from Melbourne. Again the sessions were held under the patronage of Brandden Lassells in his recently transferred workshops.
The aim of the academy is not only to introduce and promote the chromatic harp to this country, but particularly to ensure that anybody wishing to play this instrument will have direct, free access to the correct technique for playing. There are a number of techniques available to the player, ranging from the renaissance style of the Spanish school, through the classical style of the French school to the folk and jazz style of the American school. Each is a distinctly different approach, and the player needs to make a clear choice of technical style according not only the type of music they are wanting to play, but also the complexity and difficulty of the music in their repertoire.
The academy teaches the French technique, as developed and taught at the Paris and Brussells Conservatoriums. This is because the French technique allows you to play much more intricate, virtuosic and complex pieces, whether it be classical or jazz. It emphasizes the fact that this is a chromatic instrument, not simply a harp that can be played in any key, and utilizes the playing of chromatic four part chords and double handed octaves, which the other methods do not. For players with a singular interest in Early and Renaissance music, we also teach the Spanish style, as it is ideal for the rhythmic articulation of the repertoire, as well as the restricted keys of the compositions. However, even in the case of specialist repertoires, I would encourage harpists to explore the benefits of both styles, despite the recently cultivated obsessions with authentic performance styles.
Because of the distances involved in traveling even the east coast of Australia, the academy aims to function by initially being able to do workshops and demonstrations in different states, following this up with providing tuitional literature and music to interested bodies, then following that up with lessons and advice on a correspondence level via email and the post. The material taught by the chromatic academy is contained in a textbook- The Complete Chromatic Harp, by Donald Hall, which covers the history of the instrument, neural patterning in instrumental learning, the full technique for playing, the Spanish style, playing in modes from blues scales to Middle Eastern scales, as well as a chapter on the care of the harp and the harpist.
In addition, the academy wishes to provide harpists with links to chromatic harpists in Europe and America, as well as providing information about Australian makers of the chromatic harp, and their instruments.. See the respective pages in the menu for further information.