Hannah Brock, Musician

I was excited to be invited by Professor Helen Weinstein to participate in the Cycle of Songs project for the Tour de France this year. For the past four years, I have been part of an organisation called Aldeburgh Young Musicians - an incubator for musical talent in the East of England - where I met the talented young composer Alex Cook. It was really wonderful to work with him again on this new project as he left AYM last year. Alex was one of the first composers to compose music for me. Others have shied away because I play quite an unusual instrument - the Chinese harp (a Gu Zheng) - with a very unusual notation; numbers instead of notes! I've worked with Alex on previous projects including a ballet he wrote inspired by holocaust survivor Anka Clarke. His style of composition suits my instrument and he has been able to blend the sound of my Gu Zheng with western instruments and voices. 
When we first started the Cycle of Songs project, Helen asked us to centre the piece on some aspect of Cambridge, following the route of the tour de france and including an iconic place and story. My mother suggested we used a very famous Chinese poem by Xu Zhimo about the River Cam as inspiration for our piece. For the Chinese, this poem has the same kind of significance as a Shakespearean sonnet. It is learnt in school by all children in China, event though it is about saying farewell to a city in Cambridge. This seemed a very apposite way of linking the east-west nature of the music with a poem symbolising the same connections. The poem in the original language is exceedingly beautiful, and in translation, Alex and I decided to choose one line from the poem we found particularly inspiring which was : "To seek a dream."
The rehearsal and recording process over the following weeks was equally enjoyable, performing at the Fitzwilliam Museum for "Museums at Night" and also rehearasing in the artistic space of Kettle's Yard, and performing to welcome the Cycle of Songs choir to their rehearsal. 
Photos from the rehearsal at Kettle's Yard can be found by clicking here.
Next, we had a very concentrated day of recording all the instruments in turn, starting with the piano and the choir in the Recital Room at the Music Faculty.  My Gu Zheng was the final instrument to be recorded of the day. I've listened to the recording of our piece and think the way it layers the sound of the choir without drowning out the quiet and tremulous nature of the harp gives the piece a very nice texture. It's a good listen !     
Hannah was born in Cambridge in July 1999. Between the ages of 2 and 9 she lived in Beijing where her musical talent was encouraged by her nursery school. She started to play Gu Zheng (an ancient Chinese Zither) at the age of four along with piano and drums. 
After returning to the UK in 2009, Hannah continued to study the Gu Zheng over Skype with her teacher in Beijing and also picked up the Cello when she joined secondary school. Currently she plays Gu Zheng at grade 10 level and finished her grade eight piano this year. 
Hannah has given many public performances both in China and the UK. She won the first British School of Beijing Instrumental Competition in 2007 with her Gu Zheng at the age of 7. In 2010 she won a music scholarship to The Stephen Perse Foundation. Later that year became an Aldeburgh Young Musician and was made a Leverhulme Artist. In 2011, Hannah performed at TED Global in Edinburgh and also played at Latitude with AYM Exchanging World's Ensemble the same year. Last year, Hannah performed with the AYM Exchanging World's Ensemble at the London Jazz Festival. This year, Hannah has collaborated with young composer Alex Cook to create new music for the Cycle of Song project for Tour de France.

To learn more about the piece that Hannah has performed for Cycle of Songs and to hear a pre-mix version of it, you can visit the Sound Files page.

Hannah Brock - 'The Fight of the Typhoon' at TEDx Aldeburgh

To view pictures of Hannah's involvement with Cycle of Songs click on the slideshow below:

Created with flickr slideshow.
Hannah Brock, Musician


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