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'Royal harpist' happy to expand repertoire

Not too many concert artists can claim royal patronage these days. However, that's one distinction Catrin Finch has over most of her colleagues.

Last May, the young Welsh musician was appointed to the position of royal harpist to the Prince of Wales, and her life has hardly been the same since.

In an interview with the Deseret News conducted via e-mail, Finch said that her life has been turned upside-down — but for the better. "It has definitely changed my life. I've had a lot of publicity, which has been really great. Concerts are flooding in, and it seems to have created a general interest in the harp itself. People are really excited and interested about the position."

This is the first time in some 130 years that there has been a royal harpist in England. Finch isn't exactly sure why Prince Charles decided to revive the post, but she's glad he did.

"Being appointed royal harpist has been my greatest honor," Finch said, "and it's put me in the spotlight."

Finch came to Charles' attention when he heard her play at his 50th birthday party. At around the same time, he was thinking of finding a personal harpist to play at his official functions. "He asked some musicians in Wales who they thought would fit the post — and they all came up with me!"

As to her royal responsibilities, Finch explained that they're light. "My duties are pretty simple, really. I play for (Prince Charles) whenever he wants, normally at dinners, etc. — probably around seven or eight times a year." And that leaves plenty of time for her to finish her studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London and to travel the world on concert tours.

One such tour will bring Finch to Salt Lake City this week. Her recital will feature a varied program of Debussy, Faure, Liszt and J.S. Bach. Most of these pieces are transcriptions of works originally written for piano, since the harp repertoire is somewhat limited.

And Finch relishes playing a wide variety of music. "I play everything from classical to jazz. And in recitals, I like to play a broad range of styles to try and show as much as possible what the harp is capable of — from Baroque to present day. The harp's repertoire isn't huge, so I'm working on making it bigger and broader."

Finch's recital takes place Thursday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. in Libby Gardner Concert Hall on the University of Utah campus. General admission tickets are $10, available through ArtTix at 355-ARTS or 1-888-451-ARTS, or by calling the Kingsbury Hall box office at 581-7100.