New Zealand Retreat - January 2019

The first healthcare-focussed Healing Harps Retreat was held in the sunny Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, and it was amazing!


Emiemi aroha nui (a gathering of love)

NZ Therapy Harp Training Program Retreat 2019


Organising a healthcare-focussed music retreat was a dream come true for the former director of THTP, Marion Titmuss. When she first thought about undertaking such a project she felt it had to be markedly different to other Harp/flute/voice-focussed events in New Zealand so that it expanded what is available here in Aotearoa. It also had to complement the THTP curriculum and further enhance the students “tool box” in their musical life.

In addition, Marion wanted to showcase the best of Kiwi culture to international participants (hoping that they would voyage to NZ to attend!)

Reflecting on the event, Marion is filled with joyous memories, new abilities and a widened appreciation for the community that thinks about Music beyond its performing and educational roles.

The retreat began by introducing and welcoming those who had travelled internationally from as far away as America, as well as harpists from the South Island and from the very tip of Northland (NZ)!

A Celtic blessing opened our retreat and Marion was thrilled to be able to present Muriel Spenceley with her certificate of completion, Muriel is now studying for her Masters in Music using the papers she studied on the THTP course to support her thesis.


May the peace of the tallest mountain and the peace of the smallest stone be your peace

May the stillness of the stars watch over you

May the everlasting music of the wave lull you to rest.


Our first workshop was on the Maori model of healthcare, accompanying notes on this are available as free downloads on the THTP website under the Resources tab.

Comments from one of the participants highlighted the importance of spirituality in becoming a whole musician:

“I felt the welcome and introduction to the Maori model of Healthcare was a perfect way to introduce the retreat experience. I love the image of the four walls of a house to represent the components of a healthy lifestyle……the most essential requirement for well-being is spirituality; it seems to me that a realistic acknowledgement of one’s small place in the Universe and human constructs is highly desirable, while a recognition of each person’s self worth gives meaning to life.”

Phyllis Howard USA THTP Graduate

Everyone then had the opportunity to either browse the extensive library of THTP music books, have a go at playing some traditional Maori instruments or relax and enjoy a 1:1 session in the Yoga shed with our resident Breath and Bodywork practitioner Sharon Thackham.


Saturday afternoon saw us taking in the spectacular views from the Minden hills over the Bay, picnicking in the beautiful Maclarens Fall park,

and then arriving at the Colour Field Studio for an all afternoon session on improvising and recording!


For many of the participants who had never been in a recording studio it was an eye opening opportunity to see how beneficial it is to really capture your musicianship. Improvising was also a new experience for some if not all of us especially as the unusual array of instruments we had brought gave us all a creative buzz (crystal sound bowls, Tibetan cymbals, Native American Flutes, guitars, alto flute, several harps, NZ native bird song and voice!)

Over dinner we all exchanged knowledge and repertoire about playing our harps and flutes; there was even an opportunity to try playing a Native American Flute.

This sharing between us all was, for Marion, the most important part of the Retreat experience. It seemed that everyone felt supported and enabled because of the open hearted and non-judgemental manner of everyone there. This is exactly why it is so important to find time to explore how our musicianship can be extended positively by spending time with those that inspire, heal and change our thinking.

Sunday saw us moving to the Historic Village in Tauranga for a public presentation on using music in healthcare, we were joined by Margaret Harper who has extensive experience in Hospice/Hospital and private practice. It was clear from some of the reactions of the audience that something cathartic was happening. It was a powerful and uplifting experience and would be wonderful to repeat it.

Our afternoon session was held in the beautiful 1820’s Historic church, we broadcast live the session to other THTP students worldwide and sight-read harp quartets, improvised music and shared our favourite pieces!

We followed this by driving to Te Wharekura o, (the Maori immersion school in Bethlehem) where we were welcomed onto the Marae and had a full Powhiri experience. The quality of the young people’s singing was amazing, it was moving and an amazing example of passionate music making and performing.


We arrived back happy to enjoy a “pot luck supper” followed by a performance from the Silver Bay Pans Band and then more harp playing!



Monday morning, we travelled to the beautiful Te Puna Quarry park, where after a restorative bush walk, we undertook 3 hours of training in Sound beds, this cutting edge technology harnesses the innate vibrations of harps and transmits them through sound beds. This training complements our work as Healthcare musicians and is a good way to extend career potential and music knowledge.

The moment when we had to say good bye was hard, we had all grown together as a group and our voyaging was far ranging and life changing, perhaps it was the environment of Aotearoa, perhaps it was the influence of the materials we explored. Marion says she would like to think it was a result of the extraordinary people who chose to come together at this Retreat, whatever it Marion thanks all of you for giving so much to each other in this precious community.



Sign up for the course

The Therapy Harp Training Program is an internationally accredited healthcare music training course fully advocating that spirituality is a necessary component in ministering to a patient/client.