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 me, when I first thought about undertaking such a project I felt it had to be markedly different to other Harp/flute /voice focussed events in NZ so that it expanded what is available here in Aotearoa and it also had to complement the THTP curriculum and further enhance the students “tool box” in their musical life.

In addition, I wanted to showcase the best of Kiwi culture to International participants (although in truth I had no idea if anyone would voyage so far to attend!)

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

We 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!

A Celtic blessing opened our retreat and I was thrilled to be able to present Muriel Spenceley with her certificate of completion, Muriel is now studying for her Master’s 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 Resources 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 a the four wall 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!)

Head over to the website to hear what we created from scratch in 4 hours!

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

This sharing between us all was, for me, 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 I feel something that I would like to repeat in other centres in NZ.

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 oTop of Form

(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, further details on this Program will be available online from April. This training complements our work as Health care musicians and is a good way to extend your 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, I would like to think it was a result of the extraordinary people who chose to come together at this Retreat, whatever it was I want to thank all of you for giving so much to each other in this precious community.


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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.