Jacinta Dennett is a leading figure in harp performance and teaching in Australia, and is emerging as an authority on Australian women composers through her PhD research in music performance at the University of Melbourne. Jacinta’s wide range of performance styles include as concerto soloist, recitalist, orchestral and chamber musician. Media reviews have declared Jacinta’s performance “beyond reproach,” and one commentator described her unique gift for creating something tangible from music as “making architecture through sound.” Her work is recognised for its rare fusion of poetry—through her heartfelt and intuitive embodiment of music—and physicality—enriched by her flamenco dance and martial arts study, which includes a national title in taekwondo. In December 2016 a reviewer admired these qualities: “Harpist Jacinta’s stamina was such that she sailed through the intense programme with ease and assurance … perhaps we should all study taekwondo.”
Poetry is central to Jacinta’s programming, which she creates with a focus on audience experience. Her programme French Kisses was a sultry collection of short pieces featuring flute, violin and harp; Scintillation was a musical feast performed by the Melbourne Harp Ensemble to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of composer Carlos Salzedo; and her duo Bliss! programme And their song melts with the moonlight was an exquisite rendition of music inspired by poetry of the French Symbolists, echoing their desire to make the soul visible. As an extension of her PhD research, in exploring trends in modern harp repertoire for solo harp by Australian composers, Jacinta curated an ‘Australian Voices’ concert featuring Helen Gifford’s chamber music in conjunction with the Melbourne Recital Centre and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). This celebrated performance was broadcast on ABC Classic FM and is available as a New Waves podcast. This year Jacinta is touring internationally a solo recital sharing the title of Jennifer Fowler’s solo harp composition Threaded Stars. The program features a new work by Alicia Grant and the premier performance was given in Bunbury, Western Australia.
For more than a decade Jacinta has led harp pedagogy at Australia’s most distinguished musical institutions: ANAM, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, and Monash University. With formal teaching qualifications and a background in Steiner education and Suzuki methods, teaching both adults and children is an important extension of Jacinta’s dedication to harp. Drawing upon her Feldenkrais, eurythmy, dance and martial arts knowledge, and delivered in a style her students describe as joyful, she encourages musicians to seek improvements and solutions to their own performances by tuning into their bodies to cultivate their own continued self-learning.
Demonstrating her own love of learning, Jacinta holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Music Performance, Graduate Diploma of Music Performance, Graduate Diploma of Education, Foundation Certificate in Steiner Education, a Masters of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts Practice, researching ways to use eurythmy in harp playing. Jacinta’s current research has shifted her focus, and delving musically and academically into the harp compositions of Australian women has brought a deeper authenticity and sense of belonging to her work.
Harp is an instrument of ethereal mysteries with the harpist’s movement setting the strings to vibrate, handing the music a life of its own. Jacinta describes this interactive experience of playing harp as the sensation of swimming with sound.