Edinburgh International Harp Festival 2015

I’m spending four days up in Scotland this week to take part in Edinburgh’s International Harp Festival 2015 with my harp quartet CLOUDS. Today is Sunday, day one.

I took the train up from Manchester. So I’m here, with no car, and no harp – totally at the mercy of my fellow CLOUDS members to look after me – they’re doing a brilliant job so far I must say.

It was awesome having some alone time on the train, time to read my book, time to stare out of the window, time to get very annoyed by the drunk hen party trying to get us all to do shots at 2pm.

I arrived in Edinburgh and shared a lift to the festival with Bec and we had some snacks and quickly got to rehearsing for our concert on Tuesday.

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Great thing about a harp festival – you can go shopping and you know it’s all useful stuff. Ergonomic tuning key for a fiver? We’ll take as many as we can thanks!

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There are so many harp-related things/music/t-shirts/postcards/jewellry/CDs/mugs/aprons! I need to remember not to spend too much money while I’m here.

Speaking of dilemmas, here’s one:

I have so much practice to do – seriously – I have a very  important audition next month and sooo many notes to learn. So what do I do? Experience the festival properly by going to everything – knowing that I have all the more work to do when I get home – or hide myself away and try to practice? Maybe I’ll try and find a happy medium tomorrow.

But for now, I’ve eaten a lovely dinner thanks to Esther’s mum and am now tucked up in bed – let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Monday – Day Two

Today has been a long one. We arrived at the festival just after 10am, my fellow CLOUDS were booked in for a masterclass with the lovely Eleanor Turner but I:

a) wasn’t organised enough to get a ticket

b) actually quite wanted to just hang out at the festival, see the exhibitions, go shopping etc.

So until lunchtime I visited the showroom and looked at lots of new harps & harp accessories (my weakness!) I bought some awesome tape that has manuscript on it so if you want to re-write something enharmonically you just tape over it! What a find! I also bought some nice arrangements of wedding music that’s bound to come in handy. I think that’s all I bought today (not including food – oops).

I also went for a little walk down to the village of Colinton, about 15 minutes walk from the festival – I saw a couple of very nice looking restaurants that I’d love to try if I was staying for longer.

Anyway, we all met up for lunch – it’s so nice to see lots of RNCM harpists here  – then CLOUDS went along to the class Esther was teaching to demonstrate some of the improvisation we do in our music. The class were so lovely and appreciative!

I’m ashamed to say that after the class, more shopping took place. We were shown some amazing carbon fibre lever harps (try saying that out loud – it’s hard!) which are unbelievably light and seemingly impossible to damage. These harps are the future! You can lift it with one hand easily, which we did, several times:

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There is so much to see. Listing all the stands would take forever! There’s harp makers, harp music, harp cases, harp insurance, harp amplification, jazz harp, baroque harp, harp jewellry, greeting cards, stools, stands, tuning keys, bags, tuners, the list goes on and on and we want all of it!

Oh and there seem to be pots of Haribo everywhere too – what’s going on?!

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I managed to squeeze in about half an hour of practice (shameful but better than nothing!) before CLOUDS began our last big rehearsal before our concert tomorrow night. We are borrowing beautiful, brand new harps from Holywell so we’re a bit nervous about doing all our usual extended techniques in case we break them! But we do it to our own harps all the time and I’m sure the lovely folks at Holywell trust us completely (cough).

At around 7.30pm we called it a day and headed back to Esther’s place in Peebles, lovely Peebles! I wish I was here for longer to spend some time just walking around and take in the breath-taking scenery – but we’re at the festival all day and when we get back we just have dinner and crash.

Tomorrow is concert day! Yayyy!

Tuesday – Day Three

For most of Tuesday morning/afternoon we took it quite easy to save our energy for the evening concert. We rehearsed for about an hour but for the rest of the time we mainly ate and chilled out. Bec and I found a lovely pub called the Spylaw Tavern so we thought we should take the opportunity and eat while we still had time. All the harps were moved for us by David from Holywell – which was brilliant.

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The concert itself went really well. We had a great time and the hall was almost completely full. We got lots of lovely feedback too. After the interval we helped ourselves to a celebratory glass of wine and watched the second half of the concert – Eleanor Turner – who was fantastic, we are all in awe of her amazing playing!

Immediately after the concert the festival had laid on some wine and snacks for us. All my favourite foods were there: goats cheese, houmous, coleslaw, it was brilliant!

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We then decided to carry on the party in Edinburgh at The Jazz Bar, where we stayed and danced to live jazz until just after 3am. Some of the current RNCM harpists came too and we had a really good catch up on all things harp/life related. I am slightly worried that we were a little rowdy when we got back to our rooms, we did our best to be quiet! Kind of…

Wednesday – Day Four

All of this brings us to Wednesday, day four. We knew we would need breakfast this morning but they only serve food until 9am – so this means we got around four hours of sleep. All we could do this morning was eat, pack, check-out of our rooms, and get to the city centre ready for my train.

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So here I am at the Waterstones cafe on Princes Street, Edinburgh. My train is in a couple of hours and then I’ll be back in Manchester and it will be time to get back to work!

This has turned into a mammoth post – but these past few days have been great: lovely people, inspiring music and performances, great setting.

Harpists, if you are debating whether to go to this harp festival, I strongly urge you to go! There is something for everyone, whatever standard you are. If you like the harp, you’ll fit right in, trust me!

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The ultimate guide to booking a harpist for your wedding.

So you’re getting married? Congratulations! You’d like a harpist to play for your wedding? You obviously have excellent taste. I thought I’d write this guide for happy couples to try to answer some of the questions I get asked when being booked to play for a wedding.

The first thing to do is email me (my email address is angelinawarburton@gmail.com). I’m very friendly and would love to hear from you. We can chat about anything you like but it’s helpful if I have the following information:

1. The date and venue of your wedding

This is vital information to know from the start as I’ll be able to tell you immediately if I’m available. Knowing the venue from the start is great too as it means I can give you an accurate quote (see my page of standard fees). There may be a small extra charge if a change of venue is required (for example, if your ceremony is in a church but your reception is in a hotel).

2. Which part of the wedding would you like harp music for?

There’s lots of choice for you here. Most weddings have three main ingredients:

  • Ceremony
  • Drinks reception
  • Wedding breakfast

I am able to play for any combination of the above. When it comes to the ceremony, obviously the music is of utmost importance – let me know your choice of entrance and exit music as soon as you have decided, if you have a specific choice for the signing of the register, let me know that too and I’ll get practising!

p.s. ask me to email you my repertoire list too

Drinks reception and Wedding breakfast both simply require background music (up to two hours for drinks or three hours for breakfast).

3. Are there any special arrangements needed?

Aha… here’s the tricky bit.

A harp is worth anywhere between £16,000 right the way up to £50,000 and more, so we need to look after them very carefully.

Ideally, a venue will have the following:

  • A reserved car parking space near an accessible entrance – stairs are the enemy here. Think like a dalek. If there are a lot of stairs it’s not the end of the world, we may just need to make sure some staff are on hand to help me with any heavy lifting I may need to do. That’s what the best man is there for, right?
  • A place for the harp to be played that isn’t in anybody’s way but also isn’t too near a radiator/open fire

A little note about playing outside – it is possible, if the following are available:

  • Shelter from the sun/rain – lots of venues have parasols that can be put up – trees aren’t enough I’m afraid
  • Somewhere nearby to put covers and my trolley just in case the weather changes and I need to make a dash for it

Having said all this, if you have any questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to accommodate your wishes. I’m here to enhance your special day.

Ok, next. We’ve arranged the date, venue, any music requests and agreed on the fee, phew! Almost done, now we just need to make it official.

All harpists will have a different system here. But here’s mine:

  1. I’ll email you a contract to confirm all the details of your wedding
  2. A 50% deposit will be payable immediately
  3. The remaining fee is due two weeks before the big day
  4. The big day arrives, wonderful music happens, happiness ensues.

So there you have it! The ultimate guide to booking a harpist for your wedding. I really hope this helps, if you have any questions, just drop me an email – I’d love to talk through any queries you may have.

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