Autumn Update

Hello lovelies,

Autumn is here – my favourite season – and we’re all getting ready to snuggle down while the nights draw in and the weather turns chilly.

For myself and for most of the harpists I know, wedding season is drawing to a close. I am currently taking bookings for weddings in 2018 and 2019 so please do get in touch if you want to chat about hiring a wedding harpist. Personally I think autumn/winter weddings are absolutely beautiful and probably what Tim and I are going to go for. Having played for so many weddings in my career so far, I have lots of ideas for things I would like at my own wedding and am so excited to start planning!

 

This brings me to my next life update – we are buying a house! Not sure when we’ll be in at this point but fingers crossed we won’t have to wait too long. Having been engaged since May it’ll be lovely to actually live together at last. It’s been tricky to find the right place as we were looking for somewhere with a separate downstairs room to be my music room (the trials and tribulations of a harpist’s life!) but we have found a place we love and hopefully it’ll be ours soon enough.

Back to harp-related news now, I have a few lovely gigs coming up, which provide a wonderful excuse to practise some really fantastic repertoire. Hasselmans La Source, Grandjany Aria in a Classic Style, Faure Requiem & Cantique de Jean Racine, and my favourite: Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols – such good stuff coming up! Make sure to follow me on instagram to follow the adventures of a Manchester harpist. I’m planning to record some more material for my youtube channel too so head over and subscribe for some of my favourite harp music.

One final piece of news, I’ve enrolled in a Foundation Course with the British Wheel of Yoga. Very much enjoying it so far and who knows, it may even lead to teacher training sometime in the future. That would be a wonderful extra string to my bow (harp?). Yoga is absolutely amazing for musicians as we spend so many hours hunched over our instruments (and increasingly, our laptops), it’s easy for niggles to creep in. Yoga also gives us a bit of mental space, being a musician isn’t like your regular 9-5, it’s a lifestyle and you’re probably thinking about it 24/7. Yoga involves practising clearing the mind of these thoughts and turning the attention inwards, practising mindfulness and meditation, it is so refreshing and really worth doing.

I think that’s enough from me for now! Harpists: how was wedding season for you? Musicians: do you practice yoga and find it beneficial? Let me know in the comments.

Bye for now,

A xx

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What I’ve been up to…

Over the past couple of weeks, my harp quartet CLOUDS have been on tour all over Great Britain.

Of course I had to document the time some way or other, and here are a couple of videos showing a little bit of what we got up to while we were away:

 

But even though our tour is over, the concerts continue over the next month or so in Manchester. Here’s where you can see us:

Tuesday, June 27th at 7.30pm as past of Didsbury Arts Festival. More details here.

Tuesday, July 11th at 7.30pm in St. Ann’s Church, Manchester City Centre.

Thursday, August 3rd at 3.30pm in Manchester Central Library as part of Manchester Jazz Festival.

Sunday, August 6th at 3pm in the Whitworth Art Gallery. More details here.

Please do come along and say hello if you attend one of our concerts.

I also wanted to just say a massive ‘thank-you’ to everyone who supported us along the way on our recent tour. Our parents looked after us a lot and kept us well-fed (largely with garlic bread – my request) and the staff and teams at the various venues for welcoming us with open arms and encouraging the locals to get involved and support us.

And (I’ll try not to get emotional here) thanks to my fellow CLOUDS for being amazing and inspiring musicians and fierce friends. I love you all so much x x x

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10 Reasons to Love the Freelance Life

As you may have seen in this week’s YouTube video, I wanted this post to be a list of reasons to love living and working freelance.

Having recently quit my part-time retail job, I can now safely say that all the work I do is either self-employed, or, if it is employment, it’s still music related, it’s still helping my career.

If you have any additional points to add to this list – let me know in the comments, why do you love the freelance life?

  1.  Effort put in is directly proportional to Results & Success.

    When you’re working for minimum wage, it’s easy to feel like you’re just paid to ‘be there’. You get paid the same amount as the colleagues who perhaps don’t pull their weight, leaving you to pick up the slack. However hard you work, your hourly pay is the same.

    Not exactly motivating is it?

    What’s your incentive to work hard if you’re getting paid just as much as if you literally do nothing except stand there?

    When you’re working freelance, the amount of time and effort you put in is directly proportional to your success. You’ve gota put in the hustle, baby

    2. Financial freedom.

    You decide your pay at the end of each week/month. For example, I like to put all my earnings into a separate account (my accountant likes it that way) and then pay myself a set amount each Friday. That works for me because I like the feeling of having constant, regular income. If another way works for you, do that. We decide how it works.

    I also use what’s in my business account to reinvest in my career with new music, gear, and keeping my harp and car in tip-top condition. My profits go back to me and my business, not to a boss, CEO or shareholder. Imagine if more companies did that? Reinvesting the profits rather than lining other people’s pockets is just the sensible way to go and it increases your intrinsic value.

    3. Setting your own schedule – or not setting a schedule at all!

    Some people (and by some people I mean me) absolutely love working to a schedule. Other people work best when they can go with the flow. Some people do their best work early in the morning, for others 2am is ideal. When you’re freelance, you’re not bound by anyone else’s schedule and can work at a time that’s best for you.

    I’m currently experimenting with the Pomodoro Technique and will let you know how I get on with it.

    4. YOU ARE THE BOSS.

    Have you ever had a job where you hated your boss or a particular colleague? It’s pretty difficult to hate yourself to the same extent.

    I’ve worked for bosses before and luckily most of the time we’ve got on fine, but the feeling of being your own boss is pretty difficult to beat.

    5. The possibilities are endless – no need to convince anyone except yourself.

    If you have an idea for your business, and if you are confident you can pull it off, nothing can stop you going after your goals. Want to move in a different direction? Narrow down or change your niche? As long as you can convince yourself, go for it!

    6. You choose your clients and set your own fee, plus you only accept the work you are happy to take on.

    This may not exactly be the case when you’re starting out. But as you get more and more work you can start being selective with what you take on (if you want). If someone doesn’t want to pay your fee or says it’s too high, just let them go. If you believe that your rate is reasonable (and I hope that you do) then trust that if this particular client won’t pay your fee, then you can politely decline the work and leave the date free for someone else who is wiling to pay for the value that you are offering.

    7. You choose your own holidays.

    I’ve worked jobs before where there’s a flat-out rule of ‘no holidays in December’. I don’t really enjoy having my time dictated to me like that. When you’re freelance, if there’s an important event (a family wedding for example), if you have enough notice, and it’s important enough to you, you can block that day out and say no to anything else that comes in. You don’t need to worry about fitting your holiday in between those of everyone else at work – all you need to worry about is what’s best for your situation.

    8. The satisfaction of knowing that your success is down to YOU.

    When I pay myself at the end of every week, that money goes into my account and I feel so proud that I created that income. I found the gigs, I wrote the contracts and invoices, I spoke to the clients and got to know them, I did the practice, I performed, I handled any logistics necessary. Maybe I’m just fiercely independent and hate relying on anyone else, but it’s a great feeling to be steering your own ship.

    9. You’re never finished.  There’s always more you can do.

    Freelancing isn’t for those who just want to leave work ‘at work’. It follows you everywhere, it’s always on your mind. It’s a lifestyle. All you can say is ‘I’ve done enough for today’, and know that tomorrow, you’ll pick up where you left off. Let’s not even talk about how much more practice all of us musicians could be doing. I’m choosing to see this as a positive. If you’ve got the drive and the energy, nothing can stop you.

    10. FREEDOM.

    The idea of freedom encapsulates everything I love about being freelance. You choose the work you take on, you choose the days you take off, you have total control over every aspect of your business. From what time you get up to how much you get paid, it’s all up to you.

As ever, thanks for reading. Don’t forget to pop your email in the box to subscribe and get future posts in your inbox (never more than once a week).

Catch you in a bit.

Ax

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2017 Intentions

By the time I hit Publish on this post, it will be 2017. But for now, as I lie in bed with Spyder the cat sleeping on my lap, and a glass of Shiraz and various chocolate baked goods next to me, I’m enjoying the final few days of 2016.

But as well as relaxing and switching off, I’ve also been looking ahead to 2017 and thinking about what I’d like to achieve in this coming year.

As a general rule, I think New Year’s Resolutions are bad news as a ridiculously high percentage of them fail, which makes us feel like failures.

Not a good way to start the year.

I believe any day is a good day to set some goals and intentions for the future, but hey, it’s the new year, so instead of strict resolutions that are guaranteed to make me feel like an idiot when I fail, here are some intentions of things I’d like to work towards this year.

Quit my minimum wage, part-time job

So last August I freaked out about money, and started working in retail, part-time. Now, I want to schedule this post for Thursday, 5th January, that means I will be handing in my notice on Wednesday, 4th January. Scary! But (and I will probably dedicate a future post to this point) time is worth so much more than £7.20 an hour. Please know that I’m not saying my time is worth more than anyone else’s – everyone’s time is worth more than this.

I could teach a few more hours a week and make more, and I would be so much happier. Even just looking for other work would be a better use of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my coworkers, but I am not cut out for retail. I am a musician, and while I have this safety net I will always feel like I’m not doing myself justice.

I refuse to stay simply because I’m too scared that I need it. I will find something better. I will. I have to.

Practice the harp 7 hours every week

This may seem pathetically low to my musician pals who probably do two or three times that, but I’m starting easy so I can increase the hours once I’m back in the swing of it (see my above mini-rant on New Year’s Resolutions). Due to the nature of freelancing, daily practice targets don’t seem to work for me any more, I’m not going to practice for two hours before heading off to a gig to play background music all night. Instead I find it much easier to schedule in practice for the whole week, so I can see what the next seven days are going to look like at a glance. See also my previous post: How to Practice: Schedule it in

The trap I fall into (and please comment if this is you too!) is, if I don’t have many gigs coming up, or, if I only have background gigs for a few weeks, I ease off the practice.

That has to change in 2017.

As well as practising for upcoming gigs, I will be investing much more time into my YouTube channel and to generally building up my repertoire ready for competitions/auditions/potential recordings.

Watch out 2017 – I will be upping my game!

Keep hunting for more work, even in the good times

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s tempting to lay off looking for work when you have plenty of things in the diary. But what happens when empty months loom ahead and you don’t have any sort of safety net to fall back on? Pupils cancel, gig organisers find other players and suddenly your income dries up.

Potential nightmare.

In 2017 I will keep hustling, even in the busy times. Gigs and teaching will be my main focus. I’d rather sometimes be crazily busy if it means I have enough to see me through slower periods.

Sure, freelancing can be hard, but it’s also amazing and I am completely in love with it. I love being my own boss, having the power to find my own work and decide how much I earn. I’m not ready to give that up yet.

Here’s to a prosperous, exciting and rewarding 2017!

Ax

p.s. what goals and intentions are you setting for 2017? Leave me a comment and let me know. Also, pop your email in the box to subscribe and receive future posts in your inbox (never more than once a week).

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HARP DIARY | Mytholmroyd & Stockport

Last weekend was another packed weekend with gigs on both Friday and Saturday. This December is proving to be one of the busiest ever and I have to say that I’m loving being busy with harp-related activities:

Friday’s gig was so last minute – but I suppose that’s often the case with funerals. The church was in Mytholmroyd and was flooded last year, so has had a complete re-furb and is all pretty new. My job was simple: a touch of background music while friends and family gathered, and then Debussy’s Clair de Lune during communion. I do find funerals difficult to play for though – they are never easy are they?

Saturday meant Stockport Symphony Orchestra, and a lot of notes. And I do I mean a lot! I’d been sent the music a week or so before the concert with a little note from the other harpist saying ‘impossible bit! Play what you can!’ I personally hate being told something is impossible so dutifully worked on the notes until I could play them, only to find that once I was in the rehearsal it went about triple the speed I had been practising. Oops. It was unfortunately a case of ‘grab any strings you can’. You can see from the video that the inside of the Town Hall is very pretty  – and the orchestra had made it suitably Christmassy by putting tinsel on the music stands and several instruments. Christmas hats also featured in the second half of the concert. Unfortunately I missed that memo.

So another busy weekend! Do check out the video and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos of my harpy adventures. Please also sign up to receive these posts in your inbox by popping your email address in the box when asked.

Watch this space for next week’s video and post – it’s going to be a good one!

Ax

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HARP DIARY | GIGS ALL WEEKEND

Last weekend was a busy one. As well as having gigs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I was busy making a new video too:

If you have yet to visit Don Giovanni’s restaurant in Manchester city centre – make it a top priority. It’s been one of my favourite restaurants for as long as I’ve lived in Manchester (longer than I care to admit). Although I will say that playing whilst hungry is not a good idea when you are literally surrounded by the sight and smell of your favourite food (garlic bread).

Friday’s wedding in Lymm was a relatively short gig as I was only playing for the ceremony. Big congratulations to Amy and Peter for a beautiful day. Amy’s dress was stunning and took up the whole aisle. I actually thought the staff were kidding when they said I would have to move my harp to make way for The Dress.

Saturday’s gig was an orchestral concert in Southport. I mention in the video but I want to say here as well that, after learning the cadenza from Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers years and years ago, playing it with an orchestra is always such a treat. It makes me so happy. What also made me happy was the children’s choir who were also performing. To see them utterly mesmerised by the music was absolutely wonderful. Hopefully the orchestra will have inspired them to carry on with music and to keep learning.

December 2016 is shaping up to be one of the busiest ever. Watch this space for more exciting projects, videos and gigs.

To get my posts in your inbox (never more that once a week), enter your email in the Subscribe box when it appears. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Cheerio for now!

Ax

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Porto!

I’m back! Freshly tanned and totally refreshed from ten days staying in Porto with some of my lovely friends. So I thought I’d post about it and let you know what we got up to (and make you just a little jealous).

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Porto is beautiful. Not only that, the food is amazing and the people are super friendly.

We sampled the local delicacy known as the Francesinha – basically shove as much meat as you can into a sandwich – sausages, steak etc, top with a fried egg, cover the whole thing in cheese, drown it in a sauce – the main ingredient of which is booze, then add fries.

Yea, don’t eat these every day:

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We drank a lot of red wine, and a lot of port – it’s rude not to, right? We took a tour of the Cockburn’s port cellars and tasted some of their port afterwards.

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Everything is so cheap out there. In a supermarket you can get a lovely bottle of wine for €2.50, a bottle of nice port for €8 – and a proper meal out in a restaurant can be between €5 and €10. It’s ridiculous! Apparently in England we just get ripped off when we buy anything.

We had a day trip to see a Medieval Festival, which was fabulous.

Lunch: 1 rabbit.

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Wine: 1 Euro.

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I got the chance to read some books that I’ve been meaning to get round to for ages.

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I (finally) finished Stephen King’s Needful Things  – very creepy. Then I read Life of Pi which was fantastic, one of those books that you just can’t stop thinking about after finishing. I then started Solar by Ian McEwan, which is very good so far. I intend to keep reading as much as I can now that I am back. I so enjoyed not having my phone at all for those ten days, and only sporadic internet access to check for emergency emails. It meant that the group spending time together meant conversation, playing cards, cooking, and just enjoying each other’s company as you can clearly see here:

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We played the card version of Monopoly – Monopoly Deal – for hours and hours. It is so addictive and well worth checking out if you haven’t seen or heard of it.

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I also finally learned how to play poker! With Monopoly money of course…

So all in all, a fantastic trip. Big thank-you to Artur Pereira for hosting us so generously – we love you! Here’s to the next time 🙂

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The Summer so far…

It’s been a busy summer so far. I can’t remember when my last free weekend was  – which is very good news for a harpist. Since getting back from Denmark I’ve had at least one gig every single week. Usually weddings.

I’ve also received some lovely feedback from the happy couples and their families to let me know they appreciate my playing – I love getting reviews like this! You can check them out on my lastminutemusicians.com profile here.

I’ve realised that there are benefits to arriving at wedding gigs early: Sunbathing.

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I’ve had the opportunity to go and play in my old stomping ground – the RNCM and its new concert hall – my harp looks so small from up at the back:

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I also had a concert alongside the choir that I sing with – the choir of St. Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre. This was of course followed by the usual trip to the pub, where some of us stayed out way too late – I won’t mention names at this point:

Choir concert

As well as the frequent gigs, I’ve managed to find some time here and there to chill. Marten’s birthday was lovely, we went for a long walk around the Edale Valley – it was so nice to see some green and get some fresh air!

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There are lots of changes happening at the moment, lots of new ideas in the pipeline. I will keep you updated of course! But in the meantime, you can always subscribe to get my posts in your inbox – I recently changed website hosts, so if you are used to getting emails from me you may have to re-subscribe – sorry about that!

You can also follow me on twitter and instagram @harpistangelina for updates on my adventures. Send me a message and say hi! I love hearing from you.

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The Weekend.

One of the things I love about playing for weddings is that it usually doesn’t take all day – I can be home for dinner. Last Saturday’s wedding at Hilltop Country House in Prestbury was no different. I was only playing for the Ceremony itself, plus a little background beforehand, so I was done in just over an hour.

It may now be officially summer, but there was lots of rain, luckily, the venue was prepared:

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However, the rain did mean that the ceremony had to be inside, and due to the number of guests, the harp wouldn’t fit in the ceremony room itself and I was positioned in the next room in the hope that the music would ‘waft through’. I’m assuming it did.

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I was back home in time to catch a film with some friends – Jurassic World – I’d highly recommend it. Very entertaining if slightly predictable (hey, it’s the fourth Jurassic film, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it etc.) It did make me feel old to think that I remember the first film coming out over twenty years ago and I found the references to the original Jurassic Park completely adorable (who remembers the awesome night-vision goggles?)

After the film we visited HOME before going home.

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HOME is a new development in Manchester, involving a cinema, a cafe, a bar and probably lots of other things I haven’t had the chance to explore yet. It’s lovely though. There are deckchairs outside for sunny days. We stopped for a quick drink before heading back.

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On Sunday morning I was singing with choir, as usual. Then in the afternoon I was invited to a barbecue at my teacher’s house. It was so good to see her (hi Eira!), and the current harp class of RNCM (a little worse for wear after the previous night’s Summer Ball). But nevertheless we ate lovely food (thanks Steve!) and drank a few glasses of Prosecco and sat outside until it got too cold and we decided to make a tactical retreat to the living room.

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I was also introduced to the concept of putting Pringles on a barbecue and eating them with melted camembert (also from the barbie) – delicious! Try it! Thanks for the fabulous idea Bec Mills.

I don’t think the North of England has quite realised that it’s supposed to be summer now. The weather at the moment is definitely not what we ordered, send it back.

So all in all a pretty good weekend, lots of good food and good wine with good friends. I hope the summer brings many more like this (only sunnier).

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Sounds of the Cosmos II

On Tuesday 9th June I had a gig in Sheffield, playing with Sheffield’s Rep Orchestra conducted by a good friend of mine – George Morton.

The ‘rep’ we were playing was Gustav Holst’s The Planets as part of Sheffield’s ‘DocFest’ or Documentary Festival.

The concert was in Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, which was exciting in itself – we used to take school trips there to see plays from time to time. Í’ve played The Planets in Sheffield so many times in the past few years, but this was definitely a special gig.

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Behind the orchestra was a big screen, showing visualisations and photographs of outer space, the planets, and different types of star. It was completely fascinating. This visualisation in particular just blew me away.

As is becoming my habit, I arrived in Sheffield an hour and a half early so I grabbed a quick coffee and a pain au chocolat in the nearby cafe Marmadukes – it’s a small but lovely place just around the corner from the theatre. The staff were great and talked me through their extensive choice of coffees. I sat for a while and caught up on some reading (Needful Things by Stephen King) before heading back to the theatre to set up and tune.

We rehearsed for just over an hour then had some time to get ready for the 8.30pm concert. Quite a late start but I heard there were over five hundred people there. There are two harp parts for the Holst and the other harpist was the lovely Alley York:

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The performance went really well, we even got a little standing ovation, but as it was a late start it was well after midnight when I finally got home to Manchester. Long day but so worth it.

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