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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January 2016 Gigs

Only a couple of gigs to report on this month. Both background gigs. The first was at Bolton’s Museum and Art Gallery – a drinks reception for KBL Solicitors. It got a write up online that you can read here.

http://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/business/14221652.Bolton_law_firm_celebrates_30th_birthday/

I have to say I was looked after so well in Bolton, I was given a plate of delicious canapés and everyone always made sure I had a soft drink of some sort. That makes such a difference. I often have to travel to somewhere totally unfamiliar, greet people I’ve never met or spoken to before so little things like food and somewhere to change my clothes really make a huge difference.

The next gig was down at Alton Towers Conference Centre. This was an unusual event. Firstly, I’ve never been to Alton Towers before. Yep. Never. I had no idea that it’s actually in the middle of nowhere! It was already dark when I arrived and I hadn’t seen another car for several miles (the same happened on the way home, quite spooky really). Oh, and the building seemed deserted when I arrived, walking down empty corridors in a strange building after driving down empty roads in the dark for ages is so weird!

Anyway, I did eventually find where the dinner was taking place and wow, it looked pretty cool:

Enchanted Forest dinner, Alton Towers.

The whole evening had an Enchanted Forest theme, and I wish I could have taken pictures of the guests – a lot of effort went into the costumes! Everyone was there, chimney-sweeps, Snow White, Aladdin, Captain Hook, it was crazy!

DSC00370harp in the enchanted forest. Alton Towers.

So that’s pretty much it when it comes to gigs this month. Luckily I had loads of work in December, and because of the way I now organise myself financially I’ve been able to keep paying myself each week as usual. Looking back on previous January blog posts, it’s interesting to see how things have levelled themselves out now. No panicking if a gig doesn’t pay for a while, not too much stress if there’s a quiet time with not many gigs, hey, they’re pouring in now! I guess that, after freelancing for over four years now, I’m learning that it’s all going to be ok. There is work out there. There are jobs out there. There are opportunities out there. And I intend to grasp all of the above with both hands.

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December 2014 catch-up…

This post is a continuation from last week’s post in which I raked over the glowing embers of November 2014, I originally wanted to put November and December into one huge post but alas, there was just too much to put in! So here’s a run-down of December 2014.

The first gig of the month was a solo recital! Yay! This is what it’s all about: performing lovely repertoire for a large, appreciative audience. Many thanks to Philip Scowcroft at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery for inviting me back to perform – I always have a lovely time. Thanks also for inviting me and Marten to do a joint recital next year – time to find some harp and piano repertoire, suggestions in the comments please!!

On December 5th I had a background gig at Manchester Art Gallery. Those of you who know Manchester will be aware that there is very little parking around there. Pretty much none in fact. So I thought it would be a clever idea to get an estate car taxi to take me there – what could possibly go wrong?

I called the taxi company at least twice during the day to check the booking, 5pm estate car taxi to the city centre. Emphasis on the estate car part. Five o’clock rolls around, no taxi. At quarter past my phone rings to let me know the taxi’s outside, so I trundle out with the harp and all my bags.

It’s not an estate car.

Cue one diva-strop.

Car goes away, angry phone call to Radio Cars, an estate finally arrives. I’m now behind schedule. Trying to hold it together.

I arrange with the driver that he’ll come and pick me up after I’ve finished playing so I don’t have to go through that again. I’ve been asked to play downstairs in the foyer. But all that happens is people come in, hang up their coats, and head off upstairs to the party.

I’m providing music for the hanging up of coats. This has to be a new low.

Fast forward to the end of my set. No taxi.

Cue another massive diva-strop (I’m getting good at these) and phone call to Radio Cars “Yes, it’s the lady with the harp” to request an estate asap.

Taxi turns up, it’s not an estate.

By now I’m rather upset, I finished playing an hour ago and have gone nowhere. Another strop, another phone call and the driver who stood me up sheepishly apologises for not showing up when he said he would, and takes me home, where a party is currently underway, that I am hosting, that I am also very very late for.

Time to start drinking.

Luckily, by comparison the next few days went very smoothly. An hour of background music in Middlewich for a community Christmas buffet-type-thing (I had a lot of the cakes, they were excellent). Then on the Sunday I had the first Ceremony of Carols of the year down in Wilmslow – conducted by Lloyd Buck.

Barnby C of Cs

The Ceremony of Carols is a very special piece – written by Benjamin Britten. I’m sure it is special to many harpists, it’s just for treble voices and harp – although it has been arranged for a full choir.

The following weekend also had engagements on both days, so I decided to get my first ever spray tan in preparation (even my winter foundation for very pasty skin is now looking quite orange on me – I need some sun asap) I went for the lightest tan you can have (they call it ‘Glow’) and yea, it was fun for a few days, until it started coming off. In patches. Starting with my hands. Bad times.

Anyway

On Saturday 13th December I was playing for a wedding banquet, in a marquee. A marquee in December? Sounds crazy but was in fact surprisingly cosy. Who knew?

The following day  I headed over to attend York’s Annual Community Carol Concert. My dad has been conducting this event for decades. It usually attracts a crowd in the region of 1,500 and raises money for several good causes in and around York. They get a school band, a couple of school choirs, a church choir and a ‘novelty item’ (in 2013 it was my Harp Quartet CLOUDS) and we spend an afternoon together singing carols and being entertained by the wonderful Revd Andrew Foster. Father Christmas usually makes an appearance to hand out sweets. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this wonderful event. Long live YACCC!

Daddy Barbican

We are now half-way through the month, almost there. Believe it or not December 2014 was comparatively quiet for me… I’ve had much busier Christmas seasons – I’ve also had quieter ones where I’ve had to live on frozen vegetables with rice due to lack of money. 2014 was a very happy medium, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure I had a chest infection (or just the worst cough of my life) and sounded like I was dying for the whole month.

On Friday 19th December it was time to head over to York again for the Masonic Carol Service that I always play for – this time I brought my own page-turner with me. Doesn’t he scrub up well?

Marten and me at lodge

This is another lovely event that takes place every year. We have a small service of lessons and carols, then claim a glass of sherry or three and head downstairs for a Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings. Just what we need. The evening then always finishes with my parents reading from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s predictable, it’s the same every year, but we love it and for me this evening is what starts Christmas off.

Saturday, 20th December was my final gig of 2014, and it was a Ceremony of Carols (what else?) in Rochdale.

Cantare Programme

I also contributed to this concert by playing a solo, Marcel Samuel Rousseau’s Variations Pastorales sur un vieux noel. One of my favourite solo pieces, but sadly it’s christmassy so I can’t really perform it any other time of year. It was so lovely to work with Michael Betteridge for this gig – his energy is fantastic – I do hope I can work with him again soon *hint hint*.

So there you have it. I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a 1000+ words epic but there you go. The rest of December was spent either with my parents in York, or with my sister down in the Midlands, lots of food was eaten, lots of wine was tasted. All in all a lovely Christmas, and for that I am very thankful.

I hope you all also had wonderful Christmasses and New Years. How are those resolutions going? Next week I’ll be gauging the success (or otherwise) of mine. Eeek.

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Doncaster and Fairfax House

So after the last couple of posts were becoming dangerously philosophical, I thought today’s post should be more harp-related. I am writing from the waiting room where my car is undergoing its MOT. It was this time last year that my beloved ford died and I had to spend every penny I then had to get a new car. I’m hoping history doesn’t repeat itself today. I’m secretly cautiously optimistic.

My harp is very happy at the moment. Nicely busy without being too frantic (yet). A week last Wednesday I had a lunchtime recital in Doncaster’s Museum and Art Gallery, which went very well with a cosy audience of about forty (that’s forty people – I think their average age was somewhat older). They actually booked me for another recital in December 2014 so I must make a note of what I played to make sure I don’t play the same programme again. I thoroughly recommend the art gallery, I wish I’d had more time to look around but straight after the recital I was whisked away for coffee and crumpets at Woods Tea Rooms with the concert organiser – Philip Scowcroft.

Instead of returning to Manchester I decided to go and see my parents in York as I had a gig there a couple of days later. On Friday night I was booked to play 45 minutes of background music for a drinks reception in York’s Fairfax House. A beautiful Georgian house right in the city centre near Clifford’s Tower. As it happens, the guests were a quarter of an hour late so I only played for about half an hour. In any case, it was very well received. My playing was followed by a tour of the house, which I would also recommend if you are ever in the area.

Lastly, on the Sunday of last week I did something I hardly ever do. I played for free. Actually you can hardly call it a gig because I volunteered to play. The church choir that I sing with was performing Faure’s Requiem. I am completely in love with this piece so I asked if they wanted me to play the harp for it. If I was going to be there anyway I may as well bring my harp. Also it’s good practice for this Saturday’s gig, which is the same music, except this time in York Minster – exciting!

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CLOUDS and beyond

So I ended the previous post saying I was going to be driving up to Edinburgh after the final Les Mis show a week last Saturday.  What I hadn’t bargained on was the weather.  After glorious sunshine for what felt like ages, that Saturday afternoon the rain started.  While packing for the CLOUDS tour I even wondered if I should bother packing jeans or just stick to summer dresses as I had been doing.  So glad I packed jeans!

Elfair and I left Runcorn at around 11pm for Edinburgh.  The rain was constant and very heavy – we arrived sometime around 5.30am.  I have little memory of actually arriving, the concentration required for driving in the pouring rain had completely drained me.  But we had a sleep in the following day to recharge our batteries.  That evening we had a concert in Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh.  

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It was such a beautiful space, really blue!  They keep the front pew roped off as that’s where the Queen sits when she visits (sadly she decided not to attend our concert).  The following lunchtime we played in Edinburgh’s St. Giles Cathedral.  We love playing here, there were so many tourists coming in and out all the time but lots of them sat down to listen to us (we also sold lots of CDs!)

After St. Giles it was time to drive down to Peebles in the Scottish Borders for an evening concert the following day at the Eastgate Theatre.  It was here that we had the idea to start the concert in complete darkness.  We go to the harps and start playing one by one, each holding a candle.  Our first piece is entitled ‘Interstellar Cloud’ so the candles look like twinkling stars as we play.   It’s also the bonus track on our new CD – WATER which can be purchased here  http://www.cloudsandharps.bigcartel.com/product/water

Here we are at Eastgate:

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We had lots of people commenting on our dresses, Rebecca (on the left in the photo) actually got these for us while working on the Queen Elizabeth cruiseship.  Two are from Costa Rica, one is from Malaysia and the other is from Mexico!  We loved how coordinated they are while still being individual.

After Peebles it was time to head down to Newcastle for a Wednesday evening concert in Trinity Church – another beautiful venue, followed by a Thursday lunchtime concert in Brunswick Church right in the city centre.

The rest of the day was spent driving down to Mynytho in North Wales.  I adore this area and luckily the weather was fabulous when we were there – there was even chance to paddle in the sea in Abersoch!

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We had an evening concert on Friday in Pwllheli (a concert that included lots of delicious cake in the interval!) followed by an afternoon concert on the Saturday in Llanbedrog at the Art Gallery.  This was a really special concert as we played outside in their little amphitheatre!  I’m sure you can imagine that the value of our harps means that conditions have to be perfect, but on that day we had the chance to play CLOUDS under the clouds!

On the Sunday we all went our separate ways, I headed back to Manchester, Esther set off for London, Elfair went to compete in the Eisteddfod and Rebecca went to support – Elfair actually won the Blue Riband so a huge well done to her for that!  What a way to end the week.

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So it’s been nearly a week since the tour ended and it’s back to reality – this is the first ‘free’ week I’ve had since I left Long Tall Sally.  There’s still lots to keep me busy though!  It’s amazing to not have to set an alarm for the morning, but it is rather alarming that my body wants to sleep until 11am some days!  Need to get some sort of schedule going – maybe next week!

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