It’s been another month of regular YouTube uploads! Thank you to those of you who have subscribed to my channel. We are slowly growing and already I’ve had a surge in enquiries so that’s absolutely brilliant.
The first video to be uploaded onto my channel in February was a tutorial giving a basic overview of how to sit at the harp and how to actually play the harp:
Next up, Vlog #5:
This was a big week as it was the first week of being completely freelance after quitting my part-time ‘side-hustle’. So give it a watch and follow along for a week of musical adventures. This was the first time I’ve attempted a weekly vlog and I had no idea how long it would get! I had to cut out a lot of footage to keep it a reasonable length. Let me know what you think.
I’ve talked about this next video in a previous post but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share it again – I made another CLOUDS video:
CLOUDS are going on tour in June and we are very excited to be bringing you a whole new programme of music (I’m sure some old favourites will be in there too). We’ve been busy rehearsing and learning all the new music that Esther has written ready for summer. Tour dates are up on our website so check those out.
Last but not least, I couldn’t let the month slide by without uploading a classic wedding favourite. Here is my performance of Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. I get asked to play this very often, and it’s particularly fitting for the couple’s exit from their Wedding Ceremony:
I had the bright idea of recording these videos from memory. I know this piece so well and yet it still took ages to get a full take! I think it’s definitely worth the extra work to have memorised performances, but what do you guys think? Also, I’d like to say a big thank you to my housemate Chris for letting me use his fancy DSLR to record this last video. I love the quality but still need to learn how to use the camera properly (beyond just zooming in and pressing Record).
I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you for reading, watching, and just generally supporting me along the way. I know some of you have been reading this blog since it started back in 2012 – that’s five years folks! Your support is much appreciated. I adore having a writing outlet and getting the chance to share my musings with you.
p.s. I’d also like to ask you for some feedback. If you received this post via email, did the links to the videos work ok? Did you just receive the one email? I’m transferring my email list to MailChimp so please bear with me while I sort any niggles out!
Recently I’ve been investing much more time into my Youtube channel. My aim is to upload videos weekly so make sure you subscribe (after you’ve subscribed to this blog of course).
My first video of 2017 is a short introduction to how the harp actually works:
I get so many questions when I’m playing and gigging about how the harp works and how it’s played, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce the instrument and answer some of those questions.
Moving on, the next video is a firm wedding favourite and one that is often requested – Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight:
I’ve invested in some new lighting for my videos so do let me know what you think.
Next up: I’m continuing my project of recording pieces from each of the ABRSM grades. Here is my first offering from Grade 4:
I remember playing this for my Grade 4 back in the day (time to update the syllabus, perhaps?)
I’m one of those strange people that actually enjoys studies and scales. They are such a good way of measuring your progress, work on your sound, and hone your technique, which brings us nicely to my Grade 5 video:
This is another piece that I remember playing when I was doing my grades. A lot of harpists dislike Naderman but I’ve always found his music rather enjoyable – just the right amount of twee mixed in with some drama, and of course, plenty of scales and arpeggios to keep those fingers warm. This may not be the last piece by Naderman we see on this project.
So that was January on YouTube. Do you have any requests for upcoming videos? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’d love to have your input as I seek to grow my channel. I particularly enjoyed making last month’s CLOUDS video, so maybe there are more of these vlog-style videos coming up too.
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!
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.
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Cheerio for now!
Here we are in the best month of the year (birthday month) and I think it’s high time for another ‘What I’m Practising’.
I feel very spoilt this month as I have plenty of lovely things to be getting on with, yet it’s not so much that I’m feeling overwhelmed – a good balance.
I’m currently working on some solo repertoire for a gig in Halifax on the 9th of November. Solo gigs are the perfect opportunity to polish up old favourites and maybe challenge yourself to learn something new too. As I’m very keen to have enough music to fill the required time I’ve actually ended up with too many pieces and have had to cut one thing out of my programme. Sorry Grandjany – your fantasie will be getting an airing soon, but not next week. The pieces that made the cut are Watching the Wheat by John Thomas (apologies for the ancient video but check out my tan! Thanks Italy), Bach-Grandjany Etude 12 and Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
The 9th will be one of those wonderful gigs where dinner is provided, and I get to bring along a guest for harp-help and moral support too. It’s highly likely I’ll be posting all about it on Instagram so follow me there for updates.
Next up, an orchestral gig in Todmorden on Saturday, 12th November (also known as the day after my birthday). The rep is Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique – one of my absolute favourite orchestral parts. Have a listen to the second movement (the harpy one), conducted here by Leonard Bernstein.
So those are the main players in my practice at the moment. Good times! Other gigs looming are mainly background music and weddings – so that’s nicely under control too.
Thanks for reading and have a lovely November all!
My parents know I don’t travel light. When I go to stay with them for a couple of nights I always take way too much stuff – enough to go on holiday for ten days (wishful thinking?) and I’m starting to think that it might have something to do with being a professional harpist and just needing a lot of stuff when I’m out and about.
I envy the pianists/organists of this world who can just bring music and they’re done. I know it’s a pain to never be able to perform on your own instrument, but you can take the train! Yes, I see that as a perk – I guess the grass is always greener.
I played at a wedding today, here’s what I had to take with me, and what I take with me when I have any sort of gig:
– car (ok this one is obvious)
– harp (again, pretty essential)
– music stand
– tuning machine
– tuning fork
– tuning key
– spare tuning key
– ipad charger
– spare sheet music
– spare strings
– spare string anchors
– harp trolley (almost forgot!)
– bicycle pump for harp trolley
– pencil sharpener
– stand light – in case of a power-cut or, you know, nightfall
– clothes pegs in case I have to clip music to my stand in high winds
– concert dress
– concert shoes
– business cards
– my laminated ‘Do Not Touch’ sign. Indispensable.
– snacks – I try to keep these as healthy as possible, usually a banana or some cashew nuts
– book to read – currently reading Needful Things by Stephen King
– phone charger
– special chemical hand-warmer thingies – these.
– normal handbag and all its usual contents.
Phew! See what I mean? That’s a lot of stuff and I have needed it all at some point or other. I’m always finding new things that I need to bring with me.
Harpists – what do you always need with you at a gig? Do share and together we can be the most thoroughly prepared harpists the world has ever seen!
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 email@example.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:
- 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:
- I’ll email you a contract to confirm all the details of your wedding
- A 50% deposit will be payable immediately
- The remaining fee is due two weeks before the big day
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.