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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February on #YouTube

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.

Chat soon,


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!

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I’ve been spoilt rotten.

Musically speaking, that is.

This past week has been a week of inspiring, amazing music, and I wanted to share a little bit of it with you.

Firstly, I spent three days with CLOUDS Harp Quartet. We are learning a brand new programme for our upcoming tour in June (more details on that to follow). Spending time with CLOUDS is without doubt one of my favourite aspects of my career to date. Esther‘s music is challenging and beautiful and the act of learning it is making us all better musicians. Here’s a little video I made of a tiny snippet of the music that we’ve been learning:

At the end of the three days, Elinor and I went to see Swan Lake at Manchester’s Palace Theatre. Despite having a mild obsession with Tchaikovsky I have to admit that I’d never seen a professional ballet production in my adult life.

I absolutely love the music and it was such a treat to see the ballet as well. Although, hearing the harp cadenza being played on electric keyboard was a disappointment. Playing in a ballet orchestra is a huge dream of mine and when even Moscow City Ballet don’t think it’s worth having a real harp in the pit, it’s a little demoralising to say the least.

The following day I had a gig in Sheffield (my favourite). The drive over was a bit scary and involved fog, wind, and snow. Nevertheless, Hallam Sinfonia needed a harpist for their performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. If you haven’t listened to this work before, do it right now – especially the Adagietto – it is gorgeous and heart-breaking. Sometimes I can’t believe that my job is to practice and perform such beautiful music.

To finish off the week, I was singing for Sunday’s morning service with my choir at St. Ann’s Church, directed by Simon Passmore. Not only was the setting composed by one of our members – Dr David Liggins – the music for the anthem Lead, Kindly Light was written by our late director of music – Canon Ronald Frost – in the form of the hymn tune Loppergarth. I’m trying to find a recording of us singing this gorgeous and emotive piece, leave it with me… Ronald was a wonderfully kind and talented soul and all of us in the choir who knew him, miss him greatly. It’s such a blessing that we can carry on performing his music in his memory.

I have to say that I feel so grateful and lucky that I have such wonderful music and wonderful people in my life.

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

Chat soon,


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What I’m Practising: November 2016

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!



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CLOUDS in Scotland with David Douglas

Last Thursday the lovely Elfair Dyer and I set off from Manchester to go to Peebles in the Scottish Borders. After the compulsory stop at Tebay services on the M6 (best services ever?) we arrived late afternoon and began rehearsing for our concerts the following Friday and Saturday. Oh, and when I say ‘rehearsing’ what I actually mean is ‘learning the music’.



Waiting for us was Esther Swift. We usually play as a quartet but on this occasion Rebecca Mills was somewhere around Italy, entertaining the guests as resident harpist on board the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship.

The first gig of the weekend was at the Old Parish Church in Peebles, we were collaborating with the tenor David Douglas to play some Scottish folk songs together. We know David from our days at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, he was so lovely to work with! We definitely want to do more projects like this together. Esther and David also did a few songs just the two of them, and we played a few CLOUDS Harp Quartet pieces – Clouds (our first piece) and Twa Sisters (recently premiered at the Wales International Harp Festival last April) – both composed by Esther.

That evening, after the concert, we decided to go for a cheeky cocktail (or three) in Peebles:

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I can’t tell you how lovely it is to hang out with these ladies, we work so hard together on the quartet but we are such good pals too. It was also the last time the three of us would be together for a while as Elfair is going away for a whole year soon – Elfy, what am I going to do without you??

The following day, feeling a little groggy, we made the two hour drive over to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayr. This part of Scotland is so beautiful – especially at this time of year when all the leaves are changing colour. We performed for an absolutely lovely audience – one of whom even gave us extra money on the way out, saying she felt the concert was worth much more than the ticket price! What a sweetie pie.

I loved the staging in the Museum too:


It was really light and airy in there, don’t you think the harps look amazing?

After the gig it was time to pack up, say goodbye and head back down to Manchester – stopping for a burger in Tebay of course.

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ready for my close-up…

After having driven back from London last Wednesday night, I hoped in vain for some sort of lie-in on Thursday morning. This was not meant to be, however, as I was booked in for a Skype meeting at 8am with my lovely fellow members of CLOUDS Harp Quartet. I can’t complain too much though, how many of us can boast the fact that we can have an early morning meeting from bed, complete with dressing gown, coffee and Alpen?

We have a lot to talk about. But first thing’s first. We had this weekend to sort out. My role in CLOUDS is something of ‘tour manager’ when we are together, so that means I get to do the schedule! I love schedules! Sadly I’m not being sarcastic, I actually do. So we needed to talk about who is staying where, whose harp is staying where, and when we are going to rehearse, eat etc. – organising the logistics of four harps can be challenging!

First thing Sunday morning we went for a photoshoot with the lovely Julie Harris.. We needed some publicity photos for an upcoming concert in April in Caernarfon as part of the International Harp Festival (yes we are super excited). We thought we could get it done in an hour. We were slightly deluded. Three hours later we left the building. Julie taught us how to stand and look good in a photo. It felt quite awkward at times, but then you look at the photo and somehow you’ve become thinner, but with curves in all the right places… I think Julie might be some sort of wizard. In fact I went back to see her on Wednesday morning for some solo shots.

After CLOUDS’ photoshoot we immediately went for a meal as Esther was about to keel over. We went for a spot of Thai food at Manchester restaurant Umami, then went back to my place to rehearse. But how do you rehearse when you’re so full you just want to sleep? We couldn’t stay lazy for long though, we have new music to learn! Esther has written a four movement piece for Caernarfon and, as is the CLOUDS way, none of it is written down. Esther teaches it to us by demonstration and explanation and we try to cram it all into our brains. But it’s fine, we’ve been learning music together this way since 2008, and we love the freedom it gives us.

Monday morning we rehearsed again, 9-12. We were reminding ourselves how lucky we are that this is our Monday morning, no hideous traffic, no getting up at the crack of dawn, just learning some great music and playing together over coffee and good company.

We had a meeting Monday evening with our fantastic teacher Eira Lynn Jones. A couple of hours later we left, stuffed full of home-made macaroons (thanks Bec!) and bursting with new ideas for future projects… I can’t wait to share some of them when the time comes!

So that’s about all my news for this week, it’s been another busy one! Maybe things will calm down soon… not that I would want them to of course!

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CLOUDS mini-tour

Last week was spent up in Scotland with my harp quartet CLOUDS.  

The purpose of the week was to learn the material for our forth-coming album ‘water’, and to pay our way we would do four lunchtime concerts at St. Giles Cathedral up in Edinburgh Monday through to Thursday.

Learning music with CLOUDS is very different to how I was trained and it has been so good for all of us.  Esther composes the music, then, without writing it down, teaches it to us aurally in group rehearsals.

Our first CD was entitled CLOUDS and we recorded it I think two years ago now.  Water is so different, it’s much more exact whereas CLOUDS had lots of improvisation.  Water is incredibly rhythmic, and often I think it’s very hypnotic as well – I’m really excited about its release in early October (it’s also available for pre-order now! Visit http://cloudsandharps.bigcartel.com/product/water )

The first few days of the ‘tour’ were pretty stressful.  Bec’s car broke down in Manchester but she somehow managed to get up to Scotland, Esther’s car smelled of smoke every time she drove anywhere and, well, Elfair doesn’t have a car yet.  So it was up to me to transport harps and harpists to and from the cathedral each lunchtime – luckily we have found a slick way to get two harps in one car!  

Monday was easily the most stressful concert, well the concert was OK, getting there was another matter.  It was the final day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and what we hadn’t accounted for was that the street where we had special permission to park was CLOSED!  And the traffic was at a standstill.  But luckily a very nice traffic warden man told me where to find a little side street where I could park.  Lovely.

That was with harps 1 & 2, with harps 3 & 4 our friendly traffic officer had disappeared and had been replaced by a much less nice lady who didn’t seem to understand that IT IS 12.40 WE WERE DUE TO PLAY AT 12.15 AND WE ARE ALL VERY STRESSED WHERE DO WE GO?!?!?!?!

I argued with her a little bit, most unlike me but I was stressed out!

Meanwhile, harps 1 & 2 were wondering where the rest of us were and trying to patch together a concert of solos and duets – from what I hear they did an excellent job considering the stress of the moment.

Compared with Monday, the rest of the lunchtime concerts ran smoothly – we sold lots of CLOUDS cds and got some lovely audience feedback.

Each afternoon we would learn a couple of movements of water to play the following day in the concert.  

Friday was recording day.

can’t believe we tried to record an entire CD in one day!  After choosing a room in which construction work outside couldn’t be heard we started to record at around 2pm.  We finished at 2am.

Ana – who was doing the recording for us – was lovely.  She hadn’t had breakfast or lunch but didn’t tell us this fact until around 5.30 in the afternoon!  She must have been ravenous.  Sorry Ana.

At around 11.30pm Bec and I realised that the car park our cars were in closed at midnight – with any cars left getting towed away.  What a lovely opportunity for a late night run through the streets of Edinburgh to ensure our cars weren’t taken away and crushed.

But despite the stress of the day and the situation, I think the recording went really well and I’m so excited to hear the finished product.  There were lots of tears along the way but I’m so proud that we could learn the music and record it in five days – it was intense but great as well.

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