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,

Ax

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!

Continue Reading

November Catch Up…

This blog has been quiet for a while so I thought this week’s post should address that and get you all up to date with the last few months of 2014 – my favourite time of the year for a number of reasons.

For the first gig of November I was playing for a Vintage Wedding Exhibition at the Bowden Rooms in Altrincham with the lovely flautist Anna Rosa Mari.

flute and harp wedding fayre

We definitely kept it professional (profesh??) at all times:

Instant Anna Rosa and me

Next on the agenda was Bonfire Night – a rather weird claim to fame I can make is that I went to the same school as Guy Fawkes. I think everyone who went to St. Peter’s School in York has to mention this at some point during November 5th.

Now then, I am a tall girl, but in the huge crowd that gathered in Platt Fields Park in Manchester to watch the bonfire all I could really see was the fire, on the screens of the smartphones of the people around me. I don’t get why you would take a picture or a video of a big fire? Just enjoy it guys! Anyway, after the fireworks we rushed off for a Rusholme curry on the way home, the perfect way to warm up after standing outside for most of the evening. I think this needs to be our new Bonfire Night tradition.

The day after Bonfire Night is my Dad’s birthday so we decided to make the drive over to York to surprise him – these are appropriate for a man in his early eighties right??

Dad's birthday presie

The following weekend I had three gigs! Three gigs in two days! The first was a Fauré Requiem in Doncaster in honour of Remembrance Day:

Lest We Forget

Then on Sunday I was playing for a wedding in Bury:

wedding flowers 9th Nov

This was then followed by another Fauré in St. Ann’s Church in Manchester.

Faure St Ann's

I’m sure you’ll gather that this weekend was slightly crazy – it’s so good to be busy though.

On Tuesday 11th November it was my birthday so I decided to visit Dough in the Northern Quarter with a few friends, the food was amazing and we had a really lovely evening:

Birthday Dinner

I also received this beautiful necklace from Marten, I don’t think I’ve taken it off since then! I love it:

Birthday necklace

The rest of the birthday week could have been a little more pleasant to be honest – it involved a dentist visit and spending a lot of money on my car to get it through its MOT. But enough of that! Let’s move swiftly on to the 22nd of November. I had a gig in Sheffield (my favourite) to play the Debussy Nocturnes and Holst’s The Planets. This gig was rather exciting as the other harpist was Calum Macleod and we could fit both harps in his van! So that meant no driving for me! I could definitely get used to that.

I’d never played the Nocturnes before, they are amazing – especially the third movement Sirènes, you can actually hear the mysterious song of the Sirens over the swirling sound of the sea and the waves – it’s breathtaking. The Planets will always be a favourite of mine too, the violence of Mars, the beauty of Venus, the mystery of Neptune, and Jupiter, the tune of which used to be a favourite hymn at school (who remembers the classic 295 ‘I Vow to Thee my Country’?)

Planets 22nd Nov

Fast forward to the end of the month, the final gig of November was at Leeds Uni, playing Stravinsky’s Symphony in three movements. This piece is very cool and I suggest you have a listen if you’re unfamiliar. There’s lots of harp and the part is substantial so it’s a really good project to get stuck into.

This post was originally going to be November and December but it’s become so big I’m going to have to split it into two separate posts. Stay tuned for more craziness in December’s catch-up post.

Continue Reading

Remembrance, York Minster and birthdays!

Last Saturday I was playing the Faure Requiem in York Minster with York Musical Society. I seem to be flitting over the Yorkshire/Lancashire border very regularly at the moment, but it’s lovely to get so many chances to visit York. I arrived just in time to nab the last parking space in the tiny Minster car park, and wheeled my harp into the building. York Minster is absolutely stunning, maybe I’m biased because I’ve grown up in this city, but I think it’s just gorgeous. It has a window the size of a tennis court!

20131114-175107.jpg

Before the concert we had a few seconds of silence for Remembrance Day. The silence was so different from the ‘silence’ you usually get at a concert – there was no shuffling, no coughing, just heavy, thick, silence. In that huge space this was absolutely amazing. Before the concert I had gone for some food with my dad, and afterwards I gave him a lift back to his car. Now, I know the roads of York… I do, honestly! So I have no idea what possessed me to turn the wrong way down a one way street. It was only the beep of a taxi driver that alerted me to the situation. So I’m sorry ladies, but I did nothing for our reputation as competent drivers that night!

This was also the week of my birthday! I couldn’t help but think of that scene in Some like it Hot where Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) laments the fact that she’s turning twenty-five – ‘that’s a quarter of a century, makes a girl think’. I celebrated with a gorgeous meal out followed by some quiet drinks in town. The following day I went for a walk in Heaton Park, North Manchester. I’d never been before but it is lovely! All the people walking dogs made me really really want one of my own, one day! We got the perfect autumn day as well – sunny, and feeling crisp but not too cold. I couldn’t resist taking some snaps:

20131114-175121.jpg

20131114-175129.jpg

Next week is due to be another busy one, with gigs in Leeds and Nottingham. I have also added a new page to this website, ‘Upcoming Concerts’ – with details of where I’ll be playing over the next few months. Please also check out the updated site for my Harp Quartet CLOUDS as details are coming very soon of our exciting December concerts!

Continue Reading

Background Music

Yesterday evening I received a phone call asking if I was free this evening to play some background music for a dinner.

It is so unusual to get gigs this late notice (thank you to the lovely Alice Kirwan for giving my number to the guy sorting it out).  The fee was less than I would charge for background music at a wedding, but, still half a month’s rent so I went for it.  And here it is:

Image

The dinner was at The Midland Hotel – right in the centre of Manchester.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous hotel.  Only problem was there were fifteen steps (yes I counted) to the room where the dinner was taking place.  Nowadays all hotels have to be super-duper accessible so this surprised me.  The staff were very enthusiastic in helping me though so I can’t complain.  They also got me a diet coke and didn’t complain when I immediately spilt it all over the carpet (oops).

Background music is just so different to normal performing.  In lots of ways it is a lot freer, as no one is listening that intently you can put in lots of repeats to err, pass the time (don’t tell anyone).  But after about half an hour I realised that this was as calm as I’d felt all day.  Just playing beautiful music to set the atmosphere.

Considering the fact that I’m a musician, I spend a large proportion of my time ‘sorting things out’, posting contracts/invoices, getting hold of music, replying to and sending emails, it feels good to chip away at these things but sometimes it feels as though for every little thing I get done, three more suddenly need doing.  So it is actually very therapeutic to just play.  Not to worry about the ‘to-do’ list that day or what I have to get done, just enjoying the sensation of making music allows my brain to be quiet for a few minutes, almost like meditation.

It’s a chance for the voices in my head to just be still and quiet… not that I have voices in my head, you understand…

Continue Reading

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  For girls like me who aren’t in a relationship, it can be a tricky one.  Do we pretend it doesn’t exist and try not to be insanely jealous at all the romantic things guys are doing for their girlfriends?  What do we do when the evening draws in?  Luckily for me I had plans months in advance this year: playing the harp to set the mood in a romantic restaurant in Chorlton, Manchester.

I remember thinking this morning sure, I set the mood for the restaurant, but who sets the mood for me?

The restaurant was The Lead Station in Chorlton and I would thoroughly recommend it.  It was beautifully decorated and very romantic.  Lots of candles and roses.  The harp was placed right in the middle of the eating area – and as you can see from the picture I think it looked lovely.  The staff were also lovely and very helpful with my harp and its covers.  Finn, the manager and Nick, the owner in particular were really welcoming.

Background music is a funny one.  As a harpist, I’m frequently called upon to play background music for events like this, or weddings, plus the occasional corporate function or fancy office party.  We sit there making (hopefully) beautiful music while the party happens around us, with nobody really listening.  But tonight was different, the restaurant was really quiet and I got applause.  Applause!!  For background music.  This was quite radical.

I also was given a complimentary meal from the special menu for the evening.  So I chose beetroot and spinach risotto with goats’ cheese (I can hear my mum’s mouth watering at that) followed by a beef burger – and I’m  not kidding, this was the best burger I’ve ever eaten in my life!  I asked for it medium cooked because I was so shocked they gave me a choice!  But seriously – excellent food and free drinks all night, shame I had to drive home.

Yes, it can be hard not having that special someone to spend Valentine’s Day evening with, but just because you’re not being taken out, doesn’t mean you are not loved.  It was a really good feeling to know that I was adding something to numerous couples’ Valentine’s Day – but never mind that, I earned some much-needed cash!

Continue Reading