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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Six days to go…

This time next week, I’ll be in the Scottish Borders with CLOUDS Harp Quartet, preparing for the first gig of our Summer Tour 2017.

We have launched a kickstarter to ask for your support towards our travel costs, and there are just six days left.

If we don’t reach our target, we get nothing.

The reason we are asking for support is that we absolutely love the music that Esther Swift writes for us, and we want to bring it to as many people as possible. Over the course of the tour we will be driving 1,500 miles each. That’s 6,000 miles of fuel we need to cover. In real terms, that’s £2,700 we need to make just to cover mileage.

We are literally driving the length and breadth of the country to play for as many people as we can. Just keep your fingers crossed that our cars can survive!

Thing is, we can’t really afford to do this if we don’t make any money from it. Of course we are passionate about the music but we need to support ourselves too during increasingly uncertain times.

This is the biggest tour we’ve undertaken since the quartet formed in 2008 and we are SO EXCITED to get out there and release this new music to you. Even if you can’t support us via kickstarter, please have a look at the concert dates and come along if you can.

Our kickstarter page can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cloudshq/clouds-harp-quartet-summer-tour-2017

As ever, thanks for reading, we’ll hopefully see you very soon!

A x

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CLOUDS summer plans

There are so many posts in the pipeline at the moment, it’s crazy. But I said the CLOUDS post would be next so, here it is.

On Tuesday, 22nd April my harp quartet CLOUDS are performing as part of the Wales International Harp Festival. Unfortunately Bec is away playing on the Cunard ships so on this occasion it’s just Esther, Elfair and myself.


Esther received a commission to compose a piece for this concert, the theme given was mythology. The Scottish murder ballad The Twa Sisters was chosen as our specific subject matter. It is a rather gruesome tale in which sibling jealously turns to murder over the attentions of a knight. The younger sister is pushed into the river and drowns, at which point a harper finds her body and makes it into a harp, using her bones and hair (told you it was gruesome). The harp then begins to play itself and tells the tale of her elder sister’s crimes.

As is Esther’s usual style, none of the music is written down. So Elfair and I have learnt it of course, but if there are any parts we forget… it’s kind of hard to get hold of Esther right now as she’s in Brazil with her folk duo Twelfth Day. Hope you’re having fun my loves!!!

This is one of the most fascinating things about CLOUDS in my opinion ~ we all do such different things on a day to day basis that we have all these different experiences to bring to the music when we meet up to rehearse, compose or perform.

Later on in June this year the four of us will be spending a couple of weeks in Edinburgh. We are shooting a new video, recording a new CD and playing in St. Giles Cathedral.

After that we are heading down to Buxton to take part in the Buxton Fringe Festival. We have four concerts, more details can be found here.

So lots of exciting things in the pipeline for CLOUDS this year – I can’t wait to spend a whole month with the girls!! Despite all these plans however, the cost of shooting a new video, having new photos taken and recording a new CD – not to mention all the travelling we’ll be doing with our harps – is proving difficult to afford. We’re applying for funding from various organisations and we have also created a GoFundMe page, click here.

So, if you would like to make a donation (or know a friend who might), please do visit the page and make a donation. All donors will be thanked in the credits of our new video.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and I look forward to bringing you more CLOUDS updates very soon!


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CLOUDS Christmas Concerts

The last seven days have been devoted to my harp quartet CLOUDS. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we rehearsed in my living room (having four harps in one room is far from normal). We were rehearsing for four concerts that made up our mini Christmas Tour.

The music we play is written by fellow CLOUD Esther Swift. It’s got a lot of folk influence. Think folk mixed with Steve Reich mixed with a tiny sprinkling of dub. None of the music is written down, this means Esther teaches it to us by demonstrating and explaining. It also means we have to remember it from one tour to the next, the amazing thing is we manage it.

It all started when we were at music college together, the four of us (myself, Elfair Dyer, Rebecca Mills and Esther Swift) were put in orchestra together to play Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. We had so much fun rehearsing together that when Esther mentioned that she’d written a piece for four harps we jumped at the chance to play more music together and it’s grown from there. I don’t think any of us (apart from Esther) had much experience with playing folk, learning by ear or improvising so for all of us it is a real learning experience and, personally, it has opened my eyes to new ways of learning music.

Bearing all of this in mind, it was fitting that the first concert of our tour was in the RNCM. The Studio Theatre to be exact:


The current members of the harp department came along to support, which was lovely! There was an interesting moment when an astrophysicist came up to us at the end to correct our definition of an Interstellar Cloud. But how amazing that he saw that one of our pieces was called Interstellar Cloud and that made him come along to hear us!

This gig went pretty smoothly, ignoring the fact that a certain CLOUD managed to leave her shoes at my flat and had to run back and get them five minutes before we were due to be onstage. Not looking at anyone in particular (Esther).

The following day Elfair, Esther and myself headed to Long Marston in North Yorkshire for our second gig. We spent the day making sure we could play our programme with just three of us and playing through extra duets that expanded the programme from the previous evening.

Long Marston is a really special church for me, my parents were married there, my dad still plays the organ there and I was also Christened there. Having said that, it is one of the coldest and most spidery churches I’ve ever been in. We were ready for mulled wine and mince pies in the interval!

On Saturday we were playing for a sell-out concert in All Saints Church in Brandsby. Rebecca joined us for the rehearsal beforehand but it soon became clear that she was too unwell to perform (if you’re reading this Bec, get well soon and I’m sending you lots of cuddles!) so we made a last minute decision to play our Long Marston trio programme again as we’d already prepared it. Coming from a city like Manchester, Brandsby feels so rural, no street lights meant we were wheeling our harps in complete darkness – interesting. Plus we had to get four harps home in three cars.

Saturday was a little bit stressful.

On Sunday, we were booked to play for York’s Annual Community Carol Concert. I’ve been going to this event practically every year of my life. My dad, John Warburton, is the Musical Director of the event. The three of us arrived really early to set up, tune, sort out microphones etc. We found our dressing room, had some lunch and got ready for the concert. Everyone had remembered their shoes, we were unstoppable.

The afternoon itself was lots of fun, community carols sung by an audience of over 1,400, two school choirs, the beautiful Rebecca Newman, a brass band and of course CLOUDS all contributed to a lovely afternoon of Christmassy joy.

And then it was time to say goodbye, Elfair, Esther and Rebecca, you are all legends and I love you. Can’t wait til the next tour!

For more information about CLOUDS visit www.cloudsharpquartet.com where there is a link to buy our CDs!

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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.  


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:



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!




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.



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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CLOUDS, Les Mis and Summer

Summer 2013 is turning out to be very busy indeed!

Last week was the first leg of the CLOUDS Harp Quartet tour.  We did five concerts in and around Manchester and had a great time, rehearsals were at my flat, rather interesting fitting four pedal harps into an average-sized lounge:


The tour is to promote our new CD entitled WATER:


We are all so excited about this new piece.  It’s written by Esther Swift – but I use the term loosely – nothing is physically written down.  Esther composes the piece, then teaches it to us aurally and by demonstration.  When we first started playing together about four years ago I’d never done anything like it, but now I love it.  The music is so free because we aren’t bound by sheets of music, we have to communicate a lot during our performances and I think it makes us much tighter as a group.

*At this point I’d just like to say anyone wishing to purchase WATER can do so by clicking here http://www.cloudsandharps.bigcartel.com/product/water *

Also, here are the dates for our 2013 tour – catch us in Edinburgh, Peebles, Newcastle or North Wales:


On the first day of rehearsals with CLOUDS, my new lever harp arrived!  I’ve hired one for the year, and it arrived like this:


It’s a Dusty Strings Ravenna 34 and so far I’m really happy with it – I even went busking earlier this week!  I hadn’t really realised how heavy these things are, yes it’s easier than a pedal harp but too much walking around with this on my shoulder results in a lot of pain.  Definitely an interesting experience though.

So this week I’m playing for Les Miserables over in Runcorn.  Same company that I played for when they did Phantom of the Opera last year.  It’s a group of 16-19 year olds and it’s in The Brindley in Runcorn.  I do love playing for shows and I’m lucky enough to be doing three this Summer, this one is a bit different though because I’m playing from the guitar part.  Shaun Chambers, the conductor, thought (quite rightly) that some of the melody parts would sound really good on the harp – however, it also means I have to play from guitar notation eek!  It has been so good for me though, playing from chord symbols – a bit time consuming to mark up in terms of pedals but once you get used to it it’s nice having the flexibility to slightly change what you play each time.  Usually playing harp for a show you can expect to be in five or six numbers.  I’m playing ALL THE TIME – it’s great!  Although it doesn’t leave enough time to eat my minstrels during the show.  I made friends with the brass players during the interval last night over chocolates and warm lager.  Classy.

The final show is this Saturday evening, after which I am driving straight up to Edinburgh to start the second part of the CLOUDS tour.  Someone remind me how I ever managed to fit in a day job?!

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