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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Porto!

I’m back! Freshly tanned and totally refreshed from ten days staying in Porto with some of my lovely friends. So I thought I’d post about it and let you know what we got up to (and make you just a little jealous).

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Porto is beautiful. Not only that, the food is amazing and the people are super friendly.

We sampled the local delicacy known as the Francesinha – basically shove as much meat as you can into a sandwich – sausages, steak etc, top with a fried egg, cover the whole thing in cheese, drown it in a sauce – the main ingredient of which is booze, then add fries.

Yea, don’t eat these every day:

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We drank a lot of red wine, and a lot of port – it’s rude not to, right? We took a tour of the Cockburn’s port cellars and tasted some of their port afterwards.

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Everything is so cheap out there. In a supermarket you can get a lovely bottle of wine for €2.50, a bottle of nice port for €8 – and a proper meal out in a restaurant can be between €5 and €10. It’s ridiculous! Apparently in England we just get ripped off when we buy anything.

We had a day trip to see a Medieval Festival, which was fabulous.

Lunch: 1 rabbit.

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Wine: 1 Euro.

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I got the chance to read some books that I’ve been meaning to get round to for ages.

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I (finally) finished Stephen King’s Needful Things  – very creepy. Then I read Life of Pi which was fantastic, one of those books that you just can’t stop thinking about after finishing. I then started Solar by Ian McEwan, which is very good so far. I intend to keep reading as much as I can now that I am back. I so enjoyed not having my phone at all for those ten days, and only sporadic internet access to check for emergency emails. It meant that the group spending time together meant conversation, playing cards, cooking, and just enjoying each other’s company as you can clearly see here:

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We played the card version of Monopoly – Monopoly Deal – for hours and hours. It is so addictive and well worth checking out if you haven’t seen or heard of it.

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I also finally learned how to play poker! With Monopoly money of course…

So all in all, a fantastic trip. Big thank-you to Artur Pereira for hosting us so generously – we love you! Here’s to the next time 🙂

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Copenhagen

It’s taken me a long time to write this post, I’ve done plenty to try and procrastinate and put it off – yoga, watching Gossip Girl, eating what must be millions of calories in galaxy bars – but now it is time to put on my big-girl-shoes and tell you what happened in Denmark.

I was offered an orchestral audition in Copenhagen. It might be unfair to publicly broadcast who it was for but nevertheless it was an incredible opportunity, here was my actual dream job, all I had to do was nail the audition and I might just maybe possibly be in with a shot! Hell yeah I’d move to Copenhagen! Learning Danish? Just tell me when to start. Seriously, I felt like I would do anything to get that job.

So I booked five days in Copenhagen with my wonderful Mum who offered to keep me company. Here we are having one of many meals out along the way.

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I had been very busy learning two pieces for the different audition rounds: the Debussy Danses Sacrée et Profane and Fantasie by Spohr. The Spohr was the first round so I knew the panel would definitely hear that. Debussy would be on day two, but if I got that far then obviously I still had to do my best.

About a month before the audition I received a list of the orchestral excerpts I needed to prepare. All 143 pages of them. Thirty-one excerpts in total. Everything was there, from the cadenzas all aspiring orchestral harpists need under their fingers (Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Verdi) to excerpts I knew to be extremely difficult and/or had never even heard of (the ever-present Wagner, Elliott Carter, Albeniz). I had one month to learn all of them, that’s one a day.

I’m not going to lie, that month was not fun. It was not fun at all. I all but stopped socialising, I almost injured myself by practising until my arms hurt, taking a break, then starting again. But you know what? I pretty much got them ready, and regardless of what happened, that stands me in good stead for the future.

So off we went, we were staying with a lovely couple we met through AirBnB – Anne & Jakob – their flat was fab and very close to the metro and the concert hall where the audition was due to take place.

The audition was on the first full day we had in Denmark, first thing in the morning. It was a blind audition, which I am totally in favour of. Basically the panel sit behind a screen and the idea is they have no clue who you are, they just pick the best players, rather than the ones they know, or teach, for example.

They actually stopped me during the Spohr, which I’ve always been told is a good sign – they’ve heard what they need to hear – if you’re terrible then the panel is obliged to hear until the end, perhaps something went wrong and you’ll fix it before the end, it would be unfair to stop you. So I was happy with that, then I just had to play the cadenza from Waltz of the Flowers, which I learnt about ten years ago so I was really confident with that.

After I played I was told to pack up and wait upstairs, which we dutifully did. We waited for about ten minutes and then I found out I hadn’t been chosen ‘Sorry’.

Talk about brutal.

So mum and I got out of there as soon as we could and I started to think about all the work I had put in. All the money we had spent to get there. All for twenty minutes on a Saturday morning. I just couldn’t believe it. No feedback, no interview, just ‘See ya!’ and we were on our way.

Looking back on it now, I’m so glad this was on the first morning of our trip. This meant we had another five whole days to explore Copenhagen! It’s a truly beautiful city with a wonderful, chilled out vibe. The food is also to die for.

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We explored as many art galleries and museums as we could – there is a lot to do!

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This picture above was taken at Helsingør – the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – so it was absolutely fascinating to have a look around. It’s pretty cold and windy up there too!

So yes, lots of lessons learnt, I worked so hard for the audition and I’m proud of that. I also got the chance to visit a new city, which was wonderful.

I’m going to keep striving for the orchestral jobs – that is what I want to do. But, I have to be comfortable with the fact that this may never happen for me. I may just stay in my little world in the North of England, teaching, working with my fabulous CLOUDS Harp Quartet, playing for weddings and small orchestras, and that’s OK too. I know I can be happy either way and for now I’m just enjoying the journey.

As ever, thanks for reading – and please do share your experiences of auditions! I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you.

x

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Decisions

This has been a week of choices.  Isn’t it weird how they all seem to come at once?

After a mad couple of shifts in the bar at the RNCM for freshers week, I decided that, if I really don’t enjoy working there that much, I should just quit.  I need to be earning money doing things that take me in the direction of my dream.  It isn’t my dream to work in a bar forever, so I decided it was time to take the plunge and lose the safety net of having that bit of extra cash each month – in favour of pushing myself to do more for my music career.

So that’s it!  I never have to pull a pint again.  I’ve worked in one bar or another for my whole student life, and now I feel like the time has come to move on.

And doesn’t the universe work in mysterious ways, on the morning following my final shift, I got a phone call from the Chethams School of Music asking if I’d be interested in doing some harp teaching there.

Of course I was!  I taught my first lesson there last Friday and loved it, hopefully it will lead to working there regularly.

The day after the phone call day, I got an email from a hotel asking if I’d like to stay with them and provide background music for a few months… in DUBAI!  Sounds too good to be true and the money is exceedingly tempting (enough to invest in a lever harp and take lots of the financial pressure away).  But it would mean being away over Christmas and New Year, and I’d miss a certain trip to Lanzarote in December as well as various gigs and family commitments.  So basically, I’ve said I’m very interested but maybe another time.

I had to think about it so carefully, but I need to be here, in Manchester right now.  I need to be gigging and building up my contacts and getting better gigs.  My dream is to be an orchestral musician, and while the money from providing background music is fabulous, I’m not sure I would want to do it all the time.  What I love about my career so far is the variety.  Every day is different and brings its own challenges.  Not going to Dubai was a really tough decision but hopefully I will look back and be glad I stayed.

Maybe I could have gone to Dubai and could have stayed working at Brodsky.  Had I done so my bank balance would definitely thank me.  But at the end of the day, maybe I’m choosing the less profitable choice right now, but maybe it will pay dividends in the future?  I have noticed that each day since turning down Dubai I’ve been contacted about doing a gig in the next few months.  It’s going to be ok.

Maybe there is no right or wrong decision.  But I’ve made mine and now my job is to make the best of my situation and keep moving towards where I want to be in the future.

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Market Rasen

Last weekend was unusual.  My gig was with Market Rasen Choral Society, over in Lincolnshire.  I had practised the music and was really comfortable with it, I knew parking would be no issue, I was staying overnight with a member of the choir who has a B&B and had already invited me out for an indian meal after the concert.  So there was really nothing to worry about.

This of course made me worry that something truly dreadful would happen.

But no, smooth sailing all the way, there wasn’t so much as a single step to move the harp up or down – perfect!  I also got paid on the night, hurray!!

The repertoire was Delius’ Brigg Fair (I actually drove through the village of Brigg to get to Market Rasen, such a beautiful part of the country) and Rowland Lee’s Requiem.  Rowland was present at the rehearsal and the concert, it’s always a bit nerve-racking when the composer is actually sitting there, score in hand, ready to point out what he’d like doing differently.  But actually, he was lovely and received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of what turned out to be an unusually long concert.

But it was ok, there was curry to look forward to.  I sat opposite a very interesting man and we spent the evening chatting about where we went to school and things like that.  I didn’t realise it was Ian Hogg – a quick glance at his IMDb page shows that he has been in lots of TV and Shakespeare plays http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0389707/

After dinner it was time to go back to the B&B, which was about seven miles away.  It’s in the middle of the countryside and when you breathe in you can just tell immediately that you’re not in a big city any more.  And you can see the stars!  What a treat.  It was midnight when we got back and, as I was leaving first thing in the morning I decided my harp could sleep in the car.  Midge very kindly provided a nice thick duvet to tuck it in.  I found out later that Midge (Thomas) is a published author.  She wrote a recipe book of jams and preserves for the WI that has sold over 100,000 copies!

So that was that, lovely trip, lovely part of the country that I hadn’t been to before, met some great people, and got paid to do it!  Brilliant.

May is literally jam-packed with gigs (excuse the pun) so lots and lots of posts to come I’m sure!  Watch this space.

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