Autumn is here – my favourite season – and we’re all getting ready to snuggle down while the nights draw in and the weather turns chilly.
For myself and for most of the harpists I know, wedding season is drawing to a close. I am currently taking bookings for weddings in 2018 and 2019 so please do get in touch if you want to chat about hiring a wedding harpist. Personally I think autumn/winter weddings are absolutely beautiful and probably what Tim and I are going to go for. Having played for so many weddings in my career so far, I have lots of ideas for things I would like at my own wedding and am so excited to start planning!
This brings me to my next life update – we are buying a house! Not sure when we’ll be in at this point but fingers crossed we won’t have to wait too long. Having been engaged since May it’ll be lovely to actually live together at last. It’s been tricky to find the right place as we were looking for somewhere with a separate downstairs room to be my music room (the trials and tribulations of a harpist’s life!) but we have found a place we love and hopefully it’ll be ours soon enough.
Back to harp-related news now, I have a few lovely gigs coming up, which provide a wonderful excuse to practise some really fantastic repertoire. Hasselmans La Source, Grandjany Aria in a Classic Style, Faure Requiem & Cantique de Jean Racine, and my favourite: Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols – such good stuff coming up! Make sure to follow me on instagram to follow the adventures of a Manchester harpist. I’m planning to record some more material for my youtube channel too so head over and subscribe for some of my favourite harp music.
One final piece of news, I’ve enrolled in a Foundation Course with the British Wheel of Yoga. Very much enjoying it so far and who knows, it may even lead to teacher training sometime in the future. That would be a wonderful extra string to my bow (harp?). Yoga is absolutely amazing for musicians as we spend so many hours hunched over our instruments (and increasingly, our laptops), it’s easy for niggles to creep in. Yoga also gives us a bit of mental space, being a musician isn’t like your regular 9-5, it’s a lifestyle and you’re probably thinking about it 24/7. Yoga involves practising clearing the mind of these thoughts and turning the attention inwards, practising mindfulness and meditation, it is so refreshing and really worth doing.
I think that’s enough from me for now! Harpists: how was wedding season for you? Musicians: do you practice yoga and find it beneficial? Let me know in the comments.
Bye for now,
Sometimes, as musicians, we are reminded of the fact that we do not get sick pay. It’s not possible for us to pull a certain number of sick days and know that we’ll still be paid our salary.
This has been my story this week, last Wednesday I literally could not get out of bed because of achiness and fever. The following day, I had to play for a wedding. Leaving a couple without music on their wedding day is not an option – so I had to go and do it.
It’s now a full week later and I’m still not 100% but I’m much better than I was. Thank goodness!
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!
By the time I hit Publish on this post, it will be 2017. But for now, as I lie in bed with Spyder the cat sleeping on my lap, and a glass of Shiraz and various chocolate baked goods next to me, I’m enjoying the final few days of 2016.
But as well as relaxing and switching off, I’ve also been looking ahead to 2017 and thinking about what I’d like to achieve in this coming year.
As a general rule, I think New Year’s Resolutions are bad news as a ridiculously high percentage of them fail, which makes us feel like failures.
Not a good way to start the year.
I believe any day is a good day to set some goals and intentions for the future, but hey, it’s the new year, so instead of strict resolutions that are guaranteed to make me feel like an idiot when I fail, here are some intentions of things I’d like to work towards this year.
Quit my minimum wage, part-time job
So last August I freaked out about money, and started working in retail, part-time. Now, I want to schedule this post for Thursday, 5th January, that means I will be handing in my notice on Wednesday, 4th January. Scary! But (and I will probably dedicate a future post to this point) time is worth so much more than £7.20 an hour. Please know that I’m not saying my time is worth more than anyone else’s – everyone’s time is worth more than this.
I could teach a few more hours a week and make more, and I would be so much happier. Even just looking for other work would be a better use of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my coworkers, but I am not cut out for retail. I am a musician, and while I have this safety net I will always feel like I’m not doing myself justice.
I refuse to stay simply because I’m too scared that I need it. I will find something better. I will. I have to.
Practice the harp 7 hours every week
This may seem pathetically low to my musician pals who probably do two or three times that, but I’m starting easy so I can increase the hours once I’m back in the swing of it (see my above mini-rant on New Year’s Resolutions). Due to the nature of freelancing, daily practice targets don’t seem to work for me any more, I’m not going to practice for two hours before heading off to a gig to play background music all night. Instead I find it much easier to schedule in practice for the whole week, so I can see what the next seven days are going to look like at a glance. See also my previous post: How to Practice: Schedule it in
The trap I fall into (and please comment if this is you too!) is, if I don’t have many gigs coming up, or, if I only have background gigs for a few weeks, I ease off the practice.
That has to change in 2017.
As well as practising for upcoming gigs, I will be investing much more time into my YouTube channel and to generally building up my repertoire ready for competitions/auditions/potential recordings.
Watch out 2017 – I will be upping my game!
Keep hunting for more work, even in the good times
I may have mentioned this before, but it’s tempting to lay off looking for work when you have plenty of things in the diary. But what happens when empty months loom ahead and you don’t have any sort of safety net to fall back on? Pupils cancel, gig organisers find other players and suddenly your income dries up.
In 2017 I will keep hustling, even in the busy times. Gigs and teaching will be my main focus. I’d rather sometimes be crazily busy if it means I have enough to see me through slower periods.
Sure, freelancing can be hard, but it’s also amazing and I am completely in love with it. I love being my own boss, having the power to find my own work and decide how much I earn. I’m not ready to give that up yet.
Here’s to a prosperous, exciting and rewarding 2017!
p.s. what goals and intentions are you setting for 2017? Leave me a comment and let me know. Also, pop your email in the box to subscribe and receive future posts in your inbox (never more than once a week).
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!
It’s been a busy summer so far. I can’t remember when my last free weekend was – which is very good news for a harpist. Since getting back from Denmark I’ve had at least one gig every single week. Usually weddings.
I’ve also received some lovely feedback from the happy couples and their families to let me know they appreciate my playing – I love getting reviews like this! You can check them out on my lastminutemusicians.com profile here.
I’ve realised that there are benefits to arriving at wedding gigs early: Sunbathing.
I’ve had the opportunity to go and play in my old stomping ground – the RNCM and its new concert hall – my harp looks so small from up at the back:
I also had a concert alongside the choir that I sing with – the choir of St. Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre. This was of course followed by the usual trip to the pub, where some of us stayed out way too late – I won’t mention names at this point:
As well as the frequent gigs, I’ve managed to find some time here and there to chill. Marten’s birthday was lovely, we went for a long walk around the Edale Valley – it was so nice to see some green and get some fresh air!
There are lots of changes happening at the moment, lots of new ideas in the pipeline. I will keep you updated of course! But in the meantime, you can always subscribe to get my posts in your inbox – I recently changed website hosts, so if you are used to getting emails from me you may have to re-subscribe – sorry about that!
You can also follow me on twitter and instagram @harpistangelina for updates on my adventures. Send me a message and say hi! I love hearing from you.
One of the things I love about playing for weddings is that it usually doesn’t take all day – I can be home for dinner. Last Saturday’s wedding at Hilltop Country House in Prestbury was no different. I was only playing for the Ceremony itself, plus a little background beforehand, so I was done in just over an hour.
It may now be officially summer, but there was lots of rain, luckily, the venue was prepared:
However, the rain did mean that the ceremony had to be inside, and due to the number of guests, the harp wouldn’t fit in the ceremony room itself and I was positioned in the next room in the hope that the music would ‘waft through’. I’m assuming it did.
I was back home in time to catch a film with some friends – Jurassic World – I’d highly recommend it. Very entertaining if slightly predictable (hey, it’s the fourth Jurassic film, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it etc.) It did make me feel old to think that I remember the first film coming out over twenty years ago and I found the references to the original Jurassic Park completely adorable (who remembers the awesome night-vision goggles?)
After the film we visited HOME before going home.
HOME is a new development in Manchester, involving a cinema, a cafe, a bar and probably lots of other things I haven’t had the chance to explore yet. It’s lovely though. There are deckchairs outside for sunny days. We stopped for a quick drink before heading back.
On Sunday morning I was singing with choir, as usual. Then in the afternoon I was invited to a barbecue at my teacher’s house. It was so good to see her (hi Eira!), and the current harp class of RNCM (a little worse for wear after the previous night’s Summer Ball). But nevertheless we ate lovely food (thanks Steve!) and drank a few glasses of Prosecco and sat outside until it got too cold and we decided to make a tactical retreat to the living room.
I was also introduced to the concept of putting Pringles on a barbecue and eating them with melted camembert (also from the barbie) – delicious! Try it! Thanks for the fabulous idea Bec Mills.
I don’t think the North of England has quite realised that it’s supposed to be summer now. The weather at the moment is definitely not what we ordered, send it back.
So all in all a pretty good weekend, lots of good food and good wine with good friends. I hope the summer brings many more like this (only sunnier).
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.