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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org). 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:
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 little note about playing outside – it is possible, if the following are available:
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:
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.
This post is a continuation from last week’s post in which I raked over the glowing embers of November 2014, I originally wanted to put November and December into one huge post but alas, there was just too much to put in! So here’s a run-down of December 2014.
The first gig of the month was a solo recital! Yay! This is what it’s all about: performing lovely repertoire for a large, appreciative audience. Many thanks to Philip Scowcroft at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery for inviting me back to perform – I always have a lovely time. Thanks also for inviting me and Marten to do a joint recital next year – time to find some harp and piano repertoire, suggestions in the comments please!!
On December 5th I had a background gig at Manchester Art Gallery. Those of you who know Manchester will be aware that there is very little parking around there. Pretty much none in fact. So I thought it would be a clever idea to get an estate car taxi to take me there – what could possibly go wrong?
I called the taxi company at least twice during the day to check the booking, 5pm estate car taxi to the city centre. Emphasis on the estate car part. Five o’clock rolls around, no taxi. At quarter past my phone rings to let me know the taxi’s outside, so I trundle out with the harp and all my bags.
It’s not an estate car.
Cue one diva-strop.
Car goes away, angry phone call to Radio Cars, an estate finally arrives. I’m now behind schedule. Trying to hold it together.
I arrange with the driver that he’ll come and pick me up after I’ve finished playing so I don’t have to go through that again. I’ve been asked to play downstairs in the foyer. But all that happens is people come in, hang up their coats, and head off upstairs to the party.
I’m providing music for the hanging up of coats. This has to be a new low.
Fast forward to the end of my set. No taxi.
Cue another massive diva-strop (I’m getting good at these) and phone call to Radio Cars “Yes, it’s the lady with the harp” to request an estate asap.
Taxi turns up, it’s not an estate.
By now I’m rather upset, I finished playing an hour ago and have gone nowhere. Another strop, another phone call and the driver who stood me up sheepishly apologises for not showing up when he said he would, and takes me home, where a party is currently underway, that I am hosting, that I am also very very late for.
Time to start drinking.
Luckily, by comparison the next few days went very smoothly. An hour of background music in Middlewich for a community Christmas buffet-type-thing (I had a lot of the cakes, they were excellent). Then on the Sunday I had the first Ceremony of Carols of the year down in Wilmslow – conducted by Lloyd Buck.
The Ceremony of Carols is a very special piece – written by Benjamin Britten. I’m sure it is special to many harpists, it’s just for treble voices and harp – although it has been arranged for a full choir.
The following weekend also had engagements on both days, so I decided to get my first ever spray tan in preparation (even my winter foundation for very pasty skin is now looking quite orange on me – I need some sun asap) I went for the lightest tan you can have (they call it ‘Glow’) and yea, it was fun for a few days, until it started coming off. In patches. Starting with my hands. Bad times.
On Saturday 13th December I was playing for a wedding banquet, in a marquee. A marquee in December? Sounds crazy but was in fact surprisingly cosy. Who knew?
The following day I headed over to attend York’s Annual Community Carol Concert. My dad has been conducting this event for decades. It usually attracts a crowd in the region of 1,500 and raises money for several good causes in and around York. They get a school band, a couple of school choirs, a church choir and a ‘novelty item’ (in 2013 it was my Harp Quartet CLOUDS) and we spend an afternoon together singing carols and being entertained by the wonderful Revd Andrew Foster. Father Christmas usually makes an appearance to hand out sweets. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this wonderful event. Long live YACCC!
We are now half-way through the month, almost there. Believe it or not December 2014 was comparatively quiet for me… I’ve had much busier Christmas seasons – I’ve also had quieter ones where I’ve had to live on frozen vegetables with rice due to lack of money. 2014 was a very happy medium, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure I had a chest infection (or just the worst cough of my life) and sounded like I was dying for the whole month.
On Friday 19th December it was time to head over to York again for the Masonic Carol Service that I always play for – this time I brought my own page-turner with me. Doesn’t he scrub up well?
This is another lovely event that takes place every year. We have a small service of lessons and carols, then claim a glass of sherry or three and head downstairs for a Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings. Just what we need. The evening then always finishes with my parents reading from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s predictable, it’s the same every year, but we love it and for me this evening is what starts Christmas off.
Saturday, 20th December was my final gig of 2014, and it was a Ceremony of Carols (what else?) in Rochdale.
I also contributed to this concert by playing a solo, Marcel Samuel Rousseau’s Variations Pastorales sur un vieux noel. One of my favourite solo pieces, but sadly it’s christmassy so I can’t really perform it any other time of year. It was so lovely to work with Michael Betteridge for this gig – his energy is fantastic – I do hope I can work with him again soon *hint hint*.
So there you have it. I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a 1000+ words epic but there you go. The rest of December was spent either with my parents in York, or with my sister down in the Midlands, lots of food was eaten, lots of wine was tasted. All in all a lovely Christmas, and for that I am very thankful.
I hope you all also had wonderful Christmasses and New Years. How are those resolutions going? Next week I’ll be gauging the success (or otherwise) of mine. Eeek.
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.
We definitely kept it professional (profesh??) at all times:
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??
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:
Then on Sunday I was playing for a wedding in Bury:
This was then followed by another Fauré in St. Ann’s Church in Manchester.
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:
I also received this beautiful necklace from Marten, I don’t think I’ve taken it off since then! I love it:
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’?)
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.
As the title would suggest, this post will hopefully bring my blog up to date with the various gigs I’ve been doing since Valentine’s Day.
Almost immediately after V-day, I drove up to Edinburgh with fellow CLOUDS member Elfair Dyer to rehearse for a few days with Esther Swift (for more information about CLOUDS click here).
We are currently learning a new trio piece for the International Harp Festival in Caernarfon, North Wales, in April. The piece is a new commission given to Esther especially for the festival. As usual, none of it is written down so we have to actually see each other to learn the music.
I am so excited about the new piece! The theme is mythology so there is a spooky story to go alongside the piece. We get to use loop pedals! The whole piece is quite dark in nature so it’s a world away from what is normally expected of a harp trio (clue: we won’t be wearing ball gowns). The sound is much edgier and more challenging.
I’m happy to say we can now play through the whole thing! We have more rehearsals coming up soon to polish everything off (and to make sure we actually know what we are doing). So fingers crossed the performance will be a success!
A few days after getting back from Scotland I had a very last minute gig. Background music for a Wake. This type of gig isn’t easy (it’s easier than a funeral service though), but the list of songs they requested were very fitting and, actually, I’m going to keep using that playlist for other background gigs too.
The very same evening I gave a talk at the Women’s Institute in Mellor, just to the south of Manchester. It’s slightly in the middle of nowhere, hurray for unlit, snakey roads with only enough room for one car.
I was a little nervous about this talk… I didn’t know if I could fill the allotted time but luckily, with playing, I was fine, plus the ladies asked lots of questions and genuinely seemed interested in the harp and the different types of work that constitute the life of a freelance musician.
The next gig I had was the following weekend, playing for a wedding reception in Sheffield. My Sheffield gigs are notorious for being stressful, I always get lost, but this one was ok. Not perfect but I found somewhere to park eventually.
The reception was in one of the University buildings.
There was a lot of champagne flowing:
And, check out the interesting table plan…
Anyway, this seemed to be a wedding of people who win at life. Everyone was beautiful and gracious (getting louder towards the end… I blame the champagne) but generally a very classy affair.
Last Thursday lunchtime I went to watch the RNCM Harp Ensemble’s lunchtime concert at the Manchester School of Art – a lovely space for a concert like this…
The photo doesn’t do it justice, trust me it looked lovely. I’ve been out of college for nearly three full years now (can’t believe it) and it’s still a little strange to see a harp ensemble concert that I’m not involved in. I mean it was refreshing in a way – the harp department had been setting up since before 9am! I remember back to my time in college and just loving the feeling of being part of such an amazing team.
Finally, we come to the gig I supposedly had last Friday, now I can’t say too much about this as I’m currently obtaining legal advice from the Musicians Union. But just to warn you, when it’s all sorted out there will be much ranting!
So that brings us just about up to date. I hope you all are enjoying the spring-like weather as much as I am! If you have any feedback please do leave me a comment.