Change of Plan! ~ Spring 2020
It is a difficult time for everyone at the moment with the outbreak of Covid-19.
I hope you are all safe and managing to find some peace and beauty in your surroundings.
For the first few months of the year, I had been busily preparing for a return visit to the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. Devising 2 Five-day Courses meant writing booklets and handouts, in addition to practising for a duet performance with Anne Denholm and premiering works with the Pedal Power Ensemble. Sadly, it was not to be, as the event was cancelled by Merchiston School, due to concerns regarding the Coronavirus. However, the innovative committee organised the first Virtual event, which is now online. You can watch a potpourri of workshops and concerts; all available for free.
Have a look at me giving a workshop on technical points for all players and all harpists.
So, the first question you might have is: how can it be for all level of players? My finding is that the more we advance on an instrument, the more important it is to revise basic elements of technique, practice methods and musicianship. It is very easy for the foundations to fall by the wayside as we progress to harder and more challenging repertoire. I truly believe that advanced players need to go back regularly to foundation work, so that they check-in on their technique.
In the weeks when we now have ‘time’, it is so important to look at what we have (maybe not just in regards to our harp playing!) and to make sure it is all working for us. The concept of working slowly is something which many people struggle with. The feeling is that we need to progress, move forward, get to the next point. But as of Spring 2020, we can’t physically progress. We have to sit, stay safe and contemplate. This is an ideal scenario for harp practice.
Sit - look at your posture. Are you relaxed?
Stay safe - are your fingers strong; working for you efficiently and securely?
Contemplate - are you noticing details on the page? Is the sound good? Are you telling us your ideas for the piece?
I often hear comments such as:
“That piece is too easy”
The seemingly ‘easiest’ pieces can be the most difficult to play well. There is nowhere to hide. Every note stands out. If you can’t play a section of your piece at a slow tempo, then you are not ready to play it at a fast one.
“This is only a Grade 5 piece.”
The choices regarding which pieces are chosen for the different Grade exams are sometimes very arbitrary and, in my opinon, not always correct!! Ask any good harp teacher, and they will tell you that. Learn to enjoy music for what it is, rather than because it is on an exam syllabus.
“How fast does this piece go?”
Speed should always come later. Try not to think about it from the start. Start slowly, and unwrap all the elements of the piece first, to get a real understanding of it from notes, rhythm, fingering, phrasing, dynamics and style. Then add your own polish to it. The correct speed is one where you are able to play fluently and comfortably, within your own point of progress. Professional level harpists might play works faster, but that’s only because they have worked towards that level. You are still "On your way!"
Enjoy watching my Workshop from the Edinburgh International Harp Festival
Stay safe. Stay well!
Tour to South Africa ~ Summer 2019
I am very fortunate to get invitations from all over the world to give workshops and concerts. Recent years have included Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Greece. Then there came a request to visit South Africa from one of the driving forces of the harp community there, Ingrid Janse van Rensburg. 18 months, and countless emails later, I arrived in Johannesburg for the start of an 18-day tour.
Ingrid had organised a fabulous schedule of events, where I got to meet so many welcoming harpists. I gave workshops for lever harp and pedal harp, took a Masterclass at the National School of Arts and travelled to Pretoria to coach the Labyrinth Ensemble in the Harp Quintet by Jean Cras. Unexpectedly, I caught up with 2 RNCM string graduates, who were part of this ensemble. A small world indeed!
It was also a real pleasure to coach Ingrid’s harp-playing daughter, Vivienne, who studied at Interlochen and is now a busy freelancer. During my visit I coached her on the Saint-Saëns Fantaisie for harp and violin, and was thrilled to then hear her play it at the SASMT National Ensemble Competition in Pretoria, where she won Second Prize. She also joined me in my concert, playing Monika Stadler's "On the Water".
Private lessons were given in Ingrid’s fantastic Harp Shop, Avondale Harp World. I was in seventh heaven teaching there; surrounded by harps, a beguiling selection of harp music, all kinds of harp gifts and accessories. Do book in a visit if you are ever in Johannesburg; but bring an extra suitcase. You will be tempted by what is on offer, and my CDs and music are now also in stock there.
Every 2 years, the harp technician Billy Hornby visits from the UK to service the harps. This is so important to ensure that the instruments are preserved in excellent condition.
The highlight of my time was adjudicating for the National Harp Festival. This was an extremely well organised event, where harpists are given the opportunity to perform. There are no prizes, which I found quite refreshing. Players came to play their pieces, receive feedback and a certificate. It was such a positive experience for everyone and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If I ever need a manager, Ingrid would fit the bill magnificently. Not only did she prepare a varied schedule, she also made sure I had some time off and arranged 2 sight-seeing trips. We visited Soweto and the Apartheid Museum, which gave us an insight to the history of this divided country. Another day we ventured out into the Lion and Rhino Park and saw all kinds of animals up close.
It was very hard to leave this harp community, as I was truly welcomed by everyone.
Next, I travelled to Cape Town to meet up with Jane Theron, who had spent a few years in London in the 70s, and is a member of the UK Harp Association (UKHA). She greeted us at the airport and immediately whisked us up to Table Mountain, which was quite stunning. How lucky to see these magnificent places on my travels - a bucket list tick right there.
My main project was the Harp Adventure Day held at the Hugo Lambrechts Centre. Players arrived for a morning masterclass: a variety of solos were beautifully played from Pescetti to Tournier. I offered tips on practising efficiently, choice of footwear and performance ideas.
After a delicious buffet lunch, more players joined for a session which included technical warm-up exercises, ensemble pieces and improvisation. We ended the day with a performance for invited guests, and I can report that they all played so well.
I enjoyed giving a talk for the Rotary Club of Kromboom about my own travels with a harp; from performing at the Hollywood Bowl to my beginnings as a harp-playing Welsh Druid. Playing for the Music Society at Bishops Diocesan College also meant that I could perform music from my new CD, “Forgotten Dreams”, and introduce new pieces by Anna Appleby, Esther Swift and Grace-Evangeline Mason.
Travelling has its downside of course. You have to recover quickly from long flights, and then be adaptable when flights change. We were caught up in the BA pilots' strike, which incurred a 2-day delay to our return journey. Thankfully, we weren’t in a hurry to return home, and it gave us time to visit the Cape of Good Hope and explore Cape Point, which are stunning locations. Seeing the penguins at Boulders Beach Penguin Colony was also a dream come true.
Eventually the tour was over and it was time to say goodbye. An extra suitcase returned with us full of music, memories and momentos. South Africa surely captured our hearts. It was great to know that there is such a thriving harp community there, and long may it last. We will remember the warm welcome, the smiles of truly generous people, harpists galore, the beautiful scenery ~ and, of course, tasting South African Gin.
Thank you to everyone who made my visit so special.
My last post on here was announcing information about the Pedal Power Course at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival, hoping that a new approach to attracting pedal harpists would be successful. Well….it was!! The pedal harp course was fully booked for the first time in the 38-year history of the Festival. 15 harpists from all over the UK joined me: all at different levels; all having one thing in common - enthusiasm! We worked on different aspects of playing, and also prepared a short programme for the Wednesday afternoon concert, which was a huge hit. Bravo everyone!
The Notes from Abroad course attracted a host of lever harpists. This also sold out with players from New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Belgium and England. I love travelling, so choosing tunes from my favourite countries was fun to do: an Icelandic Hymn, a French classic, a popular Spanish song and a Greek dance.
My Invisible Wire concert honoured the memory of Helen MacLeod. I was joined on stage by 5 emerging young harpists in a programme to celebrate the links between harpist, composer and harp makers. Thank you to: Holly Hart, Tsvetelina Likova, Aaron Ma, Angharad Huw and Yanan Xu. It was also a pleasure to perform with Charlotte Petersen an excerpt from her new harp duo Symmetry, and with Aaron Ma for Eddie McGuire’s duo, Dream and Dancing. Thanks also to Alex Hopkinson for the beautiful reading of an excerpt of a poem for Helen, written by her friend, Aimee McMorrow. New works by Esther Swift and Anna Appleby were introduced, and I am so grateful to them both for supporting the concert, including all the preparation beforehand. Time Spinner and Knocking are now published and can be heard on my new album, Forgotten Dreams.
To further unite everyone, I celebrated the harp shops by having different makes of harps on stage. Many thanks to Salvi Music London, Clive Morley Harps, Pilgrim Harps, Vining Harps and the Harp Studio for their generous support throughout the Festival; not only with harps, but goodie bags and prizes. I also gave the first UK demo of the Salvi Una electroacoustic harp, led a Masterclass sponsored by the UKHA, collaborated with Eddie McGuire in a workshop on composing for harp, and a co-led a workshop on Adjudicating with the driving force of the EIHF, Isobel Mieras.
An incredible week!
Here are some of the memories in photos
Happy New Year !
2019 will be a very busy year for me
The biggest project will be appearing as Guest Artist at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival: 5th - 10th April at Merchiston Castle School. This is my 3rd invitation there, with this visit being an action packed one. I will be teaching 2 courses, performing in 2 concerts, co-hosting a workshop on The Art of Adjudication with Isobel Mieras, participating in a Composing Workshop with Scottish composer, Eddie McGuire, offering private lessons, and giving a Masterclass. Do you want to join me? Then read on.......
PEDAL POWER: April 6th - 10th
This is a 5 day course from Saturday to Wednesday: starting at 1pm, and running for 1½ hours.
Cost: £79. So what do you get for this? The course is for pedal harpists to feel confident in their technical abilities, to learn how to practice and memorise and how to cope with performances and exams. Each participant will get a FREE booklet at the end of the course with even more tips and ideas. Also, you will get a discount voucher for a private harp lesson with me at a later date, as a follow-up to what you have learnt from the course. But.......there is more!!!!
This year, the PEDAL POWER participants have been invited to PERFORM. We will be appearing on the main Memorial Hall stage at 3pm on Wednesday, April 10th, alongside 2 other harp ensemble groups. The music for this will be sent out at the end of January, once all participants have signed up. Places are limited, due to space, so get your application in soon.
Even more great news is that anyone who is struggling to bring a pedal harp can, on early application, ask to use a pedal harp, which has very kindly been offered by some of the harp makers.
I will also be inviting 5 harpists to join me at the Sunday concert - more about that soon; so do come back to hear about another chance to perform, or just email me: email@example.com to register your interest.
For now, have a look at www.harpfestival.co.uk
Come and join me in this really exciting event - Inspiration guaranteed!
We are delighted to announce a new CD of music for Flute and Harp, 'FRAGMENTS'. The Juniper Project is a collaboration with Greek flautist Anna Rosa Mari. The CD is issued on the Divine Art Label.
Available from The Juniper Project shop HERE
or from my shop HERE
All Things Harp!
2018 On the Road!
The beginning of a year can be a quiet time for musicians, but as always in the life of a freelance harpist, nothing is predictable. I’ve had a very busy start to 2018 with orchestral concerts in Kendal, Leeds, Sheffield, Hanley and numerous rehearsals and concerts at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester: from Bach to Bacharach!
We get to know these concert venues well and are experts in the best way to get the harp inside. Finding where to park, so that you don’t get caught up in the queues at the end, becomes an art form! I would certainly recommend a good Sat-Nav. Years ago, I would rely on maps, only to find that the streets had changed to a one-way system, or there were unexpected road delays and I had to find a new route. Now I have a TomTom Go 5100 which has regular traffic reports, and had redirected me on many occasions so that I arrive in plenty of time. It is worth investing in for sure! Top tip No 1!
All these venues are regular haunts by now, so we know the good places to eat, or where to grab a much needed coffee. We don’t get meals provided, so it is a case of using the 2 hour break before the concert to eat, change, tune and warm-up as efficiently as possible.
Facilities in halls vary a great deal. The dressing room can be a Council Chamber or a leisure centre changing room. There is definitely a winter wardrobe of wrist warmers, long sleeved outfits, and extra black layers for the cathedral concerts. A recent purchase was a beautiful black velour scarf; lots of black clothes and accessories to be found in charity shops! Top tip No 2!
Life on the road means that the car is well stocked up for every eventuality from a snow shovel to a warm blanket; from a flask of hot water to plenty of packets of liquorice torpedoes .... my current favourite sweet treats! Top tip No 3!
I am lucky that my husband drives me on long distances, mainly so that I can have some rest. It gives me a chance to catch up on emails, which is an essential part of running my business. My teaching still continues around these concerts. A morning Rehearsal can be followed by 5 hours teaching, and vice versa. It’s the balancing act of teaching and performing. You have to juggle both teaching days and performances, and accept the long days of starting and finishing in the dark.
More light is appearing and a definite feel of Spring approaching. I will be back on the road again soon, with orchestral concerts in Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Warwick, Nottingham, Sheffield and even Perth........Scotland! I’d better stock up on those liquorice torpedoes!
Welcome to my new website! Croeso!
Here you will find information about myself and my life as a professional freelance harpist. I have had many interesting experiences and am involved with different kinds of projects. It seemed the right time to share these more widely, in the hope that it might be informative and useful to others. It will be real, honest and, for those who know me well, will be very much what I am about as a musician and person.
This will be an evolving site with:
contributions from other musicians
a few surprises
humour and honesty
information and musings
Have a browse around the shop and send me a message if there is anything you want to know.
So that is all for now. Thank you for visiting. Do check-in again soon! BUT, before you go, have a look at a gallery of highlights.