Saturday, 31 December 2011

summing up

Well, how was 2011 for you?

I've found it a pretty interesting year harp work wise, not quite as doom and gloom as I thought it would be at the beginning of 2011..... Lots of very last minute work came in, and I continue to do as many different different harp projects as possible in a bid to continue making an income from being a musician. Fingers crossed it doesn't all go pear shaped in 2012!!!

After my rant about the price of petrol in a previous post, my brother-in-law did some calculations for me and worked out I would be saving a massive £250 a month if I bought a diesel estate car. So I'm going to do something creative with my finances and try and raise some money to get a new car asap.

I've got a tour coming up starting mid January with Katherine Jenkins and I must get a new car sorted before then, otherwise I won't be able to afford to pay the petrol bills for all the travelling.

So far the most economical MPG estate car that I have found is a Skoda Octavia, but I don't think I'll find a cheap enough one second hand. My Volvo does only 24.9 MPG so quite frankly anything diesel with 4 wheels is probably going to be cheaper to run.

At least I don't have to find a car to transport this harp (-;


Here's to good health and cheaper petrol in 2012!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Merry Kissing aka advanced lever harp rep

I've been teaching harp for years and years, and until about 5 years ago I always found that my students once they got to about grade 4-5 standard they moved from a lever harp to a pedal harp. I'm ashamed to say I didn't really know any of the high intermediate to advanced lever harp repertoire at all.

So for the past few years I've started exploring the advanced lever harp repertoire and there are some really good books out there! I particularly like Kim Robertson's book Treasures of the Celtic Harp. Brilliant arrangements that cover from Grade 5 to Grade 8 with some really fun tricky ones thrown in as well.

This one, Merrily Kiss the Quaker is one of favourites.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

student minor key charts

Thanks to a cancelled rehearsal and some unexpected hanging around time...... finally - here is the minor key chart for setting harp levers. Covers harmonic and natural minors Grade 1-5.

As with the majoy key charts, double click on images to get large version.


Also a chart for helping students to locate the correct octave name for ordering replacement strings on their harp.



Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Don't you wish you played the piccolo?

For the past 20 years the answer to this most quoted question to harpists has always been a polite chuckle.

But with my local petrol station now selling fuel at 135.9 pence per litre, perhaps it's time to rethink my usual answer to that "piccolo" question with a "yes".


I'm based in the North West UK, but am currently doing a couple of days work in Scotland. The very nature of my work takes in a wide geographical area and I rely on my gas guzzling volvo estate car to travel around the country.

Without my car, I cannot transport my harp. Without my harp, I cannot work.

Simple equation.

Before that other old chestnut saying trips off the tongue - "Why don't you get a proper job..." I (like every other professional musician) am highly trained and skilled and, in my case, have been doing this as my job for twenty years. It is not a hobby, it's what pays the mortgage and feeds and clothes my kids.

It would be nice (in theory) to swap the harp for a piccolo, which you could pop in your pocket and just jump on a train after a gig, somehow avoiding the crippling cost of petrol which now is barely covered by the fees for the work you have just done.

Except of course, unless you live in London, there are no trains that run across the rest of country late at night when the majority of gigs finish.

So in answer to the "piccolo" question, it would still be a "no".

I do however really wish I could afford to replace my gas guzzling volvo estate with a new fuel-economic hybrid estate car. Except of course I can't afford a new car.

Maybe I should prop up the economy and buy one on credit?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Wicker Harp

Nice harp, shame about the string tension!


Recently spotted in lobby of Venue Cymru whilst I was doing some work with Ensemble Cymru a few weeks back, which involved a lot of last minute learning of hard chamber music - Bax Concerto for Oboe, Flute & Harp (with string quartet) and Gareth Glyn's Gig (for same instrumentation as Ravel Septet). Great music, and a lovely bunch of musicians to work with.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The original strap on harp

Wow - that's way to go for more gigs..... tap dancing shoes!


this plus lots of really crazy harp photos - including victorian nude playing a Pleyel chromatic harp and Cary Grant playing a Lyon & Healy (yes really!!) on blog by Australian harpist here

Monday, 10 October 2011

alimandolin

One year on....

a much missed friend and musician passed away on this day; a very sad and poignant anniversary.

Over £16,000 has so far been raised for the Alison Stephens memorial fund to set up a prize in her name at her alma mater for the next generation of musicians to benefit from. A rather lovely and fitting tribute to a very special musician who touched so many lives.

Never forgotten x




Sunday, 9 October 2011

David Snell

Nice little video footage from 1964 of Johnny Scott Quintet, with David Snell on harp.


I remember the very first harp recording I ever bought when I was really young (on cassette tape!!!) from Woolworths, was of David Snell playing 'hits' on the harp.

I can't remember the name of the recording now, but it had pieces like "Tie a Yellow Ribbon", and other similiar middle of the road tunes on it.

I wore that cassette tape out playing it over and over again and thought it was the best thing ever.

Does anyone else remember that recording? I think it was solo harp with orchestral backing.... mid 70's recording.... There can't have been that many harp recordings readily available in shops like Woolworths back then?

I'd love to listen to it again!

Monday, 26 September 2011

student major key & tuning charts

Just remembered I said I was going to do this for some students tomorrow.

Here goes - for lever harps tuned in E flat major

Enjoy :-)

click on image for larger view - feel free to print off and stick on the wall near the harp!






Monday, 12 September 2011

Internal dialogue

Ah - that internal dialogue..... and internal arguing when you are trying to concentrate on playing... I know it well.

Very interesting short video by Dr Carrol McLaughlin about letting go of the internal dialogue to help with better performance.


Her book looks very interesting and well worth a read!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Rainbow harp

How exciting is this?

This isn't just an electro-accoustic harp........ it's a rainbow coloured electro-accoustic harp.

And I see Salvi have just brought out a new Iris, minus the gold. Cunningly called the Iris Natural Concert Grand it is cleverly in the price range between the Apollo and the Arianna. 

Now if only I wasn't already paying off for my wonderful gold Iris...  

Suffering serious harp lust..... a rainbow harp.... genius idea.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Bad Tempered Flute

I'm very excited to be part of this project and there will be an official launch of the CD in November at the Forge Venue in London - details to follow. The CD is now available to buy on Amazon but not on iTunes just yet....hopefully soon!

A great line up players, flutists Paul Edmund-Davies, Clare Southworth & Andy Findon with guitarist Craig Ogden, & pianists Tim Carey and Peter Lawson all playing the flute music of Andy Scott.

Here is a flute & harp track from the CD - Paquito, which is a pretty fast and fiery salsa!

Andy Scott - Paquito by AstuteMusic

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

sausage fingers

Ben Creighton Griffiths is a total star, and there doesn't seem to be much he can't do... including teaching sporting legend and ex Wales Rugby captain, Gareth Thomas, to play the harp for ITV's Born to Shine programme.


I particularly liked the way Gareth said it "was hard to play the harp when you have finger's like cumberland sausages."


Above is a short trailer clip for the show, but you can see a video of Gareth and Ben playing by clicking on this link scroll down the page and click on "Gareth Thomas"

Well done Gareth & Ben !!

Ben has been doing amazing things for charity for years and is a brilliant ambassador for the harp, as well as being a really great harp player.

After a crazy summer where there has been rioting on the streets in the UK, isn't it great to see a positive role model on TV for a young male teenager?

Monday, 22 August 2011

bad gliss notation

Nice typesetting!!!!!

(double click on image for closer view if you really want to...)


So that'll just be 7 bars of hollywood glisses then??

Friday, 5 August 2011

pitch bending harp

Mariano Gonzalez is a very interesting musician playing on what seems to be (his own design) a unique custom made electric pitch bending paraguayan midi harp!

A great video on his website here

Plus a YouTube clip playing with Pianist Bob Rozario and Percussionist Alfredo Albarenga. El Cumbanchero composed by Rafael Hernadez.

check out about 2'20 in after the percussion solo for the pitch bending.



No pitch bending here - but a lovely YouTube of Mariano playing the Recuerdos de la Alhambra

Thursday, 4 August 2011

harp congress videos

Trust Camac to come up with the great idea of doing a series of interviews during the world harp congress in Vancouver and posting them on YouTube!


They have a series of interviews with harpists during the congress which can be viewed on their YouTube channel here

A great way to give those of us who couldn't go a flavour of the congress!!

Just one here - Florence Sitruk explaining about her fascinating talk about the Hindemith Sonata

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

To Pirastro... or not to Pirastro?

I've finally finished my run of operas last night and Billy (the harp doctor) has been round today and just finished servicing my harps and putting on some new bass wires.



I've always used Pirastro wires, but the last few sets of Pirastro I've had on my harps I've been really unhappy with. It's been really disappointing as you use to be able to put on a set of Pirastro and know you were getting really good strings.

When I got my new Iris, it came strung with nylon top two octaves - YUK - I changed those to gut straight away. Plus it had Bow Brand standard nickel wires.

I did keep the nickel wires on the Iris for a while thinking that maybe they would get better, or it was the harp settling in, but in the end changed over to Pirastro wires. The Pirastros were a great improvement for a while, but less than a year on they sounded dead.

For the price a set of Pirastro cost, you would have thought you'd get at least 18 months to two years out of them!

So today Billy has put on new silver wires which he has re-designed with Bow Brand only a couple of months ago, (so not the usual silver wires, super new ones!!!).

I'll see how they settle in and sound in a few weeks....

....at £195 for a set of these new silvers, I don't mind if I only get a years use out of them.

After a lifetime of only ever using Pirastro wires, it will be interesting to see if these new Bow Brand silvers change my mind about using Pirastro.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Harp Summit


It looks like it's going to be an amazing World Harp Congress in Vancouver in a couple of weeks!


As much as I would love to go, I must confess I've never been to a harp congress.

Although I have been to a saxophone congress in Slovenia where I learnt how they made saxophone reeds from scratch, and a Jazz conference in New York where I was nearly mown down by a bunch of enthusiastic jazz supporters running into a concert room trying to get the best seats (don't ask!!!).

Work commitments make it impossible to get away at this time of year, but having looked at the schedule for this conference coming up there are loads of performances I really wish I could go to.

I am really disappointed I won't get to see the performance by Park Stickney and Rudiger Oppermann.


Their CD, Harp Summit is one of my favourite harp recordings. The opening track, Cool Harmonics with its incredible descending chromatic bass lines and stunning harmonics is a track which makes me go "WOW" each and every time I hear it. My favourite though is Conscious Streaming which for some reason nearly brings me to tears each time.

Fingers crossed I can make the next congress, and hopefully see them play live at some point.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

being calm

I have had to dig deep into my big bucket of inner calmness lately and have just about managed to get through the last couple of days without losing my temper.

Despite......
  • having to sightread a community opera - an unmarked horrendous harp part in open key signature with loads and loads of notes... and accidentals
  • having a 3 session day yesterday, enough to make anyone tired and frazzled
  • being blocked in the car park at 9.30pm by some silly woman who was refusing to move her car
  • being told I could park in a specific space this morning, and then being told by someone else 5 minutes before rehearsal that I had to move my car
  • trying to play and watch the monitor at the side of stage so I could follow the conductor for the off stage harp part, only for loads of crew to suddenly stand in front of it and block my view as soon as I start playing
  • finding the person who was looking after my harp outside the backstage door whilst I got my car had buggered off by time I got back with the car

I could go on..... but.....

We've now got a dog! She's a retired guide dog, and she's fab. Great temperament, fantastically clever dog of course, and a real joy. Plus she seems to love all the coming and going of our household, being fussed over by loads of teenagers who hang round our house, and seems to enjoy all the music. We are one noisy household with harp, sax, guitar, bass guitar, double bass and piano, it's never quiet for long!

Nothing like a wonderful dog to calm you down. ;-)

Friday, 1 July 2011

Inspiring

I've been running around like a lunatic lately, and have been flinging the harp into the back of the car at ungodly hours each morning for what seems like ages. Much needed day off tomorrow - hooray!!

And instead of feeling frazzled, I'm still buzzing after a brilliant concert by Catriona MacKay & Chris Stout at the Sandbach Concert Series on Wednesday.

What an amazing player with really incredible extended techniques and exceptional musicality! If you have the chance to hear her play live...... do go and see her. Chris & Catriona are an exceptional duo and the audience loved them. Hopefully they will come back and play for us again in a few years.

Lots of my students came to the gig on Wednesday and it was lovely to see how much her and Chris's playing inspired them.




Their latest CD, White Nights is brilliant and I'll be listening to it again in the car on the way to work today.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Laser harp


Ok, so they aren't actual harps....... but have you noticed how laser harps (that are actually built to look like a harp) seem to be popping up everywhere? With lots of science centres now having one.


I've not actually seen one in the flesh, but wouldn't an encounter with one in a museum be fun, and inspiring?



Glen Hill of Mountain Glen Harps seems to be building some great laser harps. Here he is explaining about one he has built for a children's Hospital.



What an amazing and therapeutic thing it would be in that situation. There is lots of info on Glens website about how they work. Essentially it's much like the midi harp in that each "string" triggers whatever is programmed on the software running it, but in this case of course you break the laser beam to make the trigger. Glen also has a blog with some pretty cool pictures of custom harps he is building.


A more traditional laser harp (without it being in confines of a harp shaped box) is nothing new, but I really like this next YouTube clip. Arpa di Luce is a collaboration between Gianpietro Grossi- Laser Engineer, Francesco Murano-Light Designer and Pietro Pirelli-Musician and visual artist.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hijab Initiation

How about this then!


Hijab Initiation No 2 for harp trio by Amir Konjani


harpists - Claire Iselin, Federica Mossone, Soraya Vermeolen

also a solo harp piece by Amir played by Sioned Williams

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Let there be light

Oh yes - this is AMAZING!!!!

Sorry, not Michael Nyman's theme from The Piano (The Heart ask Pleasure First) on the harp.... though it is played nicely here on the celtic harp by Italian harpist Mario Lipparini..

...but check out the lights on Mario's harp!





They are called "Rebecca Light" and were invented by a lighting engineer who plays the harp and the website where you can buy them is here



But I'm a bit concerned that on the website they sell a pedal switch for "when your harp must be silent for a passage"

Does that mean that they are not silent? ;-(

Hopefully it's just a mis-translation from Italian to English?

At $325 for the starter kit it's a bit too much to pay out if they do make a noise.




Wouldn't they would be cool on a pop gig though, and a really fun thing for solo gigs.

Anyone used them and can say whether they found them noisy or not?

If they are silent maybe someone can have a word with Santa.....Christmas is only 7 months away!!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Catriona McKay

I'm delighted that Catriona McKay (scottish harp) and Chris Stout (shetland fiddle) will be playing at the next concert as part of the Sandbach Concert Series on Wednesday 29th June 7-9pm.



Andy and I heard them play at the Edinburgh Festival last year and we were so blown away by this really amazing duo! Catriona is an inspiring harpist to see live, and if you live anywhere in the North West please do come along to see them.

Sandbach is just a minutes drive off the M6, there is free car parking and we even have a lovely Italian restaurant which does before and after concert meals for us just opposite the venue!

Full details are on Sandbach Concert Series website and you can buy tickets online here

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cheating

Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony.


Spot the difference between chord symbols and pedal markings on this hire part?


(Double click on image to see closer view)



1. What is that harp part all about then? Pages and pages of badly written arpeggios that go at the speed of light with impossible page turns. The only way to play them is to cheat and read chord symbols instead.


2. Wouldn't it have been great to have been a fly on the wall and seen the confrontation between the first harpists who had to play this piece and Vaughan Williams? (I know what I would have said to him about it!)


3. Why is my own copy of this piece only partially marked up?



I try not to play this piece if I can all help it as it's not a joyous experience to play with it's constant fistfuls of notes, but I've played this three times now in the past year.


So I suppose it's about time I thoroughly marked up my own part rather than relying on scribbled on hire parts, so that I have a fighting chance of being able to actually read all that information on the page whilst playing it at speed..

Monday, 16 May 2011

Linda

I played at my mums funeral last week. She had been ill for a couple of years with secondary bone cancer, but had suddenly deteriorated and had wonderful care at the end from our local hospice. Everyone at St Luke's was truly amazing.

She had a woodland burial with a "humanist style" ceremony conducted by the family, and we all toasted to her with a drink.

It was.... really nice, peaceful, dignified and a lovely way to go.

I played my little harp; the groundsman had put up a big garden umbrella as it was raining a little bit, and the music drifted through the young trees, mixed in with the bird song, the drink and the chatter as we went about the woodland burial.

Schoolgirl Error - I forgot to bring pegs!!! So we held back the music on my (sturdy) music stand with a small bottle of Jim Bean bourbon and a tuning key.

My mum would have chuckled.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Lily Munster

Ah!!! if only playing the harp was that easy.....


Lily Munster singing and "playing" the harp.



Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition

Congratulations to Eleanor Turner for winning second prize at the Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition 2011 in Amsterdam.

The competition was open to any instrumentalist and there were 83 participants from thirty-one countries.

For a harpist to come second in a competition like this is an astonishing feat.

Information about the competition and winners is here.


Jump to 5:59 for Eleanor's clip from the second round of the competition!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Louis XV Special

These harps really remind me of my chickens who are laying really well now the weather is lovely, and we are inundated with eggs again ;-)




Lyon & Healy
Louis XV Special Concert Grand


  • 0 octave G to 7th octave C
  • Height 74 3/4" (190 cm)
  • Soundboard Width 21 5/8" (55 cm)
  • Extreme Width 41 1/2" (105 cm)
  • Weight 89 lbs (40 Kg)
  • Price $179,000 (US)

and on the grounds that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery



Pedal harp LDP-7
  • 47strings ranging from 1st Octave G to 7th Octave C.
  • Height:77”
  • Width:43”
  • Soundboard Width:21”6’
  • Weight:121 lb
  • Soundboard material:Mahogany
  • Finish:Titanium and Gold coated
  • Price ? (would love to know but that bit is all in Chinese)

If anyone has actually heard a Louis XV Special (and not a recording) I would love to know what they sounded like, and whether the sound is any better than say a style 26 Special which comes in at a mere $59,000!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Bedbugs

Only a few years ago if you had asked your average teenager (who wasn't into classical music) about whether they knew of any harpists they wouldn't have been able to name one.

Ask a teenager now, and they will mention Tom Moth (under a new name!) the harpist in Florence and the Machine.

It's really great that the harp is becoming "hip" and is slipping into mainstream music and losing it's reputation of being "a girly classical instrument."

Just came across this remix done by Tom of an indie track by missdavinalee - with lots of lovely harp!


Monday, 18 April 2011

Harp Twins

What an entrance!


That is going to take some beating - plus a challenge to all young harp duos out there to think of a better way of getting on stage without going to the extreme of Lady GaGa and arriving on stage carried in an egg :-)


Identical twins Camille and Kennerly Diebold, playing All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera


Check out the 1927 Wurlitzer pipe organ playing approx 2:50 in.....



Tuesday, 12 April 2011

microphone position

Recorded two of Andy Scott's pieces for flute & harp yesterday with two amazing and brilliant flautists, for a CD coming out of all Andy's compositions for flute. Details about the CD to follow in due course!

Sonata for flute & harp with Clare Southworth, and Paquito with Andy Findon.

Today I don't have any blisters on my fingers, but they feel really bruised to the touch, and I generally feel like I've been run over by a bus.

So it's an admin morning and definitely no playing until later!

Really pleased with the sound of the harp on the recording, ended up putting the microphones pretty much behind the harp. A stereo pair in front of course, but probably it will be mostly the close up mics on the final mix.



Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Jamet exercises

I've recently had another go at doing the 16 exercices journaliers pour harpe by Marie-Claire Jamet as a technical warm up each morning instead of my usual round of Salzedo exercises, and have been doing these now for several months.






I had an aborted attempt at these last year but gave up doing them when I started to get a sore wrist and shooting pains up my arm, something which I have never suffered from before and quite frankly it frightened the life out of me.


This time, I've left out doing all of the series 2 exercises in the book, and hurrah, no pains in the arms, but a satisfying warm-up work out for the fingers.


Funnily enough, I had a chat to a harpist friend about this book of exercises and she told me that she had to stop doing them because they gave her terrible RSI....


So it's not just me.


These are great warm up exercises for the advanced player. But I would recommend skipping series 2 when working through the book and coming back to them at the end when you are seriously warmed up.



quick info about Marie Claire Jamet

quick info about Pierre Jamet


Friday, 1 April 2011

Paris harp shop 2

Back this morning from a tour with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony - 7 concerts in 7 different European cities in 8 days..... including travelling days to and from the UK!


We had a few spare hours in Paris so managed to fit in a visit to the wonderful harp shop near the Arc de Triomphe, Le Magasin de la Harpe.



Yet again, Alexandre Budin very generously gave up his time to show us the amazing historic harps he has in his workshop, a few doors down from his shop. Erards in the front of the photo below, and Pleyel chromatic harp at the back/middle.



And what a great collection of harp music he has to browse through!



He also showed us a couple of Sylvain Blassel's harps which are kept downstairs. His small Erat harp is absolutely stunning to look at and has the most amazing tone.


Here is a video of Sylvain playing Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Tarrega on the Erat.



Check out his fingering of the repeated notes throughout, also his use of the little finger in the left hand. Very interesting!!!


I'm going to see if I can work out using this fingering and whether I can actually use my left hand pinky on my Salvis. I fear the tension on the Salvi will be too much for my little fingers alas!


It's very easy to just repeat what we have been taught and say that we don't play using our little fingers, but as Alexandre said, "why not?"


why not indeed.


Japanese style Erard harp - only around 7 ever built!


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

HARPO AND DALI


LA Harp Blog: HARPO AND DALI: "Creative pairings between like-minded thinkers is vital, in particular for artists, writers and musicians. The three co-exist splendidly. S..."

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Five Take Fives

My husband, as well as being a composer, is also an amazing jazz musician. So having been to so many jazz gigs and listened to so many amazing jazz musicians over the years I've always been a bit wary of jazz played on the harp...

But here are 5 very different harp versions of Take Five, commonly attributed to Dave Brubeck, but was of course written by Paul Desmond, the sax player in his group.

All of these harp versions are great, but I have a soft spot for Joy Yu Hoffman's version played on the chinese harp. I really like the middle section of her version, and it just sounds great on the Konghou.


Park Stickney - solo harp


Jakez Francois - harp with piano, drums & bass


Amanda Whiting - solo harp (nice video!)


Polish harpist Małgorzata Zalewska & flugel with orchestra


Sarah Deere-Jones - celtic harp & guitar

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Eagle Harps

Holy cow - a whole new world of neurosis for harpists!






Konghou Harp

47 + 47 stringsdouble-row strings with pedals
Height: 222 cm
Width: 110 cm
Weight: 53 kgs

Joy Yu Hoffman performing her arrangement of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" on the Kong Hou (Chinese Harp).

Saturday, 12 March 2011

look - no hands!

So, I was playing in a concert with a chamber orchestra tonight and we had just played the Clarinet Concerto by Copland (great piece, loads of harp throughout) and I'm on stage during the interval giving the harp a quick re-tune before the second half starts.


This lady from the audience comes over to the side of the stage and doesn't appear to be visually impaired or drunk.


In all seriousness she calls me over to ask me....



"I've never seen one of those with a projection box on the back before.....


(me - ¿Qué? )







do they all have that?


(me - ¿Qué? )







I had to come over and ask you because I was curious......









do you use your hands to play?


?????




(wait it gets better)








because i can see you were playing with your feet"


?????




Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Arianna Savall

Wow - what an amazing harpist and singer!


Not being really up on the early music scene I hadn't come across her before, but stumbled across a video of her on YouTube.





I've recently bought her album Peiwoh from iTunes and it's been played non-stop since in our house.



Arianna is a fascinating musician, being an acclaimed early music opera singer as well as harpist and has an impressive back catalogue of CDs of early music both as a harpist and separately as singer.


However her latest CDs seem to be of her own compositions played with her band, with Arianna playing triple harp, gothic harp and celtic harps as well as singing. The rest of her band are playing various early and folk string instruments (not sure what they are because of the language on the website!) and also hand percussion.


The result is a very tasteful and sublime world music album which gets the thumbs up from everyone in my household - which is quite a feat as we all have very diverse tastes!


Very difficult to pick a favourite track, possibly Aurora as it's a harp only track. Suite Celtic has a more traditional vibe and shows the musical excellence of all the musicians. A "chill out" track with a very wide appeal is El Llenguatge dels ocells. Although every track on this CD is fantastic.


No UK dates in her concert schedule which is a shame, as I would love to see her live.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mahler 6 Finale

nails or picks?





picks or nails?




Started the rehearsals on nails, Petrenko then wanted picks, and on the final rehearsal on the day of the concert wanted nails.


I completely underestimated the time needed to grow my nails for this gig, and to be honest just didn't think about this piece coming up in the diary and just kept them usual short length.


Arghgh!! They were just too short at the start of the week.


So ended up having to get some false gel nails put on so that the nails were long enough to play with. My nails are very short and are slow to grow!


Only lost 3 false nails during the week which was quite a bizarre sight as they flew off as I was playing during rehearsals.


note to self - don't cut nails before Mahler 6 again.


BTW - In case you are wondering - they are definitely not my nails above. Can you imagine trying to do anything with those nails?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Albeniz paper in strings

Just finished doing some work with RLPO, a pretty full on programme of Spanish music with loads of harp throughout, and one of the pieces was El Albaicin from the Iberia Suite by Albeniz.


I hadn't played that piece before so I wasn't quite sure about the direction on the music Mettez un papier entre les cordes especially as I was playing right up to the last note in the previous piece and there was only a very short pause before the start of this piece. Which didn't leave much time to turn the page, change the pedals and then thread some paper through the harp strings! But checking with the conductor in the rehearsal he definately wanted the paper between the strings.


What a racket!




It makes a really loud, raucous and horrible sound. I was very unconvinced at the start, but actually by the end of the week I quite liked the effect.


However you need to play very quietly because it makes an incredibly loud sound which cuts straight through the orchestra sound. Plus you have to play extremely rhythmically with very full articulation with as much damping as possible.


Sounds a bit like a buzzing mosquito when you get it right and sounds completely rubbish when you don't!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Farewell to Stromness

I had a really lovely day yesterday. Andy and I were playing at friends wedding, and it was great combination of good company, good food and a fabulous setting.


So feeling rather fuzzy today, it seemed a good time to chill out and video Farewell to Stromness. I was inspired to learn this piece recently after listening to Ruth Wall's CD and especially wanted to play it on lever harp rather than concert harp.


I think the sound of the lever harp is well suited to this piece. Although the middle section is a bit chromatic and it would be a lot easier on the concert harp.