Monday, 28 June 2010

Bollywood and Bond

I've just had a very busy few days of gigs. First up was a Katherine Jenkins gig in Whitehaven, which was nicely presented by Katherine after all the recent tragedy there. The next day was a James Bond gig with the RLPO which was fun but it was just page after page of glisses, and there were lots of pages.

Slotted in between the glisses there were a couple of pieces where I actually had some notes to play, namely Schindlers List and then a 2 bar harp solo in Hill Street Blues!!! Then back to even more glisses. Thank goodness for felt picks, otherwise I wouldn't have any fingers left.

In the morning on the way to the Bond gig I had a Bollywood wedding to play at which made the whole weekend a bit of logistical nightmare. Probably more about Bollywood harp music on another post.

This is a new thing which I have recently started doing and the repertoire is very interesting, especially as there doesn't seem to be any sound clips on the web of how it is supposed to sound on just a harp! So I've recorded a few quick clips which although it's not the best recordings, at least give a rough idea of the sound.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Andy and I played at the funeral today of a very special lady today, who died before her time. It was a really lovely church service, and it was nice to catch up with some old friends afterwards.

Playing at a funeral is definitely one the hardest gigs you can do, but it was a real privilege for me and Andy to be able to play for her as she was really good to us when our kids were little.

I played some solo harp music before the service, and then just before the service started we (Andy on tenor sax) played "the Water is Wide" which is such a beautiful tune. As Carol was brought into the church we played "Pie Jesu" by Lloyd-Webber, and then as Carol was taken out of the church we played "Fields of Gold" followed by "Autumn Leaves".

Andy and I so rarely play together which is a shame as the harp and tenor sax sound really lovely, but Andy does have to "hold in" the volume so as not to blast out the harp. It balanced out ok in the church though and I'm glad we could do this for her.

God bless you Carol.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

admin v practice

I've been really busy with gigs, but have hardly had any chance to practice. A very unsatisfactory way to be, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

I spent most of this week in between gigs (and during breaks in the gigs) writing up proposals, filling in funding application forms and generally catching up on loads of admin. All the applications need to be submitted in the next few days, so hopefully I can get my life back and get some practicing in then.

Finally got my flyers for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe dates to the printers last night which was long overdue considering the tickets are now on sale. It would be really good if being a musician was just about practicing and playing, but I think at least half of it is about admin. Otherwise how do you get the work in the first place? On reflection I suppose it's not that often really that the admin takes over completely from the playing, it's just annoying when it does!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Daily Dozen

I've been playing through Salzedo's "A Daily Dozen" as technical exercises a lot lately.

I'm a real fan of the "Conditional Exercises" and have been using them for years, and bought "Daily Dozen" last year as something new to try out.

I'm really not sure what I think about these. I find them very good, but have slight reservations about them - especially number 2 with the octave jumping. They do however deliver a condensed version of what you can achieve by going through something like the LARIVIERE book.

Like the "Conditioning Exercises" you can play through the whole book in just over 15 minutes which works as a good technical warm up.

I think the problem I have with them is that they are obviously designed to be done by players who use the Salzedo technique. I've not come across any players in the UK who do not use either the French or combination of French/Russian method of playing, so I must admit that I find the Salzedo technique really odd to look at with the high elbows.... I suppose it's a case of what you are used to!

With that in mind, exercises like the octave jumping in number 2 of Daily Dozen are probably lost on a harpist with French/Russian technique, although they are still fun to do.

Here is a good little video explaining the basics of the Salzedo technique

Unfortunately I couldn't find a similiar video showing French method but here is some text off the net explaining the differences...

There are two main methods of harp technique: the French (or Grandjany) method and the Salzedo method. Neither method has a definite majority among harpists, but the issue of which is better is a source of friction and debate. The distinguishing features of the Salzedo method are the encouragement of expressive gestures, elbows remain parallel to the ground, wrists are comparatively stiff, and neither arm ever touches the soundboard. The French method advocates lowered elbows, fluid wrists, and the right arm resting lightly on the soundboard. In both methods, the shoulders, neck, and back are relaxed. Some harpists combine the two methods into their own version that works best for them.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

kickstarter project

My husband, Andy Scott who is a composer, will shortly be writing a new piece for solo harp.

He has been commissioned by young talented harpist, Keziah Thomas who has recently moved to the US, so the piece will be premiered at the Forge in September in London and then in Carnegie Hall in New York in October.

Andy wrote his flute and harp sonata for me nearly 8 years ago now and I will be re-recording it soon with Clare Southworth on flute for a new CD of all of Andys flute music due out next year. So after 8 years, another harp piece, and this time a major solo work for harp by Andy is well overdue.

Keziah is an exciting young harpist and has set up a really interesting and novel way to raise funding for the commission.

Rather sadly, the ability to access funding for the arts has somewhat gone down the pan over the years and it is harder and harder to do creative things in the arts. So it's really inspiring to see a young artist not being limited by the lack of funding out there by public bodies!!