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.... £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.

  • 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


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.