Saturday, 25 May 2013

Marisa Robles interview

The wonderful Marisa Robles being interviewed by Ieaun Jones at the UKHA Christmas party last year.  Marisa talks about her early life in Spain, coming to London, working with James Galway, teaching at the Royal College of Music, her views on competitions etc.

Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy - in 4 parts.... well worth viewing.

with thanks to Russell at Raws Production for the excellent videos.

If you are a harpist in the UK and you are not yet a member of the United Kingdom Harp Association, please join. It's for ALL harpists across the UK, and next year is the associations 50th year.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

digital music stand

I had to leave my bag with all my wedding music in the car a while back, and I suddenly panicked that if my car was stolen, I could replace my car..... but I've spent nearly 30 years collecting my wedding music and that was irreplaceable.

So I've spent the last couple of months, scanning all my music that I use on weddings and functions, and I thought that whilst I was doing that, I may as well see about putting all the music on iPad so I could use that instead of carrying round TONS of music to every gig.

I was a bit nervous about using the iPad on gigs. First up, my eyesight is not great and an iPad is not big. Also I wanted to have the music as I would have it on a music stand  - e.g. 2 pages side by side, and not single pages having to turn all the time. This means that the music ends up being a quarter of the size you are used to seeing.

However - and here is the surprise - because the music is backlit from the iPad, the smallness of size didn't bother me. Even with my dodgy eyesight. I wouldn't want to sight-read something that size that I hadn't seen before on the iPad, (although it's possible) but really you shouldn't be sight-reading on any gig.

I've done 3 gigs now using the iPad and they have all been ok. However, during the wedding ceremony itself, I had a hard copy of the bridal processional on the stand, which was a good call as the registrar gave me no time or notice before announcing the arrival of the bridal party and the cue for playing that piece! Not good to be thumbing through the controls of the iPad then, so better to have that piece of music on the stand.


  • Don't need music stand lights
  • Don't need pegs to hold the music down
  • Don't need to struggle with bag full of loads of music
  • Once you get used to it, turning music pages on iPad is really quick and easy.
  • Have access to your entire collection of music, more than you are used to fitting into your gig bag.


  • Security - may need to do something so that someone can't take it off your stand whilst you are playing.
  • Bright sunlight - I've not been in that situation yet, but it's worth thinking about.

I already had a good scanner, iPad and a Dropbox account. I saved all the scans into my dropbox account. I downloaded an app called ForScore onto iPad (£4.99). You can upload your scores from your dropbox account into iPad.*

Within ForScore you can make the pages 2up (display 2 pages at a time). The best thing about this app is that you can create as many key words as possible against each piece and then make set lists either in advance or on the fly using the key words. Want to play all your Welsh music? Or your Jewish music? Or all your upbeat tunes for drinks receptions? Or all your songs from the shows? If you spend a bit of time labelling all the key words against each piece, it's time well spent.

Personally I'm already finding that there are lots of tunes that I haven't played on gigs for ages... so many good tunes I had forgotten I had!

I would recommend that when you scan the music in, that you do the pedal markings on the original in red or blue pen and scan in colour rather than black and white.

I did an hour at a time scanning and labelling and it took me nearly a couple of months to get it all done. If I had sat and done it all in one go, it probably would have taken a couple of days.

Once it's done, it's done. And with it all on Dropbox, you'll never lose your music and can access it on any device through Dropbox. ForScore is for use on one device only.

* Rather than use the 2up facility in ForScore, I inserted the scanned images into a landscape Word document, then saved the word doc as a PDF into Dropbox. The reason being that if something went wrong with the ForScore app, I do then have the music in a readable format in Dropbox.

You can buy a foot pedal which you link to the iPad via Bluetooth which will turn the page on the screen in ForScore. However, I think harpists have enough pedals to think about with having another one to use.

Sorry for long post, but it's good to go digital!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

well that's cheered me up

The very lovely Athy playing one of his compositions on TV - is it me or is it hotter than 29 degrees?

lovely harmonics and what a fantastic finish on the harp.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Singapore harp ensemble

Wow! What an amazing arrangement for harp ensemble, and the playing from the girls is amazing. 

Borodin's Polovtsian Dances (and yes all the chromatic sections) arranged for a large ensemble of lever harps. Watch their hands go - flipping the levers in the chromatic sections, all from memory. Amazing stuff. 

Bravo to Magdalene Wong and her harp ensemble. Yay for lever harps!!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

my favourite things

It's great when you get to play some enjoyable music with good friends.... which is certainly the case working with Eleanor Hudson!

En and I have worked together in the RLPO for years, and we also both love arranging, so the duo is a good excuse to play new arrangements of music we enjoy.

We have a concert coming up on the Friday 7th June in Macclesfield (details here), and we'll be playing lots of our own arrangements from Bach to Piazolla to a Frank Sinatra medley!

Life is too short not to have some fun ;-)