Thursday, 12 June 2014

Let them eat cake

Happy 150th birthday Lyon and Healy and what an AMAZING cake!

and check out the Salzedo Song of the Night sheet music!

Hat's off to the cake makers - Jewell Events Catering in Chicago - who have made the most amazing harp cake EVER! Apparently it took only 2 weeks.

What were the strings made of?

Monday, 9 June 2014

The mother of invention

Listen up (I'm on my soap-box here) harpists have being doing pretty amazing things with the instrument for a very, very, very long time. Alice Coltrane (1937-2007) anyone? You just have to watch Harpo Marx (1888-1964) in action on YouTube to know that he was pretty awesome in his day, and is still awesome now!!

The harp does not need "re-inventing", nor is it a "girlie" instrument. There are plenty of guys out there playing harp.

It's a pretty damn cool instrument that can do rhythm, melody and bass and just about anything else you can think to do with it too. It's no longer unusual to see a harp in a band, and being played in just about every genre of music.

We don't need to re-invent the harp, we need to discover what is already out there.

(I'm off the soap-box now!)

I was blown away when I saw these videos of Zeena Parkins online. She is an awesome musician, doing some incredible things musically - it just happens to be on a harp.  :-)

and here she is with the brilliant Björk

and here she is talking about contemporary music using graphic scores

and excerpt of piece with percussion

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Can't get enough of Alexander

So here's the thing... back in December 1999 I had an accident which left me with whiplash injuries in my left arm pit, across my chest and up the back of my neck. I was bed bound for over a month, and couldn't play my harp for several months and only started to vaguely get back into light gigging about 6 months later.

I never went public with my injuries as I was (probably quite rightly) worried that if anyone knew, I wouldn't get booked for gigs anymore. It was just about ok to not be available for gigs for 6 months and yet not get completely forgotten about on the freelance scene.

I suffered from weakness in my left shoulder for nearly 10 years and an occasional 'ticking' which was intermittent nerve pain across my chest and also up the back of my neck, usually not at the same time. The weakness was separate from the nerve damage, and I am thankful that my nerve pain was intermittent and not continuous.

I eventually learned how to deal with it (ibufrofen and a complete relaxation both physical and mental), and became assiduous in having correct posture and technique in my harp playing, because the only way I could play was to have no stress on my neck, shoulders and arms. I had weakness in my left shoulder, but it didn't affect my playing in my left hand. It was a bit weak for the first couple of years but I managed to hide that with the types of gigs I took on.

I did absolutely no exercise of any form until about 4 years when I took up running. Haven't managed more than 10k yet, but still for me that is pretty epic.

Then last summer I joined a gym. I can now proudly do an hour in the gym and use all the weight machines. They might be on the lowest setting, but for someone who has for the past decade never carried a heavy bag or put any strain on my left arm/shoulder it is a revelation. I feel I have finally got control over my body again after all these years! I am no longer supporting an injury. I can take those weights on my left arm and shoulders.

Q. So how have I managed to continue earning a living playing the harp all these years?

A. Alexander technique. Drummed into me whilst I was a teenager learning the harp.

Lower back in, shoulders down, chin down, lift the head. Posture, posture, posture.... and ibuprofen for when the nerve pain occasionally kicks in.