Tag Archives: playing live

At last …. some Strings!

Given the title of this blog, you could be forgiven for wondering what on earth had happened to the harp. As it happens, the harpist has been pretty quiet too, but the world of full time work has been something of a shock after almost a year away from an office of any kind and it has taken a while to adjust to a different pace of life once again.

I left the RCS at the end of October. It was a horrendously stressful time for all manner of reasons, but finally the final bowline was thrown off and the house down south was no longer mine. In its place, a lot of debt and still far too much clutter in the current abode. But the weight had well and truly lifted. January 1st/2nd/3rd came and for the first time in 12 years, no mortgage payment left my bank account. I had made huge sacrifices each month to pay my bills, and it was very hard adjusting to the fact that financially, I had made some dreadful mistakes that I will be paying for for some years to come.

But. I have a supportive family, brilliant friends both old and new, and the constant that is a pair of furry but windy greyhounds.

I’ve had a long break from the harp. I played in a Remembrance Day concert in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, an experience both good and bad for reasons that are not to be shared here. I vowed never to work again for nothing. I promised myself I would never again play orchestral music I didn’t love.

A couple of weeks later, I played the beautiful harp cadenza from the Ravel Piano Concerto with a local orchestra. I had studied the cadenza as part of my first year technical exam at the RCS, and had struggled with it. After  a few months in the pot though, it had matured and felt much more breathy and effortless, which is exactly how it should sound. Nerves on the night got to me a little, but I did a reasonable job and it was wonderful to hear the concerto in its entirety. The harp has a very small part and so I could relax and really listen to the piano. This is one of my favourite pieces of music and was a very special experience.

I then had a late request to play Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio in mid December. This is a gorgeous piece for small ensemble and choir, and was performed in a traditional Scottish kirk on the Southside of Glasgow in an area I had come to know very well. I was dreadfully nervous and unfortunately didn’t play as well as I had hoped. However, it was followed by a good singalong of some carols afterwards and then curling up in front of Match of the Day with company for the first time in many years, so turned out to be a pretty special night.

I’d had high hopes of videoing a couple of carols for friends and family as a Christmas present, but after the Saint-Saens, I was pretty much done for. The harp spent some time wrapped up safely, and I went running and climbed hills a lot.

IMG_1488

 

IMG_2819

IMG_2738

IMG_2844

The harp didn’t emerge until the middle of January, when he went on an extended holiday to a very smart house again in the south of the city. I was knocked for six by the green eyed monster as I wheeled my harp into their music room which was bigger than the whole downstairs of my house. But I was glad that I was able to help another harpist out of a predicament, and very glad my harp was being played and enjoyed.

There has been much musing on whether to continue playing at all. If I continue to play, at what level? What do I play? Who with? Am I professional? Semi-professional? Amateur? None of the above? Most importantly, do I keep the object worth a five figure sum that I will be paying for for another three years, that takes up a whole room in my house and dictates the car I drive?

All You Need is Love?

You can probably guess some of the answers. Mostly, they are along the lines of I don’t know. But this is reason enough not to sell my harp. I do want to play, and play regularly. Listening to some brilliant music and great radio programmes keeps me in touch with something that is a huge part of me, and reminds me I have a talent that I enjoy sharing in the right ways for me.

Most of all I love playing with others. I love quirky, off beat, different, unexpected. In my old town I was lucky enough to find a bunch of musicians I adored playing with, and who pushed me in directions I never could have imagined.

Back to reality

 

Back to reality

I have struggled without them, and the time has come to begin the search for some others to join in with. This is a scary prospect, and I’m not quite ready to jump right in just yet.

I’ve been inspired by revisiting some of my favourite albums and songs, listening to the radio in the car on the way into work and on the motorway on my way to visit my family.

I’ve been to some brilliant gigs, and travelled to hear and play music in some incredible places. Music has changed me and continues to do so.

I know a few things for certain:

I’m not giving up.

I’m still a harpist, and a musician, and a good one at that.

I have a good tone and a good technique, and I don’t need to worry about not being good enough (whatever that means).

I love performing.

I have something to say.

If I put on a concert I can entertain an audience and they will come back again.

I love practising but am easily distracted when things become busy or stressful.

I’m not selling my harp. Unless it’s for a better one and even then I would struggle.

I love classical music.

I love pop music. In fact there is very little music I don’t love other than happy hardcore (blimey remember that!!).

I don’t have enough hours in the day. But who does.

Other than that, I don’t know. And I’m fine with that.

Mooching of an afternoon

(Written on a gloriously wi-fi free Thursday)

This afternoon finds me in Leiden in the Netherlands. A quick tot up on the plane revealed that this is my most visited country which both surprised me and made me happy.

I’ve been here before, on a school trip some 20+ years ago. I can’t remember why we came to Leiden, I think it was on the way to somewhere else. We didn’t see much anyway, other than a slightly strange artistic installation of wedding dresses in one of the canal basins.

This time I’m here for a rather different reason. This is my second visit to the Jazz Harp Academy. It’s a full-circle thing – the first time I came in 2010, it was in a bid to do something that scared me silly during one of the lowest points in my life.

It worked, and led to many wonderful things, including my move to Glasgow. I met a very dear friend and we have supported each other on our own individual musical adventures.

We are very similar and yet very different. Someone asked how they would recognise us to collect us from the airport once. I said we are both very small with big smiles and we will probably be the noisiest people there as we will be laughing so much.

My friend arrives this evening so I made the most of an afternoon in a different place. For all intents and purposes it’s a new place, as I don’t really recognise any of it.

It was raining heavily when I got off the train from Amsterdam. The windmill count was up to 2 within 15 minutes. I saw a museum and wondered about going in, but at 11 euros I decided against it. Not a huge sum but I figured I could make better use of the time and money.

I had a map but only used it to make sure I was heading in the right direction from the station to check out the venue for the next few days. Other than that, I just strolled, taking whichever street or canal I fancied.

It is so quiet here. It’s a mixture of old and new and they sit comfortably with each other.

The reason for the peace is the humble bicycle. This is Holland, where the bike is king. Near the station, bikes are all you can see wherever you look. There is an occasional car in the town but they are conspicuous by their sound.

I found a gorgeous cafe to have lunch in. I settled down with a book and enjoyed seeing the world going past outside. The cafe was quiet too – unusually in a world of piped music, there was no soundtrack at all, not even a radio. I enjoyed this. I’m a musician but there are times where silence is just what’s needed.

I’m reading Miles Davis’s autobiography and have just read about the first time he heard Thelonious Monk play. He was struck by the spaces left in between the notes as much as the notes themselves.

My harp has 47 strings and 7 pedals. As a classical harpist, when I’m improvising I often feel obliged to use as many of these as possible. (With some orchestral parts it is not so much expected as compulsory to use all of them at once!)

This often adds unnecessary pressure and complexity, and leaves no space for breathing (for me or the music) or thinking about what comes next.

My first time at the jazz academy taught me the importance of listening to what was going on around me, and thinking about bass, rhythm and lead. Now when I create music of my own, I try to use as few notes as possible, to leave room.

It’s hard to find space in everyday life, and today has been a great opportunity to sit, to breathe and to think before the next few days of full-on learning and bashing against my comfort zone in an attempt to push myself forwards som more.

My afternoon cost me considerably less than 11 euros, but was worth much, much more and I’ve probably learnt more than I would have done in the museum. It did have an awesome totem pole outside, though, so I’m off for a proper look at that tomorrow.

20131010-172421.jpg

20131011-151755.jpg

20131011-151813.jpg

20131011-151828.jpg

I left my heart in S….

Last night I played at a concert in Stonehaven, a small seaside town on the North East coast of Scotland.

The only time I’ve ever been further north than that was when I went to Skye a couple of years ago. And that was North West, so a slightly different kettle of fish.

I had hoped for a sunny day so I could enjoy the scenery as I drove up the A90. Sadly the weather forecast was somewhat different and promised fog, mist and more mist.

I arrived for the afternoon rehearsal and was welcomed by everyone I met. This being Scotland, where everyone knows each other (or so it seems), I met someone who had been at my concert on Wednesday night – in fact she was a fellow RCS student’s mum, and soon I recognised said student’s dad too. I’ve not been anywhere so warm and friendly in such a long time, I had so many offers of help and I felt very special.

Despite being dwarfed by a large musical instrument and carrying several bags, a piano stool and a music stand, I am often ignored or trodden on and doors are regularly shut in my face or worse still, on my harp. I’m never sure why this is, but it does mean that when someone so much as offers to hold a door open let alone carry something, my heart is instantly filled with gratitude. Yesterday was different.

The sun just started to come out as I went past the turning for Brechin, and I wondered if I would get to see the sea after all. I wasn’t disappointed, and after a good rehearsal, I headed to the beach to enjoy a beautiful spring/summer evening.

I’d been offered a meal with a member of the choir, but I normally prefer to stretch my legs and get some fresh air before an evening concert so I took a little wander in the hope of finding the sea. It didn’t take long at all (it’s not a very big place, and the seagulls were a fairly reliable indicator of where the sea front might be) and I found a suitable seat on a suitably bottom-shaped rock on this beautiful beach.

IMG_1476

It was a hazy, slightly misty evening. It was warm and it was so good to feel the sun on my face after so long. The sea was blue and almost indistinguishable from the sky.

The last time I’d been at the beach was on an internet date, on the west coast. He was lovely but not really for me, and clearly I wasn’t for him either as I received the “thanks but no thanks” message a couple of days later.

I spent a lot of my summer evenings at Clacton or Frinton last year, and the sea proved to be one of the things I missed most when I moved up here.

The last time I’d been at the beach in between a rehearsal and a concert, was at Aldeburgh. I was playing at the stunning Snape Maltings, I’d just taken delivery of a brand new harp and I’d just cancelled my wedding. I did manage to enjoy my fish and chips though.

After my far too brief trip to the seaside, I headed back to the church to tune up and have a brief run through of the solos I would be playing later. The church was empty, and the sun had dropped sufficiently to get a good shot of a stained glass window I’d noticed earlier. I managed to catch it just as the sun was streaming through. I was initially drawn by the music notes, but then saw the little Scottish thistles below. I had a few moments silent contemplation by the window, and then went to my harp and sat down to play.

IMG_1478

The concert went really well. The tenor was a fellow RCS student who I had seen performing in the opera Merry Wives of Windsor the previous weekend, the tuba soloist was fantastic, and the choir, brass and percussion sections were wonderful. It was great to hear some music I’d never heard before, and although I felt nervous, the audience were very appreciative and so I was looking forward to playing.

My first piece was Kontrapunkts (Counterpoint), by a Ukrainian composer, Hennadiy Liashenko, very unusual and very modern. I wasn’t sure how it would go down at all as it’s far from what people would expect to be played on the harp, but it proved extremely popular and I really enjoyed playing it. I think it helped that I had followed an extremely offbeat tuba piece – the audience were in a state of disbelief and so this was as good a time as any to play a piece with no time signature, barlines or key signature. The only recording I’d found was by a Russian boy on youtube. I hope to record my version very soon. It needs conviction, stage presence and drama and I hope I provided this.

My second piece, Lolita la danseuse by Marcel Tournier, is better known, at least by harpists. This was appreciated too, but Kontrapunkty was definitely the favourite, and I played the first one much better.

I also had the opportunity to play Kodaly’s Psalmus Hungaricus with the choir and Raoni the tenor. This is rarely performed especially outside Hungary, and it has a beautiful harp interlude in the middle of the work. An extra touch of excitement was added with a couple of unexpected gunshot sound effects – a bass wire string on my harp had snapped in rather a big way.

The concert was a great success, and I loaded up to get back onto the A90 for the long drive back home.

Even at 9.30pm, this was an east coast sunset, the likes of which I hadn’t seen in months, and it reminded me of what used to be home.

I wanted to stop to savour it, but my bed was calling and I had a 2 1/2 hour journey ahead of me.

The mist had made the ground and the sky impossible to separate. Trees and houses seemed to float as I drove past.

I’ve always loved driving on my own late at night. There’s a different energy on the road then, people have different reasons for being there, but the humdrum of the daily commute is gone and I always wonder who else is out and where they are going and why.

I hope to return to Stonehaven soon, and not just because it is reportedly the birthplace of that great Scottish cultural icon, the deep-fried Mars Bar. It reminded me of the simple joy of being Beside the Seaside, and of the need to sit and pause and watch the waves every now and then. It’s a bit of a drive (and getting across Dundee seemed to take forever) but well worth it.

How does a harpist play the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

One of the modules in my first year at the RCS has been an Introduction to Collaborative Practice – the hot topic of ICP that has alternatively been much loved and loathed, often by the same people at the same time.

It’s a pretty unique concept – take the full first year of 200+ students, consisting of all artistic disciplines from classical/jazz/Scottish traditional musicians, actors, singers, dancers, film makers, stage managers, stage designers, to everything in between. Carve up the group into 21 groups of 10-12 people, with a range of disciplines in each group. Give them a starting point and ask them to create a short presentation/performance to deliver to the rest of the group. Then do the same thing again with a different starting point. Along with this, invite working professional artists to deliver lectures on various themes such as their own practice and collaboration.

It was one of the reasons I came to the RCS – because of the range of disciplines being studied here and the opportunity for some weird and wonderful collaborations.

The final presentations were an incredible experience to be a part of. We had been asked to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to choose one of the 30 articles to form the basis of our performance.

I’d never read it before. I feel more than a little ashamed of this.

We based our performance on Article 1 (and yes we did read them rather than choosing the first one we saw :)) which states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Our 10 minute performance featured a contemporary dance choreographed by one of our group and performed by three talented dancers with a tableau featuring the rest of the group,  a monologue performed by an actress, a spoken word piece set to music which was read by a musical theatre artist and accompanied by five classical musicians, and a short protest set to Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. Our set was created in miniature by a theatre designer and then intricately shot and projected by a film maker as a backdrop to the performances.

It’s quite amazing to think you can get all that into 10 minutes. It’s even more amazing that this generated 20 minutes of passionate discussion by the audience, after both performances. Some people thought it was too provocative and in your face, others were inspired by our performance and felt compelled to take action, and some of the foreign students celebrated that we were able to express our opinions in this way at all.

Our group was quite a mixed bag, not unsurprising given the range of disciplines, and there were some big personalities to deal with. It was quite fraught at times, but after our first performance, we were all surprised to realise that we had at last become a unit, and this was a really special feeling. I also felt incredibly glad that all the content that we had presented had been received as we hoped. Our message was about taking action and not just sitting back saying “oh oppression, how terrible” and moving on. Some of the audience referred to some text at the end of the performance which came from a suggestion I had made and I felt really proud of this.

Watching the performances from other groups, several things happened. I genuinely enjoyed sitting back at the end of the project, knowing all the hard work was done, and being able to really appreciate the work that everyone had put into their final pieces. I was now watching from a more artistic perspective, as we were being encouraged to give feedback to the performers, but I also loved the sense of magic and wonder of being an audience member and not knowing what is coming next.

I was simply awestruck by the level of talent in our year, the creativity that was displayed in putting together a performance in response to the articles, and the standard of the performances, both individually and as groups.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as a slave driver burst onto the stage on stilts. I got goosebumps when hooded figures appeared from within the audience to silence and then abduct artists as they were performing. I felt an uncomfortable sense of voyeurism watching a performance by a dancer dressed as a young child, which was being videoed and played back as she danced. The audience were drawn to watch the film of the dancer, rather than the actual dancer, and there was a gradual realisation of how creepy this was. A piece on the article about privacy asked us to leave our phones on full volume rather than switched to silent, and various musicians played all the common ringtones over and over again – a trombonist and violinist were particularly effective. Various texts and phonecalls were received by the audience throughout the performance, which added to rather than interrupting what happened on stage. Original scores had been composed to accompany live action on stage, and these were astonishing in almost every case.

As well as being awestruck, I also felt quite intimidated – the feeling of comparing your own talents against those of others mostly younger than you is not necessarily a pleasant one. However this gave way to a sense of feeling very fortunate to be studying in a place where the standard is so high that you can only be influenced and pushed on to improve your own work even further.

The week of rehearsing and performing left me feeling inspired as to how I could develop my own creativity and my own performances, both in terms of the material I perform, the people I work with and the settings I perform in.

As a (mostly) classical harpist, I struggle with the common image of my instrument. I truly aspire to play the ‘big’ pieces from the available repertoire in traditional solo recital context, but I’d also love to tear it up a little and try working with some spoken word performers and with some visual art, be it photography, fine art or moving images. I feel really glad that I’m in just the right environment to explore these – as well as the RCS, Glasgow School of Art is just around the corner.

As well as my thoughts of the impact on my own work and life, I was also forced to think about some political thoughts and feelings. I’d hesitate to say I am now a radical, but some of the contributions from the foreign students who spoke so passionately about their own experiences of protest and oppression in their own countries really affected me, and I was reminded how lucky I am to live in such a free country, despite the amount of people who moan about it.

I am so grateful to be able to pursue my ambitions and to be able to study, especially being female, and I am lucky to have the right to travel and see the world and express my opinions.

I also realised just how much I value having artistic/creative freedom. Oppression has contributed hugely to developments in art, music and film, particularly in the twentieth century, and I feel strongly that I should consider this and how I can reflect this in my own presentations of my work.

The masking and abducting of the artists in one of the performances provoked probably the strongest reaction I had to any of the groups and I was amazed at the strength of this reaction and how it could come from a piece of theatre. I’m struggling to express how I felt during this, but it was something along the lines of, “If they come for the artists, who really aren’t harming anyone and are just expressing themselves, where on earth does that leave us?”

My head is still spinning when I look back on that week, but in all the right ways. When choosing my sign to wave around for our protest piece at the end of our performance, I was immediately drawn to the word Spirit, and have kept my sign to put on the wall at home in my practice room.

IMG_1373

It really sums up the week for me as I feel that my creative spirit has really been awakened and pointed on a new path which I can set out on with a new energy and sense of purpose. This was further strengthened by my post on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon here.

So, with a Bernstein quote in my head and a Spirit sign on my wall, I’m looking forward to what comes next…

DHC

So. Nightrider has passed, and I am left with no aches or pains, and some wonderful memories and the feeling that the night was one of the defining events in my life. Truly one of the best things I’ve ever done, up there with passing my motorbike test and finishing my first racing weekend at Brands Hatch in far from last place.

The harp has had a little bit of a rest since my recital, and I’ve had some time to mull over where I am going and what happens next.

I read many blogs, a number of them harp related, but one of the most interesting ones is that of Deborah Henson-Conant at http://www.hipharp.com/blog/

Deborah’s influence on contemporary harp and performance cannot be overstated – I’ll talk more about this another time. Recently she confirmed that she will be joining Steve Vai on a tour, and her blog has recently covered some of her preparation for this.

Today I read this post, and it really resonated/struck a chord/(insert musical cliche) with me. DHC – Field of Musical Landmines

It is SO good to know I’m not alone in feeling out of my depth when working with other musicians and taking the harp a little off piste. In particular, the explanation of playing the wrong notes even when you’re playing the wrong string was so clear, and I will use it to mention to others.

Also her feeling of worrying whether the other musicians were wondering if the notes were wrong because she was playing them wrong, or if she hadn’t worked out the harp logistics yet – I have been here so many times.

I’ll be reading with interest and can’t wait to hear some of the results of all her incredibly intensive work.

Friendship

On Friday I did a gig with my favouritest harp friend for her birthday. The venue was smack bang in the middle of Soho, so getting three harps there was a major logistical adventure. They just about fitted in the car.

Parking was a nightmare, and we moved 3 harps plus a variety of stools, stands, bags, mics and the 2 of us down a flight of very narrow stairs. We were there early for a soundcheck and the whole thing was exhausting before we’d even started!

Tuning was done in between the first act and the start of our set – but it was a nightmare with a full house and music playing over the PA. We did our best but it was relaxed to say the least!

The set was a mix of harp solos, duets and collaborations with others. It was Susannah’s birthday and she had decided to finally showcase her harp playing to her closest friends – it was a real privilege to be a part of and we had a blast. The venue was very small and it was a little bit tricky swapping leads and stands all the time, but given it was our first set performed in this way, it was a great success and we had some brilliant feedback from the audience.
Yesterday I drove home from Zanna’s, had a very quick turnaround and headed back down the A12 to my friend Caroline’s wedding. 
I hadn’t seen her and some of our other friends in a couple of years, and it was a very emotional experience being part of her big day – and this was the first wedding I had been to as a guest without my harp for a long time so I was able to relax and really enjoy myself. 
It was a very stylish but very informal day – she had said from the start she just wanted to see everyone and have them together for a big party. There were photos of all her friends and family all around, including a beautiful one of her dad on one of his race bikes. Her dad had died very suddenly just a few weeks ago, so to say it was a tough time for her and her family would be an understatement. 
I caught up with old friends and promised not to leave it so long next time. I enjoyed swapping stories with new friends as to how we all knew Caroline and it was great fun piecing together who everyone was and how they fitted into her life. The band that played in the evening were brilliant and everyone on the dancefloor was completely outclassed by Caroline’s 5 year old niece who is clearly a very talented dancer in the making – seriously, her sense of rhythm was incredible.
So. 2 days spent with close friends, and I’m now sat here alone, enjoying a very lazy Sunday morning before I head off to my harp lesson in a bit. After that I MUST crack on with the decorating to get the house straight. I’m thinking about moving my whole life a long way north in a few months and how this will mean leaving friends behind, and what it will be like making new ones, and how difficult (but exciting!) this will be.
I think there will be tears today – taking a couple of steps back from the normal routine always gives space to ponder, and there is a lot of pondering to be done. It’s gradually sinking in but I’ve had so much to do, there’s not really been time to take it all in. I love how there’s always some music for how you’re feeling, and this has just popped into my head. *shuffles off to buy some Moloko*

Back to reality

This is my first normal 5 day week at work for quite a while. In some ways, it’s been good to get back to earth and try and re-establish a bit of a routine. My dogs have been in and out of the kennels, I’ve had a parking ticket and managed to go over my overdraft limit – both unlike me and entirely accidental. But it’s definitely been a sign to just watch things a bit.

I’ve done some really good intense practice the last few days, and tonight was the best for a long time. I’m working on some duets for my harp buddy’s birthday party in a couple of weeks, and working on some bits for my next recital which is in June. The audition has been a really good experience in so many ways, but mainly it has proved that when I really put my mind to it, I can achieve a lot in a short space of time. I can’t keep that pace up indefinitely, but I have taken a lot from it and will be able to use this for a spot of re-balancing. (again!)

I’m working on I Feel Good, a piece written by Monika Stadler. I was incredibly lucky to work with her in Italy last year, I found her very inspirational and supportive both at and away from the harp. I Feel Good is probably my favourite of the pieces she has published, it starts so simply and then gets rather more complicated all the way through. It’s pretty infectious and when she plays it, I can’t help tapping my feet or clicking my fingers or something along with it.

Lastly, here are some photos from last weekend – it feels like so long ago already, I can’t believe it was just a week ago. Our rather talented friend Natasha took them for us.

I did a gig on the Friday with John and Frankie, a real mixed bag where we did a mixture of jazz standards and blues songs, plus I did a couple of harp solos. I was begged to play Stairway to Heaven which went down rather to well – I’m hoping to get some video footage of this.

This was our last gig together for a little while, as Frankie was about to leave for Liverpool. It was an emotional night, and we all went that little bit further with our music and it really came off – the pub was packed, we had people dancing along while we played and the atmosphere was just brilliant. So we had a little photocall at the end of the night just for a souvenir, and I love this picture of all three of us together.

On the Sunday night, Frankie had a bit of a farewell jam night – she is a rather well connected girl so many local musicians came along to join in and see her off. 
One of my fantastic friends had built me a new stand for my electric harp, and seeing as this harp had brought me and Frankie together (I was playing it at an open mic night in town), it was really fitting that I played it the last time I would see her in her current incarnation. I broke my own golden rule, I was super tired and went out with dirty hair so looked a bit scruffy, but again I love the picture.
It’s so sad to think we won’t be together for a while – I have learnt so much from playing with Frankie and John. But it’s hopefully been the start of something wonderful, and I plan to find some other poor unwitting souls to play with soon.

Bit of reflection

I have just done my last major practice session before my audition on Wednesday. So much logistical stuff to get through before then, but hopefully this should take my mind off things if nothing else!

I’ve had an incredible weekend – Friday was a gig at a lovely pub just on the edge of town, and was the last one with Frankie and John.

As ever there were a few random things in amongst the jazz and blues numbers, the audience was incredibly appreciative and the harp rather stole the show when Frankie asked me to play Stairway to Heaven! I’d played it at a restaurant the week before and it had gone down a storm. I normally hold back because it’s such a guitar cliche, which is a shame as the harp arrangement by David Ice is brilliant.

I always think of my dad when I play this – having thought he was mostly a Bowie/Beatles/Abba fan all my life, he recently owned up to his Led Zep passion. He helped me at a photo shoot last year and Stairway was one of the pieces I was playing while the photographer did her thing. I am very much a daddy’s girl so thinking of my dad while playing is always quite emotional. I had lots of compliments which has made my heart soar!

Saturday was a wedding – the bride wore a stunning dress (and believe me I have seen plenty in my time!) and the guests were lovely and so appreciative.

Last night was Frankie’s farewell – another pub, and this time I got to take my electric harp out to play! One of my friends from my racing days has built me a stand for it and it did the trick. One of Frankie’s friends took some brilliant pictures which I will put up when I get them. I met some great people and made some fab contacts which bodes well for what happens now Frankie is moving on.

Back to the audition…. I’m playing a Bach-Grandjany Etude (Sarabande from Violin Partita No 1 – just beautiful, and very slow and expressive which is right up my street), La Source (which can be a bit of a harp cliche!), and the Firedance by David Watkins (which my dad hates, and I have to say after years of loving this piece, I am on the verge of seeing what he means!). Plus a famous cadenza from the Nutcracker.

I haven’t prepared as much as I would have liked, but I have done my best in the time available. I hope to relax my hideously tense muscles and go with the flow.

I read this blog post by Deborah Henson-Conant about ‘Glide’ and this has helped me visualise my performance and understand what I enjoy about performing. It’s a great way of describing something that I’ve always found impossible to relate to others (and I’m thrilled she replied to my comment).

I am a big Harry Potter fan and have always loved the description of how he feels when he first chooses his new wand in the first book – the stars shooting out of his hand etc. I try to visualise this when I think about my performance.

Also the scene in Billy Elliott where he is asked in his audition how dancing makes him feel, and he struggles but eventually describes it as being like electricity.

And the fabulous scene in The Red Shoes where Victoria Page meets Boris Lermontov and the following exchange takes place after he is rather sneery:

Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?
Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Lermontov: Well, I don’t know exactly why, but… I must.
Vicky: That’s my answer too.




Being a Daily Musician?

Because of the rapidly approaching audition, and the impending return to my day job (I go back on Tuesday after a week off), I have been thinking hard about my status as a musician.

It’s not my main profession, and I’m not sure I would describe it as my passion. Currently it’s something I love doing when I’m not bogged down in the logistics (travelling/scheduling/admin/loading) element of playing a bulky and rare instrument.

I adore the performing aspect, and when I am really in the zone for playing, or the flow, or whatever people prefer to call it, there are few things like it.

I am having a bit of a sofa day today, and have just read the following article: Blur’s gig after the Olympics to be their last?

In the days where it was Blur v Oasis, I always came down on the side of Blur although I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge fan.

What I found fascinating was Damon Albarn’s description of Graham Coxon as a Daily Musician.

I don’t know exactly what he meant by this, but I took this to mean someone who plays/listens to music every day, is involved in new music and their whole life is defined by their art.

I’m nowhere near that at the moment. I listen to music in the car but only as a background to my commute. I don’t have the energy to seek out new bands to see what’s exciting. I’m just working out what my own influences are and where I want to go with my music.

I do know that I love playing live though, preferably with others.

The guys I play with (well, guy and girl!) at the moment are on the move and so I need to get out there and find some others. I went to a great gig on Friday night which really inspired me – in a pub in town that has a great reputation for music and is a brilliant place for connecting with other musicians. Looks like I need to get back in the habit of going regularly!

I think I’ll aspire to being a Daily Musician…. certainly given me some food for thought.