Black Dyke Band in Sheffield

The easiest part of yesterday was the rehearsal and the concert.  I was lucky enough to be playing with the Black Dyke Band in Sheffield City Hall.

I say that was the easy bit because I had learnt the music (Philip Whilby’s ‘A Bronte Mass’) and it was fine – actually it was more than fine it was lovely.  I’ve never played with a Brass Band before and they are loud compared to little old me on harp.  I was eventually placed right at the front of the stage so the audience had a chance to hear me (prima dona moment).

There was a teeny weeny panic just before the concert, my stand and music went missing.  I was amazed that someone would have moved a stand with my name and my music on it!  But, the matter was resolved, the stand was found on the other side of the stage, and I found my music, ummm, in my bag *sorry*.

Another nice bit of the day was going for dinner in between the afternoon rehearsal and evening concert.  I figure I’m in an unfamiliar city and a meal is on expenses so why not have something nice?  AskItalian was my venue of choice and the meal was amazing.  Goats cheese and fresh bread for starter and then pasta with chicken, mushroom and white wine sauce – no desserts as I’m being a good girl at the moment.

So there, that’s the nice part of the day covered.  Now for the nightmare.

Driving + unfamiliar one-way system + Saturday night revellers + useless satnav = Lots of tears + about an hour spent driving in circles

I had to get my harp to the loading bay at the city hall, which is impossible to find as it’s all pedestrianised and you can only get at it by going a really long, convoluted way round.  I eventually found it before the rehearsal, only to be told I couldn’t have a parking permit and would have to find my own parking.  Gee thanks.  I found it unfair that other instruments who had to load and unload i.e. percussion seemed to be allowed to stay the whole day but apparently harpists can manage.  Grr…

Perhaps it’s due to my lack of geography skills/sense of direction but when I went to pick my car up after I’d finished playing, I couldn’t find the concert hall again.  Simon was very sweet and got the train from Newcastle down to Sheffield to keep me company on the drive back to Manchester (awww) and if he hadn’t been there directing me, calming me down and thinking of new routes to find the *expletive deleted* loading bay, I would probably still be there now, crying and driving round in circles trying to get to my harp.  I have no idea what it cost me in petrol and wrinkles that I didn’t have before, but I feel it’s unfair that I should have to go through that and it spoilt the otherwise great experience of playing with an amazing band.

I jokingly said that next time I want a parking permit, and the reply came ‘ha, wouldn’t we all’.

I think my need might be greater than most?

Anyway, enough ranting.  Apart from the car troubles it was a great day, playing good music with a lovely conductor (thank you Darius Battiwalla) and a great ensemble, I hope I get the chance to play with them again soon.


Summer Term

Ok so I’ve graduated and ‘term dates’ don’t mean that much to me any more.  But it seems like a good time to refresh my goals and just get organised with all that’s going on.

May is looking busy.

I’ll be at Chets (Chetham’s School of Music) working in the Practice Department for 6 days, 2 orchestral gigs, a wedding, teaching at the weekends, and a solo recital in Scarborough that I’m really over-excited about.

On top of all that, I need as many shifts in the bar as physically possible to help me get back on track.

So lots of practice is happening at the moment, and it feels great to have lots of things to work towards, I’ve also been brainstorming ways of improving my business and getting lots more work.

Current ideas include:

  • getting a lever harp and busking on free days
  • putting together a demo video to send to anyone who might give me work
  • recording an album for general release
  • emailing lots of orchestras, music services and schools with my CV and seeing what comes up
  • looking into harp therapy and possible qualifications to be gained
  • getting more teaching work

So yes, after a very restful and relaxing Easter holiday I am ready to throw myself back into all things harp-related.  And I need to work out how to come up with the cash for a lever harp… all ideas welcome.

Onwards and Upwards (getting your act together)

Ok, my last blog post was a little depressing.  It was exactly how I was feeling at the time so I make no apology for it.  I’m learning to look at times like that as a wake-up call to actually do something instead of just worrying.  So much worry comes from procrastination, I sometimes feel that worrying could all but be eliminated if we just got on with what needs doing instead of putting it off because there is an overwhelming amount of things to do.

One thing that helps me feel better and less neurotic is running.  I love getting out in the fresh air (often the fresh rain as well considering I live in Manchester) and just running, it gives my body a chance to move, I feel revitalised and refreshed after each run (usually this is coupled with mild exhaustion).  I don’t have to think about anything and my mind is always so much clearer when I get home.  Since doing the Manchester 10K last May my running has sort of tailed off but I fully intend to get back into it.

Since writing the last post I have sorted out exactly what I’m practising for and have started chipping away at that.  I have a solo recital in May in Scarborough that I’m very excited about.  I’m going to resurrect a couple of pieces from my Final Recital and mix those up with pieces that I did a while ago to make a varied programme – nothing too heavy but still a nice challenge for me to get my teeth into.

I have also started sending out lots of emails and CVs to anyone who might be interested in giving me work – ironically my phone just rang with an offer of a gig that I can’t do – argh!  – so now I’m feeling a lot calmer in the knowledge that I am working hard putting my name out there and I can have faith that work will soon follow.  I felt similar after all my Christmas gigs had finished and I was left with an empty diary, it filled up very quickly into a busy term.

Next week I’m having a mini-holiday (still in England but getting away for a few days) so as soon as I get back from that it’s straight back to looking for work!

I’d like to say a quick thank you to everyone who got in touch after reading my last post to make sure that I was OK!  It means a lot, so thank you.

Easter Holidays and too much time off.

I was playing at a wedding today down in Staffordshire, about an hour’s drive from my house so not too bad.  The whole day went very smoothly and I got paid (yay!)

But instead of blogging about another background gig – I’m going to talk about the holidays in general.  I got a bit emotional yesterday, tears may have been involved, and I couldn’t put my finger on what was upsetting me.

I eventually came to the conclusion that it must be a number of things:

  • having lost my phone and shelled out for a new one, all the financial progress I’ve made recently has been pretty much cancelled out.
  • my  harp has a buzz 😦 nothing serious  but it needs sorting – I’m currently waiting for a technician to get back to me on that.  Harps are so complex and have so many moving parts that occasionally these parts can vibrate against each other to make a buzzing sound when a particular note is played.  It’s not serious and it’s easily fixable but extremely annoying!
  • All my current gigs seem to be background music – yes it’s easy money but it leaves me rather unfulfilled.  My place is in an orchestra.  I’ve known this for some time now but it’s definitely time to start really pushing for this and sending emails and hopefully getting some auditions.
  • I’m scared that if all I ever do are background gigs, I’ll lose all the progress I made in my four years at the Royal Northern College of Music.  I didn’t study for all that time just to play cringe-worthy arrangements of cheesy music for people who don’t listen or care.
  • I haven’t had a harp lesson in nine months and I can definitely tell, I’m going to focus now on learning some new repertoire for an upcoming recital and resuscitating some old favourites so I feel like I can still actually play the harp with a good level of skill.

Maybe it’s just the holidays, and current lack of work, but things definitely need a push right now.  I’ve hit some sort of plateau that I haven’t experienced before.

So yes, sorry this post is decidedly less cheery than others, but this blog is about the whole picture of being a freelancer.  Hopefully over time I’ll see that the good times far outnumber the hard.

Page-turning debut


It’s been another quiet week with not many gigs. In fact it’s been a week off. And it’s been great! Apart from losing my phone and having to fork out for a new one that is.

So tonight a friend of mine, and very talented organist – Simon Passmore – was playing the organ for a performance of Fauré’s Requiem given by Eboracum Baroque in Whitefield, Manchester.


I even had a couple of notes to play as all of Simon’s limbs were accounted for with pedals, manuals and stops. For anyone who may not have heard the piece I highly recommend it.

I will never forget the staircase leading up to the organ loft. They will hereafter be referred to as death-stairs.


There was a rather awkward moment right at the end of the concert before the audience started clapping in which my tummy rumbled. It was very difficult to stifle my giggles until the silence was broken.

All in all an amusing evening, topped off in style with Chinese takeaway. Excellent!!