CLOUDS, Les Mis and Summer

Summer 2013 is turning out to be very busy indeed!

Last week was the first leg of the CLOUDS Harp Quartet tour.  We did five concerts in and around Manchester and had a great time, rehearsals were at my flat, rather interesting fitting four pedal harps into an average-sized lounge:


The tour is to promote our new CD entitled WATER:


We are all so excited about this new piece.  It’s written by Esther Swift – but I use the term loosely – nothing is physically written down.  Esther composes the piece, then teaches it to us aurally and by demonstration.  When we first started playing together about four years ago I’d never done anything like it, but now I love it.  The music is so free because we aren’t bound by sheets of music, we have to communicate a lot during our performances and I think it makes us much tighter as a group.

*At this point I’d just like to say anyone wishing to purchase WATER can do so by clicking here *

Also, here are the dates for our 2013 tour – catch us in Edinburgh, Peebles, Newcastle or North Wales:


On the first day of rehearsals with CLOUDS, my new lever harp arrived!  I’ve hired one for the year, and it arrived like this:


It’s a Dusty Strings Ravenna 34 and so far I’m really happy with it – I even went busking earlier this week!  I hadn’t really realised how heavy these things are, yes it’s easier than a pedal harp but too much walking around with this on my shoulder results in a lot of pain.  Definitely an interesting experience though.

So this week I’m playing for Les Miserables over in Runcorn.  Same company that I played for when they did Phantom of the Opera last year.  It’s a group of 16-19 year olds and it’s in The Brindley in Runcorn.  I do love playing for shows and I’m lucky enough to be doing three this Summer, this one is a bit different though because I’m playing from the guitar part.  Shaun Chambers, the conductor, thought (quite rightly) that some of the melody parts would sound really good on the harp – however, it also means I have to play from guitar notation eek!  It has been so good for me though, playing from chord symbols – a bit time consuming to mark up in terms of pedals but once you get used to it it’s nice having the flexibility to slightly change what you play each time.  Usually playing harp for a show you can expect to be in five or six numbers.  I’m playing ALL THE TIME – it’s great!  Although it doesn’t leave enough time to eat my minstrels during the show.  I made friends with the brass players during the interval last night over chocolates and warm lager.  Classy.

The final show is this Saturday evening, after which I am driving straight up to Edinburgh to start the second part of the CLOUDS tour.  Someone remind me how I ever managed to fit in a day job?!


Both sides of the coin.

Well again it’s been too long since I’ve posted, but I can promise that from now I’ll be blogging much more regularly because…


That’s right, I’m giving up regular income and easy work to become essentially a wandering minstrel.

I have three shifts left – I actually cried when I handed my notice in, but I know it’s for the best.  Saturday is my last one, it’s going to be weird.  Long Tall Sally has taken up so much of the last 6 months it’ll be very strange having time to do other things.

The fact is, it is too hard to fit my musical life into 3 days a week.  I’ve tried, and I can’t do it.  Yes I can do my Saturday gigs but I never have time to practice (I actually miss practice – what’s happened to me?!)  My flat is always a mess because I never have time nor energy to clean and tidy, my repertoire is dwindling as I don’t have time to learn new pieces and I’m way behind on general life admin (sorry to my parents who still have my deceased car on the driveway seven months after I get a new one!)

Yes, the income was OK, the girls I work with are lovely and I feel very lucky in that respect.  But, I didn’t study for four years for a music degree and undertake years of practice and hard work just to spend my days manning a shop floor for minimum wage.  

So here’s the plan: 

1. Summer is pretty booked up with gigs so income should be ok for a while.

2. Hire a lever harp and try busking to see if it’s a realistic source of extra income.  If it does turn out to be good money, try lots of different cities/save up to purchase the harp.  Maybe even drive to France and do some busking on the continent?!

3. Keep any spending to a MINIMUM – essentials only – bye bye gym membership, clothes from Primark and food from Aldi – get a cheaper sim-only contract when my current contract runs out AND my car insurance should be a lot cheaper when I renew.

4. Write to all the cruise companies I can google and try to drum up some work.

5. Chop up credit card (I actually already did this)

So I named this post ‘both sides of the coin’.  Before I got my job at LTS, I needed income – desperately.  When I got the job, I realised I’d actually given up the freedom that comes with being freelance – and the price I had put on my freedom was a little over £6 an hour.  I can now see that having the ability to work for myself and to rely only upon myself is worth so much more than that.  Yes it’s risky and scary, but I remember at RNCM in one harp class with our teacher – Eira – we discussed the poem by William Arthur Ward ‘To Risk’ and in particular the line the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.  I simply have to be free to sort my own schedule, to come and go as I please and not have to ask anyone’s permission before taking on work that is good for my career.

But, I honestly think, having seen and experienced a ‘normal job’ for the past six months, I am more motivated than ever to take my music career as far as I possibly can.  This has been a real wake up call and shown me that it is my passion – and the only thing I can really see myself being happy spending my life doing.

To Risk by William Arthur Ward

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement,

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return,

To live is to risk dying,

To hope is to risk despair,

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow,

But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.

Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.