Here are some of the questions I get asked the most:
How far do you travel?
I’m based in Glasgow but I travel all over the UK with my harp. Other areas I cover regularly (other than Scotland) include North West England and East Anglia.
Highlands and Islands are absolutely not a problem!
How on earth do you transport a harp?! Do you have to have a van?
My harp fits in my estate car and it has a trolley to move it around. It has padded covers to protect it from bumps and knocks while it is travelling. My friend Sarah videoed me moving it (and yes she did offer to help!)
It will go up and down most staircases. Spiral staircases are a little more tricky but not impossible. It is tall with a strange centre of gravity, so it’s awkward rather than heavy to move.
Is it hard to play?
Like anything, to get really good you have to practice lots, but otherwise the main complication is that as well as moving both hands, you have to move both feet as well.
I thought harps only played in orchestras?
Harps are everywhere now! Harpist Tom Monger has toured with New Model Army and performs regularly with Florence and the Machine. A few harps have appeared on The Voice and The X Factor. Usher performed with harpist Melody Tai at the Grammys. Harps play jazz, trad, blues, everything.
I’ve played in pubs, bars, nightclubs, warehouses, churches, castles, concert halls, you name it! I’ve even taken my harp busking outside Shakespeare’s birthplace. I play a variety of styles of music, from very classical to jazz to rock and pop.
Will I hear you playing at a larger event over all the chatter?
In most venues, no amplification is required. A harp’s soundbox and soundboard are made of a particular wood specially chosen for its acoustic properties, and they are beautifully resonant, even across large areas.
For bigger events with a high level of background noise (e.g. during a larger wedding breakfast), it can be harder to hear. I have a microphone which fits inside the harp and plugs into a PA system or amplifier – please contact me to discuss your requirements.
Can you play my favourite song?
I’ll certainly have a go! With a bit of notice, I’m happy to arrange most music for the harp. For one or two songs or pieces, I don’t charge extra for this.
Some things work less well than others, but please get in touch and we can discuss what you have in mind.
Can you play outside?
IF you can PROMISE me that a) My harp and I will be in the shade and b) there is cover nearby in case of sudden liquid sunshine, then it’s a possibility.
Harps are made largely of wood, the strings are mostly gut and this makes them very susceptible to temperature and humidity changes. Direct sunlight is terrible for harps and can make them crack.
If it starts raining or the wind gets up, it’s not an easy thing to move a harp, stool, gig bag a music stand and a small harpist in a hurry.
I’m also pasty pale of complexion and I burn quickly. On windy days, the wind will blow through the strings creating an interesting humming noise which can be very distracting for both me and the audience. I once played a bridal entrance with a wasp sat on the end of my nose. I was under a dovecote at the time, the doves were in residence and I was desperately worried one was going to leave a present on my harp.
I’d like to learn to play the harp. Can you teach me?
I’d love to! Please contact me and we can arrange a consultation lesson. If you are thinking of buying or renting a harp, I can help you choose one if you need some advice. Age is not a boundary, and don’t worry if you can’t (or prefer not to) read music.
Do you get sore fingers?
Generally, no, as long as I play regularly. Over the years, harpists, like guitarists and other string players, build up thicker skin on their fingertips.
After a while, I can get a stiff neck/back/shoulders so I take a few minutes break approximately every 45-60 minutes in order to stretch things out a bit.
Don’t you wish you played the flute/violin/piccolo/any other small instrument?
Can you play Stairway to Heaven?