November 2007

Harps North West – a lovely yearly course held by Harps North West at Higham Hall.  What a lovely place that is.  It’s situated off the A66, alongside Bassenthwaite Lake.  On way to Cockermouth. Of course I arrived in the dark and left in the dark, so the views, however tremendous I was told, I did not see.  Either way.  And I should have taken an early morning drive around, and trust me – I had this planned – but the first night of late chats and the second night of ceilidh and session pretty much took the next mornings out of me.  Higham Hall hold all sorts of courses, and welcome enquiries.  I see they have a “Recover From Christmas With Holistic Therapies” coming up tomorrow til Saturday.  Hmmm sounds very appropriate.  Go and visit the website
Ailie Robertson and myself had around twenty harpers of all abilities attend.  The Hall provide superb home cooked food, and there is a tiny bar for later on.  The group separated into two classes; early beginners to intermediate and intermediate to advanced.  Some new tunes and old from the Irish and Scottish tradition were learnt and a good time was had by all!

I admire anyone who takes up a new instrument – whatever age they may be.  When you are a child, it is one of the easiest things to do.  There is no expectation, no assumptions, no baggage, the brain is a sponge.  As we get older the brain is too full, life is too full, we become so self-critical, self-conscious.  And bones ache.  I admire everyone who took part with such enthusiasm, and congratulate them for attempting to learn aurally for a change, rather than relying on the music.  We started with an Irish jig “The Streets of Dublin” which Ailie had brought, but being an easy jig, it was quicker to bypass the complexity of the instrument and fingering, and just sing the tune til we had it in our heads.  Works a treat every time! Learning it on the harp was just a simple matter of placing fingers then.  … I can still remember it!  That’s good, as my head is like a sieve.  Names are elusive to me.  This doesn’t happen with songs, as I have a story behind it to hook the name on.  But tunes are harder.  I need to either find out what/who/why the tune is the tune, or make a story up.  Or I immediately forget it.  I’m a tad erratic.
I spent the middle of the month writing some music for Donald Shaw’s Argyll Suite. Just writing brass and woodwind parts – man, he writes some great tunes! I loved working on his material. I also loved being forced to write huge amounts of music very quickly. Although it wasn’t my music as such. Hmm, kind of weird when I think of it. So that brought me to the realisation that I am doing nothing for me! I presume all women in their late 30’s and upwards are sighing right now… ‘good grief it took her this long??’ Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t brought up a heap of kids, or donated my life to the joy of others. Oh no. I just play and write music. But I tend to want to get everyone involved. Music is no fun on your own. Well not for me. My joy is playing with others, creating music together. Writing tunes, songs, harmonising! How the hell does one harmonise on one’s lonesome?? Well actually I like that. In the car on my own, I sing harmony to EVERYTHING! Obviously I travel on my own a lot.

Aanyway, I have been swithering between a purely harp album, or harp and voice. When I sing, the arrangement is solely there to set the scene, amplifying the words and sentiment of the song. When I play harp, I want to stretch the instrument. And myself, I want to dance with it, flirt with it. So the two disciplines are very different. I’m still swithering. Ah hah! A double cd. Hmm, now to look for a record company who will take that on.

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