I recently did a short live session and interview with Dave Graham who runs the Piano Cafe in Oakham. Its a very short interview where I briefly explain how I got into composing (in lieu of a mid-life crises) and how teaching now is so much better than it was in the 1980's!!
I've just finished editing a new piece for solo harp by my husband, Andy Scott.
It's his version of the traditional tune, The Wayfaring Stranger and its quite an epic version!
Andy Scott arranged The Wayfaring Stranger for the 'Ever Open Door' CD collaboration with John Helliwell (Supertramp) which is being released October 2020 (Challenge Records). Originally scored for clarinet, string quartet and hammond organ, it takes a harmonic journey with twists and turns through many keys; fairly chromatic at times, simple and open at other times.
I absolutely loved his version for John Helliwell, so I asked Andy if I could have a go at adapting it for solo harp; and here it is!
Because of the chromaticism, it is for the advanced standard player and I have fully marked the part with pedalling and damping. It's a great solo harp companion piece to with Andy's other pieces for harp, like his flute and harp sonata and other solo piece, Crossing Waves.
It's published and available as a PDF download and hard copy from Astute Music HERE
Scroll down for videos 👇
For the past few years the Manchester based contemporary music group, Psappha, has run a scheme for composers to write a new piece for a specific instrument or group of instruments which is workshopped with a performer from Psappha over a six month period and then recorded. Called "Composing for..." the 2019 scheme has involved new works for Eastern European Clarinets, Piano and Percussion, Solo Bassoon and Solo Harp.
Six composers, who are all at an early stage of their careers are selected for each scheme by Psappha and the overall project is supported by the Arts Council England; Garfield Weston Foundation; Idlewild Trust; PRS Foundation Talent Development Partner scheme; Radcliffe Trust; and RVW Trust
It has been a great experience to have been involved with this project and I've very much enjoyed the journey working with the composers on all of these six new pieces for solo harp.
Getting everything packed for the recording session including 3 harps, various effects pedals, my amp, lever harp stand, spare strings for 3 harps (only 1 string broke in the session), card, coils & paperclips for the prepared harp piece, assorted plectrums, iPad and page turning pedal, lots of different cables and then (most importantly) industrial quantities of fresh coffee and chocolate!
Psappha - Composing for Harp Videos
tangible/intimate/half-life by Joss Smith
PREPARED PEDAL HARP More about Joss HERE
Harp-Tronics by Daniel Ehrlich
LEVER HARP WITH EFFECTS PEDALS More about Daniel HERE
Glass Cathedrals by Grace-Evangeline Mason
PEDAL HARP More about Grace-Evangeline HERE
retina by David Nunn
PEDAL HARP (utilising quarter tones) More about David HERE
Distant Dances by Joseph Howard
PEDAL HARP More about Joseph HERE
Splitting Paint by Carmel Smickersgill
LEVER HARP WITH LIVE ELECTRONICS More about Carmel HERE
I'm in the middle of learning a solo harp piece with lots of quarter tones. Despite having many years of experience of learning contemporary music, reading quartertones and knowing which pedal setting it refers to is not in a harpists natural comfort zone.
So this chart is an AIDE MEMOIRE for me... not to confuse a quartertone natural symbol for a flat pedal when marking my pedals in the score.
Hopefully it might be helpful for other harpists working on contemporary music with quartertones?
I've just seen this cracking video of Gwenllian Llyr (harp) playing Haldon Evans: Dros y Mynydd [Over the Mountain].
It's a brilliant piece, brilliantly played by Gwenllian - more about Gwenllian HERE and about the composer Haldon Evans HERE
For the past few six months I have been involved in the 'Composing for Harp' scheme being run by the contemporary music group based in Manchester, Psappha.
Six young composers were selected to write a new 5 minute piece for solo harp and so far I have had three workshops with each of them as they have developed ideas for their compositions.
Each of the works have been very different in style and I was delighted that two of the composers chose to write a piece for lever harp - all the other pieces have been written for pedal harp.
Both pieces for lever harp utilise pedals as my Starfish lever harp has a built in pick-up. One of the pieces uses these pedals, and the other piece uses electronics and a volume pedal.
One of the compositions for the pedal harp utilises a lot of preparation. This is a photo from the first workshop when we were trying out sounds. That piece has now developed into using coils, paperclips, a pencil with rubber grip, lots of card and picks.
One of the compositions is a tricky one to count with interesting sub-divisions and uses clever de-tuning of some strategic notes. The other two pieces for concert harp are (surprisingly) tonal.
They are all very different in compositional style and I have really enjoyed working on them so far.
Having gone through a few drafts, the final versions of the pieces are imminent and due in in a few weeks time. I'll then be recording all of them in a daylong session in May where they will be filmed. The resulting final videos will be uploaded to Psappha's impressive library of compositions that they have supported since they started doing this scheme.
It's been an interesting project working with 6 composers at one time and I'm very much looking forward to recording all of these pieces.
photo credit - Chris Payne and Psappha
What a great promo video for a concert...
and what a creative harpist Uno is.
A Norwegian harpist and composer, Uno Vesje has his Carnegie Hall debut coming up in March, and and is definitely a harpist to watch out for!
He has such a lovely sound, (and a stunning harp), a really brilliant website and I'm going to download his album now...
First performance of his harp concerto - watch out for the paper in harp strings half way through
***WARNING - this video contains offensive language. Don't listen if you are likely to be offended. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED***
One of my favourite harpists, Lavinia Meijer playing "Cities change the songs of birds" composed by Jacob ter Veldhuis.
Otherwise known as JacobTV he has been described as the 'Andy Warhol of music' and this piece was written for Lavinia and caused a bit of an uproar when it was performed at the 2008 World Harp Congress!
To quote from JacobTV's website...
And at the World Harp Congress 2008 in Amsterdam the world premiere of Cities Change the Songs of Birds by Lavinia Meijer caused a scandal: the combination of beautiful harp sounds and heartrending monologues of female drug addicts in the streets of New York was too much for some of the audience. Kathy Elarte wrote: "The harp, as we all know, is an instrument of beauty, of worship... To see it in the center of this atrocity just goes towards promoting more hate toward American society and is, in my opinion, just another form of Musical Terrorism!"
Now I'm going to warn you again, if you are easily offended don't watch.
You might want to have a quick look here to see the lyrics that will be spoken throughout the piece first.
Lavinia is a brilliant harpist, and I think she performs this piece, brilliantly.
Whether you agree with the use of so much profanity within a piece of music will be to your own personal taste, it is certainly shocking... but that is what it is supposed to do.
I remember seeing the fallout of Claude Delange in concert playing a piece by JacobTV on saxophone and a distressed father walking out of the audience with his young teenage daughter appalled to have gone to a contemporary classical saxophone recital to then be confronted with the repeated use of 'motherf***er'.
As a mother of similiar aged children I did have sympathy with the father at the time. However, I am disappointed I missed the premier of this harp piece, I would have loved to have seen the reaction! Having listened to it now a few times it is certainly growing on me.
Paul Mitchell-Davidson's epic suite for mandolin and harp is now on soundcloud.
It's a real journey of a piece and I remember after one live performance a member of the audience came up to me and said, "I've never been to a classical music concert before... that last piece was like surfing a wave!"
Dance of Limewood, Smile of Ash is very still and etheral with astonishing harmonies.
A Joy of Wild Asses is my personal favourite, quirky and pretty manic.
Harvest of the Quiet Eye is a beautiful "folky" and evocative piece.
A Full Moon Rising Red is a real whirlygig epic, full of spirit & feverish dances and is the piece which inspired the "surfing" quote above.
Tapestry by Paul Mitchell-Davidson
Alison Stephens - mandolin
Lauren Scott - harp
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Lauren Scott is a harpist & composer and has been blogging for over 10 years.
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