Notes from Shetland to Shanghai - ***** Review

Sophie rocks in a divine harped-shaped world. And see what she did there with that alliterative teaser? ‘Notes’. When Shetland Sophie plucks her string-driven things ethereal distilling enchantments ripple-muse ooze through liquid air.

But, by her own admission, there’s a whole lot of heart-breaking going on here. Skylight rain cascades with faerie tap-dance cadence as we listen to Marius Flothuis’ soul-rendering Pour Le Tombeau D’Orphee. If the death-cheating mission of Orpheus in the Underworld is not tragic enough, the harrowing back-story to this composition would see a heart of base-metalled cynicism melted to contritional solid gold

Very much a contemporary programme, 20th century driven – the context somewhat shouts from the cosmopolitan title. Lullabies compliment experimental and oh so subtle special effects where shades of post-impressionist Debussy and Ravel shimmered stealthily, and indeed suavely, seductive.

Wry, spry and a shrewd twinkle in her eye, this gifted young musician has balletic giddy angels dancing from her finger-tips. There’s no time to hesitate – just go and see this lady light her lyre. This was a one-trick Shetland only gig at Gallery 23, Atholl Crescent, so keep the ears keenly aware for this string-driven sky dancer enchanter and then herald the harping angel.

John Kennedy, The Edinburgh Reporter, Gallery 23

March - A Month of Masses, Mayhem & Marmalade

After a brief rehearsal for this evening’s concert in Birmingham, I find myself sitting with a cup of tea and (slightly prematurely...) reflecting on the month that has just flown by us. I’m lucky enough to say it’s been rather jam packed and as you can feel from the title, there has definitely been variety!

Today’s concert feature’s John Rutter’s ‘Mass of the Children’ with pupils of the Blue Coat School. It’s a mass I’d never heard before, and there are some very lovely (and very harpy) moments. However, not quite as harp-heavy as last week’s programme. Last weekend involved making a snowy journey to Penrith where, as part of the British Sinfonietta, I performed Karl Jenkins’ Requiem and Vaughn Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem with Cumbria Rural Choirs. For those that don’t know the piece, the last movement of Jenkin’s Requiem features a rather large harp solo and the rest of the programme includes several glissandos - very harpy indeed!

So now you know more about what the inclusion of harps in Jenkins’ and Rutter’s masses really entails for us harpists, onto the Mayhem.

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Now, I know we would probably all like to pretend it never existed and but I feel nobody living in the U.K. could complete a truly accurate March update without mentioning our good friend, The Beast from The East. While I was not as largely impacted as others (I was able to make it out my front door...) I do believe it caused havoc on most of us. With only one event postponed due to the weather, I did still find myself having some pretty abominable drives. The worst being the usual 90 minute drive to North Yorkshire taking 4 and a half hours!! Lesson learned - Snacks, blankets and a good soundtrack for when the radio signal disappears are all necessities. On the upside, Sanita and Andy did manage to get married on time at the beautiful Woodhall Linton hotel with a harp being played in the background so success all round. I was a little chilly on the day so didn’t manage a picture but Woodhall Linton looks just as beautiful in the snow.


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Out with Masses and Mayhem, there were some really great musical moments in March. At the RNCM, we celebrated St. David’s day with the annual Harp Ensemble concert which featured an entirely welsh programme. The following week involved a trip to the Manchester Communications academy with Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra and finally, I got to perform the very weird and wonderful ‘Sonata after Syrinx,’ written for flute, viola and harp and composed by Richard Rodney Bennet.

Oh, and of course, ‘She said Marmalade, what was that about?!’ Whilst I wasn’t cheating, it may not be entirely relevant... On the day of the concert in Penrith, Penrith’s own (and the world’s original!) marmalade festival was on. I was looking forward to a wander around, some marmalade sandwiches and feeling slightly like Paddington but sadly, due to the return of The Beast from The East, it wasn’t to be. Maybe next year!