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Tips from a harpist

Published: 2 Sep 14, 10:34am  |  Author: DG Music

Meet Harpist Cecily. A professionally trained musician who has performed at events ranging from the smallest wedding to the 60th birthday party of our future king!

Who better to guide you through the world of booking a harpist for your own special occasion?

Read on to find out more…

Why should you book a harpist?

Not only does having a harp look elegant and catch the eye of all your guests, but in my opinion it is one of the few instruments which is able to create a beautifully unobtrusive music setting.

During my time working as a harpist, this has been a regular compliment. People tell me they love being able to enjoy the music without it imposing on their conversation.

As an instrument of beauty in both sound and looks, the harp is ideally suited to wedding ceremonies, drinks reception music and sit down meals of up to 200 people.

Logistics of booking a harpist

* Parking is a big priority for harpists. I’m always grateful to those who make an effort to provide parking close to the entrance of the venue. Sometimes this isn't possible if it's in the middle of a city, so it's very important to organise a time and place for the harpist to stop and unload before seeking the closest advised parking.

* Accessibility is crucial and you need to think realistically – there are some places a harp simply can’t reach. Most venues will have lifts if the event is upstairs, but if there are steps then it's important to have someone on hand to help if needed. Check with your venue and harpist in advance if you’re not sure.

* If your event is outside, check in advance that your harpist is willing to play outdoors. Since harps are very valuable instruments, it is best to find a shady place on a level, hard surface. A soft grassy lawn can be difficult to play on as well as not being good for the instrument. I always carry protective mats with my harp just in case, but always warn your harpist in advance.

* If your event falls over a mealtime, your harpist will be very grateful if you can supply them with food and drink.  Even just a sandwich will go a long way!

A typical event from start to finish

Once you have booked your harpist, they will contact you either by phone or email within two weeks of the event date to discuss the logistics. If you have not already chosen your preferred type of music then you can ask them for advice.

On the day of the event I always aim to arrive at least half an hour in advance of playing. This gives me enough time to find the venue, park, unload the harp, set up and tune before the guests arrive.

Harpists usually play for between one and three hours. Depending on how long I am needed, I will break after roughly 45 minutes for a breather before continuing. Once finished, I always find the client to thank them before packing up and loading the harp back into the van.

Recommendations for wedding music

Typically for a wedding ceremony I will play for roughly 15 minutes whilst the guests are gathering, followed by specific pieces chosen in advance for the bridal entrance, the signing of the registers and the exit of the married couple.

Classical music for weddings is very popular but you should never be afraid to ask for something a bit different! All harpists will have a varied repertoire which should include pop, jazz, and music from films and musicals.

If what you would like isn't listed it doesn't mean your harpist can't learn it.

Here is a list of popular pieces I am frequently asked to play which work well with parts of the ceremony:

* Canon in D by Pachelbel

* The Bridal Chorus by Wagner

* The Wedding March by Mendelssohn

* Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel

* Moon River

* Flower Duet by Delibes

* Clair de Lune by Debussy

* Songbird by Eva Cassidy

* The Water is Wide.

Watch this clip to see Harpist Cecily play Glinka Nocturne in E Flat.

Q&A

How long have you been a harpist?

I have been playing harp since I was seven years old and gradually eased myself into the professional sphere from my late teens.

What attracted you to the life of a harpist?

The variety and freedom. I have not been disappointed either! I have discovered some incredible venues and really beautiful music I didn't know existed until people requested it. I am so happy and lucky to be able to play the harp every day for a living.

Who are your music icons?

I have icons from many different musical genres since I love all music! These include many classical musicians and composers including Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin; pop/rock bands like Coldplay, Guns and Roses and Van Morrison; and jazz legends such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.

Tell us about your most memorable performance.

I will never forget playing at a party for Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones in 2013. Inside a railway arch in East London, I got to pretend I was one with the celebrities!

What is your favourite piece of music to perform and why?

This changes quite a lot depending on what mood I'm in, but I always adore playing Arabesque No.1 and Clair de Lune both by Debussy. I have always thought they sound so magical on the harp. I also love the fact I managed to overcome the difficulty of transferring them onto the harp from the piano.

Who would you most like to perform for?

The answer to this question a year ago would have been for Her Majesty The Queen. However, that honour has now happened for me which was very special. So now I can say that I enjoy playing for anybody who wants to listen.

Where would you most like to perform?

I've heard stories about a harpist playing inside an ornate cage which was raised above the guests' heads in a London hotel somewhere. I would love to play in something similar, although it may just be harpist urban legend for all I know! The venue I'd love to play inside most is St Paul's Cathedral. I can imagine the harp's sound bouncing around the dome very effectively.

What three words sum you up as a musician?

Versatile. Expressive. Sensitive.

Click here to see our range of harpists.

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About DG Music

DG Music is a professional Music Agency providing bands and musicians for private events and public performances.

The business has been operating since 2004 and is proud of the professional and friendly service it provides.

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