This week I thought I would talk about some of the gigs I’ve had over the years that I’ve really enjoyed or have learnt from.
I love weddings, they’re fun and fairly easy work musically. I haven’t had any bridezillas yet all my brides have been wonderful people.
What I have learnt from weddings over the years.
My first wedding was in St Margaret’s Church In Roath when I was 18. I had no idea what I was doing looking back, mainly because I had only ever been to one wedding before, like most normal people, and had no idea what to expect. The bride had heard me singing ‘Somewhere Over the rainbow‘ when I was busking and wanted me to perform it during the signing of the register. It was a lovely wedding and all went smoothly. However, it was jumping right into the deep end; I had no idea what to charge, what to wear, how to organise it properly and what to play for the background music at the beginning of the ceremony while everyone was finding their seats. Now, almost 5 years on, I am old hat at it all. The big rookie error of it was that I didn’t get the location until the day before!
My last wedding was in December at St David’s Hotel . It was a Ceremony and then an afternoon tea, for just 20 people. Gorgeous, simple and easy wedding! I got to play all my own repertoire for the afternoon tea, as I do at the Hilton. And they wanted ‘Ed Sheeran – Thinking out Loud’ for the signing which was easy to learn and arrange for the harp. I even got to use my Canon in D Cheat Sheet for the walk down the aisle, which takes all the best bits of Pachelbel’s Canon in D and distills it to the main motifs so you can lengthen and shorten it depending on the venue and brides pace, makes life so much easier for everyone!
GIGS! Part 1 – Residencies
What they don’t teach you in school or University is how to best go about sorting a long term gig at a venue or a ‘residency’. I have been very lucky to have my regular spot at the Hilton for almost 12 months now and because of that I have had many harpists ask for advice on the matter. I will do a ‘basic guide to residencies’ post at some point. However, here are some of my favourite regular gigs.
I would be no where If I hadn’t been seen by the lounge manager at the Hilton Cardiff one day when I was busking and asked to come in for a trial session. I am very thankful every weekend to have regular work at such a fantastic venue. And to have valet parking! score!
I spent about 2 months at Cathedral 73 in Pontcana, which was a lovely venue with really great owners and staff and a real ‘to do’ clientele! It’s also a boutique hotel for those of you wishing to visit Cardiff in a lap of luxury!
The Most frightening thing about it was the parking lot! Cathedral 73 has their own Roles Royce and parking my car next to it in a very small parking lot was the most stressful moments of my entire career thus far!
It was really lovely gig-wise and I’m a little saddened I’m not still there regularly, they chose to have a full-time pianist over me (space issues!)
GIGS! Part 2 – Events and Concerts. The Fun!
I’ve done some fabulous gigs in the past and here are some of my favourites:
Being a Concert Soloist:
every musician wants to be a soloist and if they say they don’t it’s because they play viola (sick burn!) Last year I got to do two lovely concerts:
The First in Bethan Baptist Church in March
The Second was a fundraiser for Stonewall Cymru
Odd And Fun Gigs
one of the best ones was at Cardiff Central Library for an event in July!
The best odd gigs of 2015 included, Cardiff Indoor Flee Market, The RBS on St Mary’s Street,
Castle Coch for an art installation
and my christmas concert with the Cardiff Consort!
The Never Again or Not At All Gigs!
(Yet more Advice for Young Musicians… sorry everyone else)
The Not At All Gig – When I was in my Second year of uni I was approached by a night club manager and asked if I would do a gig in their club for a party they were throwing. I said of course, because work is work. However, it became apparent that it was not for my musical skills… he asked if I would play for 2 hours, from 11pm-1am… which already raised some red flags. To follow this spectacular offer he then argued on the price. I had said £90 (it was before I had to pay my own rent) and he wanted me to work for 2 hours in the middle of the night for £60.
Sat in the corner like a Greek goddess
were the words he said over the phone… I later talked to my friend who worked as a night club bouncer and had heard horror stories about this club and advised me not to do it. I sent an email to the club manager explaining why I was turning down his, now very unattractive, offer. To which he responded calling me ‘obnoxious’.
The Never Again Gig – This was more of a scheduling and time wasting gig which I was doing for free on Bank Holiday Monday in August where I could’ve made a lot of money busking instead. It was a gig I was only meant to play for an hour set and turned into me hanging around all afternoon doing nothing. And when I finally performed the audience was completely inappropriate for my genre and style!
So What did we learn from all this?
well, as Sondheim would say ‘opportunity is not a lengthy visitor’, for the last minute gigs and quick bookings you’ve got to take the chances whenever possible but within reason. As a free-lancer you have to know your value and not compromise to the extent where you are uncomfortable doing something. Learn how to tell the difference between a gig that is unpaid because they can not afford to pay you, ( for example; Charities, fundraisers, public sector, and small businesses) or because they will not pay you. If you do not think your work has value then you will not be compensated for your time and talents! This is something I am still learning to this day! It’s the standard interaction most musicians and free-lance people face.