It’s never really been my thing. It has an aura of loneliness. Even the word sounds like a negative: SO LOW! To be honest, I see myself more as a team player. I love, love, love being part of The Hummingbirds, the a capella singing quartet where I have a line of music all to myself which works in harmony with the other three parts. And I love my role in Foxwillow Trio, adding that vital element of harpishness to the mix. The jokes, banter and friendship are a real joy, too.
However, in the past few months I’ve been branching out on my own a lot. I’ve been doing Care Homes as a soloist for several years, but now there are far more formal performances with everything depending on just me and the harp. I did another solo fundraising concert in October, for example - thankfully a success. My writing has pushed me forwards, as well. For author events I’m in possession of the most fabulous promotional gimmick: nothing has the power to enhance the spoken word so much as the harp. It has a tendency to transport and enchant people in a way that dry words, no matter how well written, can’t. So in October my book talk and readings at Liznojan Books (the beautiful independent bookshop in Tiverton) benefitted from some extra harp ambience. What a lovely evening that was! My harp is also about to feature at Yeovil Literature Festival.
Solo work can be lonely, but both music and writing are all about communication. I like to think of music as a bright wave that washes out from the player to the listener. And I imagine a book as an invisible bridge between writer and reader. Writing, in fact, feels much lonelier than music because you always work by yourself and you seldom witness the effect your story has on the reader. The effect is there, nonetheless. Again, this month I’ve been stunned at the number of people who have contacted me to say how they loved ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER. One even said it was her favourite book of all time (OK, I immediately wondered if she’d read any other books, but in the next sentence she added ‘and I read a lot of books.’ Sorry. I know it’s braggy to include this in my blog but it makes me so happy I just have to!)
With all its challenges, work as a soloist can be great fun. You don't have to compromise. All the choices are yours. You practice when you like, how you like and - crucially - what you like. You present your performance in your own idiosyncratic style. And ultimately, you’re not alone. You are connecting. There are people out there who enjoy what you do. That's what makes it all worthwhile.