Updated: Sunday, 8th December 2019 @ 5:52am

Pluckin' marvellous: Harpist hopes to set up music school after Manchester Camerata performance

Pluckin' marvellous: Harpist hopes to set up music school after Manchester Camerata performance

By Eve Commander

Many musicians would happily retire with half the accolades that Claire Jones has achieved on her CV.

Armed with beauty, intelligence and, most importantly, her harp the former official harpist to HRH Prince of Wales has graced some of the UK’s and the world’s greatest stages with her effervescent personality and musical virtuosity.

However, there’s a first time for everything and when she steps out under Manchester Town Hall’s neo-gothic arches, it will be her premier tour with Manchester Camerata, the city’s chamber ensemble. However, there isn’t much in the way of nerves for this seasoned performer.

“It’s going to be wonderful,” she said. “I’ve heard such nice things about them. They’re a great bunch of people and I’m really looking forward to spending time with them.”

Since finishing her four years as the Official Harpist to the HRH Prince of Wales in 2011, making her the longest serving royal harpist to date, the 28-year-old musician got married and recorded a top selling studio album, The Girl with the Golden Harp, on the Classic FM Label.

Tonight she will be performing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra with Manchester Camerata’s principal flautist Amina Hussain as part of a concert celebrating Benjamin Britten’s centenary.

The well-known concerto, which Jones recorded on her album, is the only piece of music Mozart wrote for harp and is technically challenging for both soloists.

“It’s a great piece to showcase the harp, quite virtuosic. We’ve got these cadenzas at the end of each movement where the flute and I perform together and flourish,” she said.

Despite being widely taught in Welsh schools, the harp is not a commonly played instrument in England. Jones hopes that the orchestral will provide a ‘spectacle’ for audiences who rarely get to see the harp in such a grand setting.

She recounts playing to 75,000 rugby fans at the Prince William Cup at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2008. She had to hook her harp up to the stadium’s PA system as fans sang along to the Welsh song, The March Of The Men Of Harlech.

“It was the biggest PA system I’ve ever plugged my harp into.” She said. “That’s what I like doing as an ambassador for the harp: playing something people know “

She is also passionate about spreading the harp to new audiences. She aims to set up a harp school which will ‘hopefully’ launch next year and has upcoming concerts in Dubai, Moscow as well as six dates in the US in the New Year. She said that before her solo concerts she often tells audiences about the history of the harp and herself, which goes down particularly well with American audiences.

“They can’t get enough of it-particularly when I speak about the Royal Wedding,” she said

She played for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at their wedding reception in April 2011. However it is unlikely that she’ll be taking the same instrument she performed with in Buckingham Palace when she embarks on her US tour dates in the spring. Transporting her harp is very difficult she says, but using different one isn’t a challenge.

“I don’t mind playing different harps. I perform with a standard harp and most of them are the same.”

The Pembrokeshire-born performer is refreshingly down-to-earth in promoting her instrument which makes it unsurprising that so many people want to work with her.

Off-stage, she has branched out into her own line of jewellery with the Welsh jewellers, Clogau. She has also been dressed by the Welsh designer, David Emanuel, who made Lady Diana’s wedding dress. When asked what audiences can expect to see her wearing on Friday she replied:

‘Ooh, a little surprise,” she said. I’m sure I’ll bring something special, probably two dresses so I can decide on the day. There are four concerts (in the tour) so maybe I’ll bring four more!”

Emanuel also made Jones’ wedding dress when she married husband, Chris Marshall, last year. A talented musician and percussionist, he currently works on the West End and helped arranged all the songs on her studio album.

“He is very much involved in everything I do.” She said.

They have been collaborating on combining the harp and vibraphone and hope to release another album next year. However, her ‘harp roadie’ won’t be in Manchester for her upcoming concert. Jones says she has dinner planned with members of the Manchester Camerata and, if she has time, hopes to explore some of the city on Friday morning.

With such a charm and warm personality it’s unlikely that Manchester Camerata will welcome her on tour with anything other than open arms.

Claire Jones is performing in the concert In Memoriam Benjamin Britten at Manchester Town Hall on Friday 20 September 2013 at 7:30 pm. For tickets or venue information contact the Box Office: 0844 907 9000 or visitwww.manchestercamerata.co.uk

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