Frequently Asked Questions

What should you ask when you are booking a harpist?

Always make sure you can go to see your harpist play live or watch a video of them performing if you are making a booking. Ask important questions to check their competence. Do you like the repertoire they perform, their training, how frequently they perform, general experience and are they willing to learn new material for you if required? The type of harp a harpist plays on may also be important to you as they all have different sounds and capabilities; Pedal harps allow a harpist to play the majority of all music possible on the harp where as Celtic harps sound lovely but may restrict your music choices. The use of an amplifier is also important if you are planning a drinks reception or meal for more than 50 or so guests. If your harpist is VAT registered there may be a 20% charge to add on to your quoted fee so this is also worth checking. Any professional should also have public liability insurance and electrical PAT testing on equipment for your protection so these are all factors worth checking. The level and provision of the above will affect the quotes you are provided with so just take care and if at all possible hear your musician play before saying yes!

Why is it important to book an experienced harpist?

At events and in particular at wedding ceremonies, unexpected things can happen; pauses, laughter, flower girls running in the opposite direction to the isle, bridal entrance can be delayed or even your vicar could faint?! An experienced musician has the knowledge, repertoire and experience to help avoid awkward silences and play to fill any delays to create the perfect musical backdrop to your day. I work full time as a harpist and play for over 100 events a year, you really get feel for what works best and when!

Should I use a CD or a hire live musician for my wedding/event?

Why go to the trouble to organise a live harpist when you can have a recording? Well, no CD can capture the energy and beauty of a live musical performance. If you are holding a Wedding or an event that will require ‘stop-start’ of music, live musicians will be able to do this in a smooth and discreet manner to avoid awkward fade outs or unfinished phrases. A live musician can also instantly adapt their volume to suit the noise levels in a room. The harp is a very decorative instrument; personally I think they look as stunning as having a wonderful display of flowers or something in a room! So with a live harpist you get a grand instrument  for your guests to admire and beautiful music all in one, much better than a CD ‘skipping’ in the corner!

Can I request a particular song?

I am always delighted to take requests and have a vast repertoire and back catalogue of music I have learnt and arranged for harp. If I do not already play your song I will be very happy to make a bespoke arrangement for you if it is possible on the harp.

Do I need to provide you with sheet music?

Not at all, as a full time professional harpist I have a vast and varied repertoire coupled with large catalogue of sheet music. If your particular song is not part of my collection I will either invest in a copy on your behalf or prepare an arrangement for you.

Can you get the harp up and downstairs or into awkward spaces?

Of course the harp has to be treated with great care and respect; however it is surprisingly easy to move around in most spaces unusual spaces with the correct planning, equipment and time.  All I ask is that if your venue has steps, narrow or unusual access just let me know as I can bring the correct harp and trolley to access the space.

Will you play the harp in a rowing boat?!

Yes! It would probably have to be a lap harp though?! It is amazing what is possible, for example I have taken a pedal harp up the wonky spiral steps at Castell Coch many a time, into the HMS Victory for an event, played by the warm waters of the Roman Baths in Bath, played rock music on the harp in a Casino, played Vivaldi  in Great Glass House at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Medieval music up in the turrets at Caerphilly Castle, on the minstrels gallery at Miskin Manor,  on sloping gardens here there and everywhere, in many marquees…the list goes on! So…just ask, is it is at all possible I will do whatever it takes to get a harp there for you!

Do modern songs such as ‘Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol’ or ‘Nothing Else matters, Metallica’ really work on the harp?

Yes! Of course the sound/timber will be different from say the drums and electric guitar on the original but distinctive features of the music are retained (e.g. melody, rhythm and chord structures) to make sure the song recognisable for you and your guests.

I am going for a stylish modern feel, would harp music work in this environment?

Absolutely! The harp can have a reputation for being a bit stuffy and stuck in the ‘Classical’ and ‘Celtic’ genres – but pick your harpist carefully and the world is your oyster…Pop tunes old and new, Jazz, Blues, Bollywood, Show tunes, Film Music and a multitude of other styles from around the world can sound beautiful, exciting and convincing on the harp.

What are your harpist qualifications?

I have trained and performed the harp since my childhood and passing grade 8 harp was just the beginning of my education as a harpist.  With a degree in Music and Masters in performance, PGCE and a PGDip ABRSM I studied at graduate and postgraduate level for 7 years before becoming a full-time free-lance harpist.

What experience performing at weddings do you have?

I have been performing for concerts, weddings and events for over 15 years. For weddings I have thought (and rehearsed!) long and hard to come up with the best ideas I can possible find in order to provide the best music for your wedding day.

Why do harpists prices vary?

Most professional harpists will invite you to make an appointment to hear them play. Check to see if they work full time as a musician, do they offer a varied repertoire how frequently they perform, what is their experience, are they willing to learn new material for you, what type of harps do they have, do they provide amplification, professional looking music stands/seat, are they VAT registered, do they have public liability insurance, is all their electrical equipment PAT tested?

All these factors will affect the quotes you are provided with so just take care and if at all possible hear your harpist before saying yes! If you are delighted by the music and manner then that is perfect!

What type of harp will you bring?

You can see photographs of my harps on my website http://www.harpwales.com/ and also interspersed in pictures on this page, we can have a chat about the harp most suitable to your event, venue and preferences.

I’ve got a recording of my favourite song, can you learn it for me?

Just let me know what it is and I will have a listen and let you know! If I do not already play it and it is at all possible I will learn it for you either from a copy or if one is not available I can make a bespoke arrangement for you on the harp.

Can we hear you play?

Yes of course! Firstly your booking includes a face to face consultation with the harps and myself so you can hear me play and choose the music for your event. Also if you keep an eye on ‘Harpist Shelley Fairplay’ Facebook page I will keep you updated on any open events and concerts I am playing at. If you come along to one please do come and say hello! You can like my page by ‘Like’ on Facebook via: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Harpist-Shelley-Fairplay/328243916599

What equipment do I/Venue need to supply?

A little space is all I require please! Over many years of taking the harp out to perform I have got used to supplying everything, the harp is of course obvious but I will also bring other items needed such as my stool, amplification with leads, battery pack for use with amplifier if no sockets are convenient, music stand, spare strings, sheet music, harp tool kit, stand lighting and various other ‘must haves’ as required.

Are all your items PAT tested?

Yes, all electrical items carry an up to date PAT tested sticker.

Will the harp be heard?

Choose your harpist and their harps carefully depending on the type of event you are planning. In a concert or wedding ceremony setting the pedal or Celtic harp played acoustically will carry well in most venues as there will be little talking and background noise when the music is performed. If you are planning music in the open air, for a drinks reception or during a meal your harpist will need to consider amplification. In general once you are over 50 or so guests in a room a gentle boost from a high quality acoustic instrument amplifier will make sure the sound carries well enough for you and your guest to enjoy. This is very important as otherwise the harp many not be heard.

Can you play outside?

Yes of course! I just have to make sure that the harp is not in direct sunlight as this can cause the wood on instrument to crack. At your event the harp will just need to be set up in the shade created by the side of a building, or under a tree, pergola, parasol or gazebo – basically anything available that will offer a little shelter from direct sunlight. If it is cold, windy or raining it is unlikely your guests will be outside for longer than a few minutes so setting the harp up indoors will be better.

Does amplification affect the sound?

As a gentle boost the harps natural acoustic quality, amplification will have little affect on the sound. If required for the more modern repertoire a little extra sustain can be used to good effect!

How far will you travel?

In theory anywhere if my schedule allows!  The fee quoted to you will include all travel expenses.

Are you VAT registered?

I am not VAT registered; all fees quoted to you are the FULL amount. There will be no extra costs. Do check this when you are booking your musicians as if you are an individual making a booking you can find an extra 20% added to the fee quoted when you book (If you are a VAT registered company you will be able to claim this back).

Does distance affect your fee?

Yes, for example if you would like me to travel a 200mile round trip to play for you this will be factored in to the fee I send over to you when you request a quote.

Do you have public liability insurance?

Yes, as a full member of the musicians union I have public liability insurance of £10m

Will you accompany someone singing?

I work regularly with a professional singer so if you would like a singer at your event we have an ever growing duo repertoire for you to choose from.

If you would like me to accompany someone else I would be delighted to do this if your singer is happy to perform with the harp. The harp is quite different to sing to than a piano/guitar/backing track so we would need to rehearse. I am happy to schedule this on the day of your Wedding/Event/Concert in the venue at no additional cost.

If you would like an additional rehearsal before the day I am happy to hold a rehearsal at my house at a charge of £40 for a session (up to an hour). If you would like me to travel with the harp somewhere to rehearse there would be a charge for the mileage and additional time.

Before we rehearse I will need to have the key (and if available a copy of the sheet music that has been learnt from and/or a recording) of the arrangement you would like– this is so I can make sure what I play is in the correct key and sounds appropriate on the harp.

In a Wedding Ceremony where will you position the harp?

If space permits positioning the harp at the front I highly recommend this option. It is best for the registrars and I to be able to see one another easily to make sure the music flows seamlessly between the spoken words on the day. Also it means your guests can see the beautiful harp and get the best live sound experience on the day(when played at the back or on a balcony guests have been known to remark afterwards that they thought it was recorded harp music!). If you would like the harp at the back of the room we just need to arrange for someone to provide appropriate signals on the day so I know when the bride has reached the front of the Ceremony room, as once everyone has stood up sometimes it is not possible to see! You may find videographers, venues and coordinators will have other opinions regarding the positioning of the harp, but honestly, I play at well over 100 events each year and in my experience the harp at the front of the ceremony room  (when possible) will work best for the smooth running of your wedding ceremony on the big day.

Are you a harpist who plays Bollywood music?

I do indeed have a growing collection of Bollywood music I play on the harp; if you have any special requests do let me know! For examples of songs I currently play please visit http://www.shelleyfairplay.co.uk/themusic/bollywood/

Will you play the harp for all religious ceremonies?

I am always delighted to play the harp for you, just let me know what music you would like to fit with your ceremony and I will play it for you.

What will you wear?

The photos on http://www.harpwales.com/ will give you an idea of the kind of clothes I wear for events; Smart dresses in general. If you have a particular colour scheme or style in mind, do let me know and I will endeavour to fit with this for you. I also have various all black dresses if required.

Do you ever offer harpist discount on your fees?

I am unable to offer discounts on the fees quoted to you.

I only want 10 minutes of music; can you make your fee lower?

The travel time, mileage, preparations, packing and unpacking of equipment, moving of harp and equipment from home then in/out of your venue and back, tuning, communication with regards to arrangements all take the same amount of time whether you would like harp music for 10 minutes or 5 hours and this is reflected in fees quoted to you.

Will you discount for accompanying?

If you would like me to accompanying another musician or singer discounts are not possible.

What does the fee include?

If you request a quote the fee will of course include a harp (unless we specifically agree to have a Celtic harp at your event I will bring one of my pedal harps value up to c£25,000). The fee also covers any other equipment if required – such as a wooden music stand, stool, my sheet music, all general harp maintenance equipment including a full set of spare strings, professional AER amplifier, travel time/costs, consultation, emails/phone calls etc.

I am running an event for a charity; will you come and play for us without charge?

Please contact me as each year, if my diary allows, I perform for a number of charity events keeping fees to a bare minimum or charge expenses only.