An insight into the Cherry Stone Duo

Throughout the few years that we have been playing together, we have performed various exciting gigs all across the country. No matter where we play, we tend to get similar questions asked so we thought we would collate them into one blog post to answer our most frequently asked questions, just in case you were wondering the same thing!

 

Q1: How were you inspired to start learning your respective instruments?

Emily: For me, like many young girls, I was transfixed by the harp as a little girl. As the daughter of a violin teacher I was already a keen instrumentalist but felt a gravitation towards the harp. The turning point for me was when I went on a family holiday to Wales and we saw the rehearsal of an orchestra (maybe the Welsh National Opera?) in St. David’s Cathedral. My mum encouraged me to go and talk to the harpist when she was on her break which lead to me playing twinkle twinkle little star on her glorious concert pedal harp in the middle of the cathedral. From that day forwards, I was an unstoppable force and managed to convince my parents that I NEEDED to play the harp.

 

Will: My Dad, when I was growing up, owned an old acoustic guitar. He would play and sing from time to time and when he did I was in awe of the wonderful sound from the instrument. One Christmas I was the lucky recipient of my very first guitar and I am pleased to say that nearly 15 years later I am definitely a better player than my Dad…!

 

Q2: Why are you called the Cherry Stone Duo?

There are multiple reasons as to why we settled on this name; we wanted to find something that was catchy and easy to remember but also something that held some significance to us as individuals as well as a duo. The name took inspiration from an A. A. Milne poem ‘Cherry Stones’ which we felt perfectly encapsulated everything we had been looking for – see our first ever blog to read the full story and poem.

 

Q3: How did the duo start and how long have you been playing together?

In September 2018, when we were both fresh faced first year conservatoire students, we played together in ‘alternative orchestra’; a large ensemble with an obscure mixture of instruments. A selection of these included recorders, accordions, saxophones and, you guessed it, classical guitars and harps.  It didn’t take long for Will to approach me with the suggestion of starting a duet together. After apprehensively agreeing, we started to play through a few pieces of music. Once we started collecting music there was no stopping us and we eagerly found piece after piece and here we still are today, absolutely loving the duet and the crazy music that we find and arrange!

 

Q4: How do you find pieces/decide on pieces to be arranged

An ensemble comprising of harp and guitar is not the most common thing, therefore we have had to search far and wide for music (sometimes farther and wider than others). To begin with, a simple search on Spotify for harp and guitar set us up with quite a few pieces. After this we have had to be more inventive and find composers on Facebook and through other contacts to find gems of pieces that are hidden away.  I am also lucky enough to have Will in the ensemble who is a fantastic composer and arranger. In terms of arrangements, we enjoy sitting down every so often and listening to lots of pieces of music and wondering how transferable it is to the instruments, see our last blog post for more details.

 

Q5: How do you transport the harp?

Admittedly, a lot of questions we get are directed towards the harp…the most famous one being about the logistics of travelling with a harp. Unfortunately, the harp cannot be taken apart to fit Ikea-style in the back of a car. We tend to use taxi’s and hitch a lift with friends for gigs that are further afield. Each harpist has their own technique for getting it into their car, but generally you just need an estate sized car and to put the seats down in the back and slide the harp in on its side. Occasionally we have to get creative if the car is a bit smaller…but we have squeezed it into spaces you wouldn’t believe! (See below a picture of my harp in a precarious position in a tiny car….)

 

Q6: How do you manage the difference of volume and timbre between the instruments?

The harp is obviously a much bigger instrument than the guitar which comes with many challenges, one of which is that the harp has the potential to be a lot louder than the guitar. Whilst this is true as a restrictive factor, it also opens lots of doors as to the repertoire we can play. Many of the pieces we play are written with the knowledge of the difference between the instruments and accommodates it by carefully choosing dynamic markings and textures that adjust for the differences between the instruments. Having the two instruments together opens up the range of timbres we can explore, for example, the harp can reach some really resonant bass notes that the guitar can’t. Equally, something we really enjoy about the combination is that sometimes you can’t tell who is playing because it sounds so similar. So simply, just being conscious of the sound you are creating together stops the harp from playing over the guitar.

 

Thanks for reading, if you have any more questions about the duet or either of our instruments, please get in contact with us!

We hope you are staying safe and well.

 

Emily,

The Cherry Stone Duo

 

 

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