Gabriella Jones, harpist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I always say that it was an accident that I ended up being a professional musician, though the only reason I am is that I would feel incomplete without music being a part of my life and that has always driven me. I am very blessed to have so many inspirational colleagues who guide and inspire me daily.

I met two musicians during a concert series in the Hebrides who are a constant source of inspiration to me in my career. Violinist Katrina Lee and Cellist Alice Allen are incredibly distinguished musicians in their own right but formed a duo named GAIA to commission and promote works by under-represented voices within the classical music world. They are both trailblazers and incredible musicians. I am inspired by their willingness to bring innovation with their programming and pioneering approach to their music-making, it helps that they are the most wonderful effervescent people too!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

One of my most memorable performances was for Southbank Centre’s SoundState Festival at the Purcell Room. This was in conjunction with the Park Lane Group. I premiered my first commission (support from Park Lane Group and RVW Trust) by Deborah Pritchard named ‘Seraphim’, as well as Harrison Birtwistle’s ‘Crowd’. This concert was a very special and proud moment for me as it had been promoted by the late John Woolf (founder and chair of PLG) who had been one of the first people in my professional career to promote the harp on a concert platform and give me access to huge concert platforms. I had many supporters at this concert and was told after my performance that Birtwistle had also attended – an unforgettable experience.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

The music I perform best is often the music that I am the most connected with; whether that be pieces I have arranged or transcribed or worked on with a composer. When I transcribe I feel it is important to listen to the texture and colours that the composer wrote for the intended instrument and I always feel a deep sense of responsibility to bring this onto the harp and do the composer’s intentions justice. The process of composing or transcribing is always a long one of many drafts and so when it comes to the performances I always feel very connected and passionate about giving my most to the performance after all the work that has gone into the process.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Though I have never played a concert at this venue, I have had the pleasure of recording here: Fitzrovia Chapel in Central London is a stunning chapel surrounded by new-build apartments and the bustle of Oxford Street is just a few minutes away. The chapel was finished in 1892 and took more than 25 years to build; its red brick exterior protects an interior of 17 types of marble. It has been restored to something no less than a work of art. It is a sight to behold and the acoustics are intimate for the performer but resonant for the listener. It really is a hidden gem of the city.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

One of my most memorable concert experiences was at the 2022 BBC Proms ‘Earth Prom.’ I attended to watch some friends play in BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, expecting a regular concert experience but I was totally captivated and enthralled by the world-famous footage filmed by David Attenborough accompanied by musical works by Hans Zimmer, Sarah Class and Murray Gold. It was an absolutely break-taking evening of live music by fabulous musicians and stunning audio-visual of our natural world. Truly unforgettable.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

If I were to try to define success as a whole across my career it would be impossible. I like to look at small successes. During a recital, if I have communicated my music with the audience this is a huge success for me. Taking risks in performance is always daunting but can also be the most rewarding. I always think about an enlightening article I read, in conversation with violinist Christian Tetzlaff who said “Armour might save you some pain, but as a musician you become meaningless. Many soloists go onstage invincible and impeccable, but not communicating about the composer and the music’s emotion. The look-at-me attitude is the last thing our music should have. One should not go onstage with this idea of being adored. It takes away all the essential qualities of the music.”
(Full article: musical-life-without-armor/)

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

Listen. Be inquisitive. Never give up.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

Something that we talk about but isn’t taken seriously enough is the importance of accessibility to classical music. I was brought up in the South Wales valleys of limited means and discovered music through free music lessons. My childhood was filled with musical activities where I met lifelong friends, learnt discipline and teamwork, and performed around the world. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my local music centre and the dedicated team of teachers that supported my development. I think it’s important to acknowledge that no matter your class, ethnicity, religion or circumstance music is for everyone and can have an enormous impact on individuals and society.

Recent major and devastating cuts made by Arts Council England putting many large musical organisations at risk. These professional institutions are less likely to run quality education and outreach projects limiting accessibility to classical music. It is worrying that an already underfunded music education system is now being let down and unacknowledged. The UK’s music culture is a vital part of society and should be supported at a grass roots level.

Gabriella Jones performs with Corra Sound at their concert She is the River on Saturday 3 December at St Nicolas church, Guildford. Info/tickets here

Gabriella Jones, an award-winning harpist, has built a reputation as a concert harpist across the United Kingdom. Gabriella graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance with a First Class Honours degree with Distinction and has since pursued a varied career regularly performing in major concert halls and venues and working with prominent British composers.

As a Park Lane Group Young Artist 2018-20 Gabriella made her Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre solo debut. From 2020 Gabriella will be a Selected Artist for Making Music UK. Winner of the City Livery Club Music Prize 2018, John Marson Harp Prize 2017/18 and Finalist at the Camac International Harp Competition 2019, Gabriella has recently finished her studies as a Leverhulme Scholar at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, under the tutorship of Gabriella Dall’Olio. During her studies, Gabriella made her solo debut at St-Martin-in-the-Fields. Gabriella has performed critically acclaimed recitals including those at Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

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