The Girl with the Golden Harp

Claire Jones, Britain’s best-selling classical harpist and former Official Harpist to HRH Prince Charles will be playing for us in St James’s Church Bramley on Thursday 13 June 2019.

You would have thought that once you had performed 180 times for the Royal Family, including one-to-one for Her Majesty the Queen, had played for the celebrity guests at Prince William’s wedding and performed in front of 75,000 people in the Millennium Stadium, playing in our little church wouldn’t really be top of your list of priorities. But you would be wrong.  We were delighted when Claire Jones contacted us in 2017 to ask if she could come back to perform at the Bramley and Little London Music Festival. She first performed here in 2015 and was keen to come back as she had “thoroughly enjoyed performing for you”.  Well, that wasn’t a difficult decision. She had been such a hit last time that we said yes almost immediately.

This time she will be accompanied by her husband, Chris Marshall, who joined her for an impromptu performance back in 2015. Chris is a percussionist and composer who has appeared and recorded with many prestigious orchestras and artists and has performed on numerous productions in London’s West End.

Life since Bramley 2015

Claire has had a busy few years since she last came to Bramley, performing around the world with tours in the USA and concerts in Lisbon, Italy and Canada. She has released several albums including This Love which reached number 1 in the classical music charts. In 2016 she was awarded an honorary Associateship from the Royal Academy of Music in London for her significant contribution to her profession Hopefully she celebrated with a few baubles from jewelry company, Clogau, for whom she is an international ambassador. Nice work if you can get it! Somehow, she has also managed to fit in having a baby, giving birth to her daughter Cadi in February 2017.

Personal struggles

With a career like that you would have thought Claire had everything, but when her appointment as Prince Charles’ Royal Harpist still had a year to run she started experiencing extreme pain and fatigue and in 2013 she was diagnosed with the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Claire says her diagnosis left her shell-shocked: ‘Two years earlier I had played at the Royal Wedding, and had lots of big, exciting projects in the pipeline. I was so excited about the future, but suddenly so scared. I honestly thought I’d never be able to play the harp again.  Looking back, I was running at 110mph and I think my body couldn’t keep up. It was telling me to slow down…’ Fortunately, after three months of effectively being house-bound, Claire began to notice improvements and after 18 months ‘felt like a new person’ as we saw when she joined us in 2015.  Her album, Journey, was inspired by her fight with ME and topped the classical charts in 2015.

What’s in store for Bramley 2019?

Well, judging from the music Claire and Chris have recorded, it could be anything from Game of Thrones to Pachelbel’s Canon. Claire’s album Screen Serenade included music from Pirates of the Caribbean and Downton Abbey while This Love included well known classical pieces such as Shostakovich’s Romance from The Gadfly as well as Across the Stars from Star Wars Attack of the Clones. Chris meanwhile has worked on many West End productions including We Will Rock You, Wizard of Oz, Carousel, West Side Story, Evita, and Elf the Musical. He has a passion for playing instruments from all around the world so it will be interesting to see what he brings to Bramley. I’m guessing they won’t be coming on the train!

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