Eliza Bourgault - Musician

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Gig: Opening of the Purslowe & Chipper Funerals Home in Rockingham

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on June 27, 2019 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

A few years ago, I played the harp for a funeral. It was my first time providing music for this kind of event and I remember being very moved by the service and the occasion. Bringing the gentle sounds of the harp was really special to me to create an atmosphere of peace for the people at the service.

So when the opportunity came to play background music on the harp for the opening of a funeral home in Rockingham, I grabbed it despite it being some distance from where I live ...!

The opening of the Rockingham funeral home was on the 27th of June, 2019. There was a lot of rain and wind that day but I managed to get the harp in and out of the car without it getting wet!

I played music - a mixture of classical pieces by Bach, Schumann, Handel and other composers, as well as pieces from Christina Tourin's Illuminations, and a bunch of other repertoire - as the guests arrived. At 2.15pm the official proceedings started, which included a heartfelt welcome to country. I returned to the harp to play for another hour and a half or so during the cocktails.

The new facility in Rockingham is truly delightful, modern, spacious, bright, but also homely. I was also pleasantly surprised by the acoustics. The harp really resonated well in the space especially the high register.


Function: Rotary Club of Nedlands Changeover

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on June 20, 2019 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)

On the evening of the 20th of June, I was booked to play background music for the office-bearers changeover of the Nedlands Rotary Club. As a Rotarian myself, I was so happy to use my vocation and skills as a musician for an organisation close to my heart.

The three-course dinner was held at the Nedlands Bowling Club. I began playing at 6.30pm whilst the club members and their guests arrived. At 7.00pm the formal proceedings happened with a few speeches and traditions. I played again some music once people had finished eating their entrées and were waiting for the main course.

I played a mix of contemporary and classical music, and I also sang some songs. I received very positive feedback from various people.

I wish to thank president Steve for having me, and also to congratulate him on finishing up his year of being club president.


Setting up a functional music practice room

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on April 13, 2019 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We've all heard the old adage that "practice makes perfect" but have you ever considered how the environment may affect your practice? Is your music room promoting productive practice habits or is stopping you in your tracks? In this article I offer a few basic tips on how to organise and set up your practice room to optimise your environment for music practice.


1. Have an actual music room

For some, this can be easier said than done. The basic idea behind this is that you are creating physical boundaries for where the music practice takes place. Once you walk in, you should go into practice mode. When you walk out, you can do whatever you like. Ensuring you only have music-related items in the room will help minimise non-musical distractions.


2. Make sure there is enough light

Don't make "it's too dark to see the music!" an excuse for not practising. Ensure you have enough light to see properly as you don't want to strain your eyes.


3. Make sure the room is neither too cold nor too stuffy

If the room is too cold you might find that your fingers don't move with as much ease and flexibility as usual (you might need to spend some more time warming up). If the room is too hot that could also cause issues. Having windows, a heater, fan or air-con to regulate the temperature of the room is excellent. Ideally the temperature of the room should be fairly constant for the instruments anyway.


4. Devise an organised way of putting away your music

There is nothing more annoying than having to spend 20minutes looking for a piece of music! For the budding musician, this may not be an issue. However more advanced musicians who have collected a stack of music from years of learning will benefit greatly from finding a way to file away music. I put away my music books in cardboard boxes. I have boxes for grades 1-3 music; grades 4-6 music; advanced grades; technical work; aural & theory; & wedding music. This is just an idea. You could organise your music in alphabetical order by the name of the composer, as long as you can remember the composer's name!


5. Have pencils & erasers handy

Again this is something that may sound insignificant but can make a huge difference. We might need to notate something on the music - fingering, timing, expression markings, pedal diagrams. But if we have nothing to write these in, there is the possibility we might just stop to practice because we can't be bothered getting a pencil. By having a few pencils around the music room, this issue is solved! Other items I highly recommend are: eraser, sharpener (unless you use a mechanical pencil), coloured pencils if you like to use colour. Avoid using pens as pen markings are difficult to remove. A ruler is also handy if you photocopy music and the staff has been cut off at the edges.


6. Make sure your chair is appropriate to your height & instrument

This is crucial for good posture and making sure we don't injure ourselves. If you sit too low at the harp, the harp will weigh a tonne on your body. Having an adjustable chair is the best way to go so that you can adjust the height of the chair as you grow.


7. Have all tuning equipment close by.

Similarly to having pencils handy, you want to be able to have your tuning equipment (tuning key, chromatic tuner) close by so that if you notice your harp is really out of tune and it is putting you off, it will only take a short moment to fix it. So the good old "out of tune" excuse doesn't work!


8. Keep your notebook from your lessons open on your music stand/piano.

Forgot what your homework was? It should be written in your lesson notebook. Keeping it open ensures you check you are getting the set homework completed.


9. Invest in a metronome

Eventually you might be required to do a bit of practice with a metronome, a musician's best friend and worst enemy! Metronomes help us to play in time and not rush or slow down. It helps us identify areas in our pieces where we hesitate. It doesn't mean all your practice should be done with a metronome but it is a useful tool especially in the lead up to performances. Investing in a metronome is therefore a good idea. You can either buy one from a local music store, order one online, or these days you can download metronome apps. Google also has a metronome, so there are a lot of free options.


10. Avoid distractions

So that means: turn off mobile phones, turn down (or off) the tv. Anything that can ring will make it that much more difficult to focus.


I hope these 10 tips help! If you try some or all of these out, I'd love to hear if you notice any difference in your practice!

New video: Perfect by Ed Sheeran

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on April 13, 2019 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I have added a new video to my Youtube channel: a harp cover of Perfect by Ed Sheeran.

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Wedding at Caversham House

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 24, 2019 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Weddings are some of my favourite events at which to play the harp. It is always such a joyful event - and at times weddings can be pretty emotional, too!

Yesterday (Saturday March 23rd, 2019), I was booked to play for the wedding ceremony and pre-reception. The wedding was located at the beautiful Caversham House in the Swan Valley. As a wedding harpist, I have played at numerous different venues and locations - restaurants, public parks, wineries, resorts - and I have to say that Caversham has to be one of my ultimate favourite wedding venues. The gardens are always meticulously and perfectly trimmed. It's so quiet and peaceful, and so green. The huge staircase down at the Hidden Gardens looks like it's right out of a fairytale! That said, it is not the easiest venue from a harpist's perspective (but at least there is a long ramp to get the harp down to the garden).

Caversham House is a pretty spacious estate and it was my first time yesterday playing up at the Marquee Wedding space (as opposed to the Hidden Gardens).

I set up the harp in the shade and provided some background music whilst the guests arrived. The ceremony begun a little later than planned. I played three songs for the processional: Thousand Years for the first two bridesmaids; All of Me for the next two; and I finished off with Wagner's Bridal March when the bride arrived.

During the sand ceremony, I played Tale as Old as Time and Perfect by Ed Sheeran; and during the signing of the register, Elvis' timeless Can't Help Falling in Love With You.

And already, all the formal requirements of the wedding ceremony were completed, so it was time for the newlyweds to walk down the aisle. Taylor Swift's "Love Story" on the harp accompanied their first steps as a married couple.

I remained another hour and a half to play some background music during the pre-reception drinks and nibbles.


Plainchant

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 9, 2019 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

An objective of my studies to become a certified harp therapist is to be able to play and improvise in a variety of musical genres, from classical to contemporary, movie music to jazz and even oriental music. A genre that I focused on recently is plainchant. Here is a video of my own arrangement of the plainchant Victimae Paschali Laudes:

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Plainchant is an ancient sacred singing tradition, dating from medieval times. Usually, the chants would be passed down aurally, as opposed to being written down, since the musical notation system we use today was not in place back then. A medieval composer by the name of Guido of Arezzo eventually devised a way of notating chants, using a staff comprising of four lines. The different pitches would be represented by black squares (called neumes) (see video below).

Plainchant has a number of musical characteristics that make it quite distinct from other types of music. First and foremost is that it is generally monophonic. Monophonic is a term which describes the texture (or number of musical lines) that make up a piece of music. As the prefix “mono-” means one, monophonic means that the music is made up of a single musical line: the chant itself. All singers sing the same melody and there is no accompaniment or other musical line backing up the chant. It can be rather unusual to hear unaccompanied singing these days:


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Another characteristic of plainchant is that it tends to be based on the musical modes. In music we have at least seven different modes; the ionian and the aeolian are the two most common (being the major and minor modes respectively). The chant I performed on the harp in the video above is in the dorian mode, meaning that is like a minor scale but with a raised sixth scale degree. Plainchant has a distinctive musical sound and flavour from the use of those modes.

 

Interestingly enough, plainchant does have an association with therapy. In the Abbeye de Cluny in France, monks used to sing these chants to people who were dying. The musical qualities of plainchants can be beneficial in therapeutic settings: for some people, plainchant will sound unfamiliar and thus will not be associated with any emotions. They can therefore focus on the sound and relax into it. As the rhythm of plainchant is usually quite free-flowing rather than strict, the speed at which to play each phrase can guide or reflect a person's breathing.

 

I hope you found this short article about plainchant interesting!

How long should my child practise for?

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 6, 2019 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Some kids willingly go to their instruments and take their own initiative regarding their music practice. For others, practice seems to be a chore, and it is not always easy to get them to play their instrument. As a teacher, I can easily see which students have put in the work over the week, and I can just as easily see when no progress has been made. In this article, I will outline the importance of music practice, provide some general guidelines regarding how long a child should practise their instrument, and finally offer some tips for parents.

First, let me give you an overview of what I mean when I write about practice.

  • Playing their set pieces and exercises at their instrument. Each lesson I write goals for the following lesson to do with a piece/pieces and technical exercises. I do expect students to sit at their instrument and work their way towards achieving those goals.
  • Practising away from the instrument. A lot can be achieved away from the instrument! Visualising movements; studying the written music (and writing letter names or fingerings), “air-practice” or practising on a table; completing theory homework; doing research about the pieces being played; listening to music … the list goes on!

So why is practising important anyway?

  • Fairly obviously, progress can only happen with practice. It is through regular practice that the notes and sounds of a piece of music become more ingrained in our ears; that our muscles begin to know what to do without us having to think too hard about them. Practising exercises and technical work improves playing technique and enables us to learn increasingly difficult repertoire.
  • Practising shows us our weaknesses – and our strengths. Where does your child get stuck in a piece of music, and most importantly, why? Is it reading the note that is the issue, or something about playing the note? Is it making sense of the rhythm? There will always be challenges when practising; otherwise nothing new will ever be learnt. My job as a teacher is to guide the student through the challenging parts of learning how to read and play music.
  • Practising can promote creativity. Just sitting at the instrument, playing a few notes, maybe an exercise, and using a little musical motive to create own compositions.
  • Developing the life skill of discipline. Music practice can show the benefits of being disciplined with a task and a goal. When the effort has been put in and an objective has been reached, it should feel good, and be celebrated.


As for how long a child should practise, it is unrealistic to expect a definitive answer as it depends on a number of factors, such as the energy levels of the child at the time of practice, when practice is being done, the attention-span of the child, their age, their knowledge of music … when I was teaching at MLC, the music department recommended to parents that in their first year of learning, kids should practise 10mins a day; in their 2nd year, 20mins; in their 3rd, 30-40mins. I would add that these are minimum guidelines, and children should always be encouraged to practise for longer. Furthermore, any upcoming performances, auditions or exams are likely to require more work.


In my experience of learning two instruments and teaching a number of students, I would advise that shorter but regular practice yields better results than the occasional very long practice. Furthermore, I would recommend dividing practice time into segments spread throughout the day. In the case of children, perhaps 5-10mins in the morning before school, and 5-10mins after school.


Lastly, it is not so much the time that counts but the quality of the practice. Mindlessly repeating a piece or an exercise just for the sake of it is not going to be as effective as being fully engaged in the listening of the music being made. Making sure the correct fingering is being used, that the right note is being played, that it's at the right dynamic and speed, and that our fingers and hands and posture are appropriate, are all elements of what constitutes engaged practice.


As a parent, I highly encourage you to be as involved as you can with your child's musical practice, although less so for the more mature students. Here are some things to watch out for, and some tips for helping your kid fill your home with their music:

  • Help them plan their practice session. Before they even start playing, look through their lesson notebook and ask them what they want to work on for the next couple of minutes. Hold them accountable. When they are done with their practice, ask them how they went. Maybe even ask them to play the piece or exercise for you.
  • If you notice they are struggling, ask them questions about the issue and encourage them to find the answer. If the issue persists, simply get them to write it down in the book for me to read at the lesson and go over it with them.
  • Learn the title of their pieces and occasionally ask them to play it for you.
  • Record their playing over a few days to track their progress (but do it only if they want to!)
  • Remind them of the importance of persistence. It takes time and work to get things right!
  • If you notice they are not particularly focused, suggest they take a break and come back later when they are feeling more refreshed and energised.
  • Ask them to explain to you musical concepts about their pieces or theory. Ask them to teach you the song they are learning. It is said that if you cannot teach something, it means you do not understand it!
  • Have a rewards system for their musical practice, but avoid negative reinforcement. This could be having play time or free time after playing for 5 or 10mins.
  • Pay attention to what they enjoy playing and what they don't. As a teacher I do try to balance my own goals as a teacher with the student's ambitions and the parents' expectations, which is not always easy. Feel free to discuss with me if you notice anything about your child's practice which may help me in my teaching.
  • The 2-minute rule: if they really don't feel like playing today, try convincing them by saying that they only need to play for two minutes. Set a timer if necessary. Two minutes can sometimes evolve into 5, and 10!
  • Have a clean and quiet practicing environment. If there are a lot of distractions around, is it realistic to expect your child to concentrate and engage with their music? Turn off tvs and devices, make sure there is space and that all music and books required are easily in reach.
  • Provide structure by having a set time each day for musical practice.

I hope this article helps in promoting healthy and productive practice sessions at your home with your child.

Wedding

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 20, 2016 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I was lucky and privileged to play for a wedding this early afternoon.

The groom's brother contacted me this week to ask if I'd be happy to play for the wedding, 10min of background music, plus a special request for the processional. I was more than happy to!

The venue was Willow Pond Garden in Canning Vale. It is a very pretty garden, but I have to say I was slightly afraid of the harp falling in the water when crossing the bridge!

After setting up, I played my usual background music repertoire, which included both classical pieces and popular tunes.The special request was "Ballad of the Goddess" from Zelda, which is this really cool-sounding, celtic-ish melody!

Congratulations to the bride & groom, was a pleasure playing music for you and your guests!


Harp gathering

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 19, 2016 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On the 13th of March was the first annual harp gathering of the year for the WA Harp Society. All the members of the society were invitedd to attend, and about 20 people showed up, with another 20 or so making up an audience. We played 9 ensemble pieces, and a smaller group of harpists also performed 2 songs. The theme was St Patrick's so we were all told to dress up in green; also, the pieces were mostly celtic tunes (although we played the theme of Game of Thrones!). I was put in charge of leading the whole group, which was both slightly nerve-racking, but also very fun! At the end of the session, I performed an original song, "My Little Bird".

Photos: WA Harp Society




WACO Season 2

Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 6, 2016 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

The second season of WACO was fun, rewarding, exciting, and very successful!!! For this season, WACO supported Guide Dogs WA and we managed to raise (brace yourself) $19 000!!!

I only performed in two pieces. The first was Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. There was a second harpist so it was great to have some company during rehearsals and on stage! I also featured in Samuel Parry's own arrangement of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

Well done to everyone involved, and I'd like to say my thanks to whoever attended one of our concerts - the support is very much appreciated.


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