Liehsja - harpist, composer, arranger
Liehsja has played the harp for 22 years. As a child she lived in Scotland. This was a happy time filled with Gaelic songs, hill walking, and searching for ancient stone circles. At 9 years old she began Celtic Harp lessons with Scottish harpist, Anne Macdearmid. On moving to Sussex four years later, Liehsja was taught by Sussex harpist Helen Arnold. She was able to begin studying the Concert Harp thanks to a County Music Service Scholarship, kindly arranged by Helen, and in 1998 she achieved Distinction at Grade 8.
Her decision to apply for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Music at Keele University was a reflection of Liehsja's love for music and the written word. During this time she took lessons with Robert Johnson, a teacher at the Birmingham Conservatoire, and then Thelma Owen, from the Royal Academy of Music. Liehsja made her debut playing the Debussy Danses which she performed with Keele Philharmonic Orchestra in Paris and across Brittany. She graduated in 2003 with a First in Harp Performance.
Liehsja's playing has taken her to many countries across Europe and as far afield as China and the Unites States. Closer to home, she has played in cottages, marquees, village halls, mansions, cafes, hotels, churches, castles, the Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena, Kensington Palace, Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, London's Carlton Towers Hotel, and the Cafe Royal.
She has collaborated with the Pericles Theatre Company since 2000, and written music for five major productions to date. The Children of Lir (2000), Bench (2005), Woman (2006), Pericles (2008), and The Nightingale (2009).
Liehsja has arranged a number of tunes composed by the seventeenth-century blind Irish harper, Turlough O'Carolan. Her interest in this extraordinary music led her to join the Cambridge Music of the Heart Conference in 2005, where she collaborated with Brian Keenan, author of Turlough. Brian shared his experiences as a hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, and his connection to the Irish harper O'Carolan. Fellow contributors were Sir John Tavener and Nigel Osborne. The inter-disciplinary nature of the conference brought heart surgeons, artists and musicians together to share their knowledge and promote a more holistic approach to understanding the organ of the heart.
Love the Earth
In November 2010 Liehsja joined the Docklands Sinfonia at the Royal Albert Hall to perform music composed and conducted by Imogen Heap for her 'Love the Earth' project.
Liehsja performed her compositions at Wembley Arena in 2006 for an event to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace. Other collaborators included Ruby Wax, Tania Bryer, and Robin Gibb (Bee Gees).
She has played in many bands over the years. Andrew Norman and the Blaxland Sisters headlined at the Chiddinglye Folk Festival in 2004, and the following year Liehsja and Eoni supported the Irish singer Niamh Parsons at the White Hart. In 2006, Wasps in the Woodshed, a celtic band, supported Last Night's Fun at the Hailsham Pavilion in Sussex. Later the same year, Liehsja formed a duo with French harper Francois Pernel and travelled the UK with their Contemporary Celtic Harp Tour. They performed a series of 21 concerts of O'Carolan arrangements and Liehsja's compositions to a range of audiences, including children and adults with special needs.
Liehsja's solo album Reflection (2006) is a collection of original compositions and O'Carolan arrangements. Wasps in the Woodshed released their album entitled Polly's Night Out in 2009. The line-up is fiddle, whistle, harp, uilleann pipes, mandolin, mandola, guitar, didgeridoo, vocals, bodhran and djembe.
Liehsja has recently completed a Masters Degree in English Literature at Sussex University. Her particular interest lies in the theme of the Imagination, with reference to the Romantic poet, philosopher, and lecturer Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the twentieth-century thinker Owen Barfield. Liehsja draws on this knowledge in her composition work, and teaching practice.