Music was always around Wendy’s house in Edinburgh. Her father played accordion (not traditional but 1940s popular music) and loved listening to Scottish dance bands, Russian choirs and Gaelic psalm singing on the radio.
Her first instrument was a little plastic ukele (George Formby repertoire!) and she nearly took up classical guitar, influenced by hearing Segovia. However, when her sister Penny brought a Morley small harp or clarsach home in the mid 60s – bought from Bill Smith of the original Corrie Folk Trio – Wendy knew by the feel and sound that this was her instrument.
Lessons with the great teacher Jean Campbell followed, a nurturing learning environment which, by reflection, taught her much of her skills as a real educator. Support from Jean and her parents allowed her to gain confidence in performance through the camaraderie of the regular Clarsach Society gatherings. Appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe, learning to accompanying fantastic Gaelic singers and competing in the National Mod, all gave her invaluable experience. Her wonderful teacher bought her her first harp, an early Sanderson and Taylor, model number 4.
James Gillespie’s High School for Girls was, at the time, more enamoured of the classical route to musical excellence , so Wendy kept her harping talent for extra curricular activities on the whole, with summer holidays spent working and playing in and around Assynt and the northern highlands.
Her fascination with its pure, clear sound, brought her to take up the English concertina at this time – a wonderful contrast to the harp as it is small, loud, fully chromatic and has to be sent away for tuning.
In 1976, after completing a Science degree in Zoology and Psychology, (great for handling certain musical types !) Wendy’s musical horizons broadened through a move to North West England. There she enjoyed involvement in the strong session scene and membership of many bands, notably Donal Maguire’s Occasional Band playing Irish and French repertoire and Fat Hen, delighting in Swedish, English, Welsh and Cajun. While in Lancaster she acquired her beautiful, mellow harp made by friend Paul Guppy.
Returning to Edinburgh in 1990 with husband Alan and two wee boys, she joined the established band Ceolbeg, whose sound developed to combine Highland pipes, electro harp, synth, drums and the fantastic vocals of, initially Davy Steele and subsequently, Rod Paterson. She toured the UK, Germany and North America with them and recorded 4 CDs.
She continues her Ceolbeg connection in a unique pairing of harp – acoustic and electro – and pipes – small and great – with Gary West. Hinterlands is their first CD on their own label.
Now living in rural Nithsdale, Wendy performs at many events and runs regular workshops in both her local area and around the UK. Having recorded 3 solo Cds and produced 3 books of music, she is developing a range of teaching books with accompanying Cds to help the student harper even further.
She has a flock of light, bright Bohemian harps for hire or use in workshops and, with acclaimed songmaker and music educator, Ali Burns, she is developing ideas for combining harp and community choir courses under the title Band of Song.
Wendy has been a principal tutor of Scottish Harp at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow since its BA Scottish Music Degree course was established. She both contributed to and examines for the Traditional Music Grade Exam programme run by the Academy and accredited by the ABRSM.
When not playing the harp Wendy loves walking the dogs……and gardening.