I was busking with the harp in a busy pedestrian shopping street in Gloucester today. This street is not the most upmarket, and there’s a huge social mix there, including many who are obviously struggling. But quite near the start, a woman in her sixties was standing next to me and slightly behind, so I couldn’t totally see her from my normal standing position – but she started singing. Reasonably nicely, and quietly enough for me to hear and maybe anyone else standing close by. I wondered if I was going to have to split the proceeds (or if she was going to scare any punters away)!! She was there for about ten minutes, and between tunes she asked me what sort of music I could play, and I’d play a few traditional things which she harmonised with. Just before she left, she said she came from a family where there was always music, but had had a variety of mental health problems over the last five years, following a divorce, and this was the first time she’d sung since. We had a talk about how brave it is to let your voice out in public. She gestured over towards the end of the street and said she could see the sky and the harp, and everything else, all the people, just seemed to vanish. She was so grateful and said how amazing it was that I was there to play today. Her parting words were “Tell your wife you helped someone to sing again”, and shook my hand and thanked me. It made me realise how many people music might help, and that we may never know who, or how, it has helped.

5 thoughts on “Busking

    1. I hope so too. It wasn’t the sort of encounter I was expecting, and it made me realise how one must delay judgement. Tricky in a public place, because you have to be a bit aware of what people are doing around you, but I would not have missed that encounter for the world.

  1. Mark, thank you so much for your rendition of Carolans Farewell to music, presented on youtube; it is one of the most moving pieces I have heard, exquisitely nuanced performance.

    1. Thank you so much, John! I didn’t even know this tune until a visitor to youtube suggested it. I really love that community aspect. Having looked at the melody and tried it out on the harp, I let it “brew” for a long time before deciding how to arrange it. Given the title (and the story behind it) I wanted to treat it with respect!

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