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Ten Questions with Harriet Bartlett (Issue 60 - Jan / Feb 2005)

Harriet Bartlett has been performing at festivals, folk clubs and theatres for the past 4 years, playing Celtic music on the Piano Accordion. She has won numerous awards for her music including the coveted Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections 2003. Since releasing her critically acclaimed debut album 'Eyes Wide Open' in January 2004, Harriet has appeared on the BBC Radio Shropshire Folk Programme as well as performing live on the Andy Kershaw show on BBC Radio 3. All this and she's still only seventeen. Harriet kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer the following Living Tradition questions.

LT: Which album is currently playing on your stereo?

HB: I have one of those clever random playing CD players. On it at the moment is Susan McKeown, Flook (ace band), John McCusker, Mike McGoldrick and Findlay MacDonald. All heavenly listening.

LT: Have you seen a live act recently that you have been particularly impressed with and why?

HB: Johnny Kalsi & The Dhol Foundation at Cambridge Folk Festival. I would love to do a spot with them. They're absolutely fantastic.

LT: Do you have an early memory that would explain why you chose to go down the traditional music route?

HB: Being dragged from festival to festival as a child. It was an eye opener after Magic Roundabout and Andy Pandy! I think I was about 8 before I thought "I'd like to do this".

LT: What was the first traditional or folk related album you ever bought and what drew you towards that recording?

HB: The Two Duos Quartet - Half as Happy as We (Karen Tweed, Andy Cutting, Chris Wood and Ian Carr). I thought they were a fantastic group of musicians and I was really sad when they stopped doing stuff together. It was a collaboration of very gifted people and now sadly missed.

LT: Who are your main musical influences from any genre?

HB: This goes way back to Silly Wizard, Planxty, Relativity, Karen Tweed & Ian Carr and Ian Lowthian & Catriona MacDonald - Ian is absolutely fantastic on accordion.

LT: Which musicians dead or alive would you most like or would have liked to perform with on stage?

HB: Johnny Cunningham. He was such a talented person in every way. I'd heard so much about him and looked forward to meeting him and having some tunes. On hearing of his death, it inspired a slow air I wrote for his namesake, and I've got to say I'm moved even now when I play it as it reflects my feelings at that time.

If you have one, what is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you whilst playing live?

HB: Very recently at Bedworth Folk Festival, I totally lost the tune. There was a good reason for this. The festival coincided with the celebrations of switching on the Christmas lights, and right outside the gig they had fireworks - which basically took place through the whole of my performance. It's very hard to play a reel in 4/4, when the fireworks were banging in 5/4, 7/8 and 3/2! I totally lost it - I was listening to them and thinking "I bet they're good!". It was very unprofessional of me but I think very excusable!

LT: What do you least like about the folk scene and why?

HB: I really can't think of anything. I've always felt loved, cosseted and nurtured in every way. One thing that did get me rattled was the proposed "2 in a bar" legislation, which meant that informal sessions couldn't take place if the public house didn't have a performing license. Unfortunately this would spell the end for many sessions. Letís live and let live. Let music be alive.

LT: What kind of career do you see yourself doing in 20 years time? And do you hope that playing music will remain a major aspect of this?

HB: I don't hope... it will be. Even if I'm poor in the future. I couldn't imagine life doing anything else. Music has always been my life and I'm not ashamed to say that.

LT: And finally, if you were Prime Minister for the day, what one policy would you implement?

HB: A celebration day of Folk Music and tax exemption for folk musicians. I wrote this in my letter to Santa. What do you think my chances are of getting it? :-)