Observations: The harpist who took the royal cake


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The Independent Culture

It might be unusual for a harpist to receive wedding gifts from Prince Charles, be the face of a jewellery line selling gold necklaces costing £2,650, and pluck a £35,000 Salvi gold harp at home.

But Claire Jones, 27, who looks as well groomed as a pop star, is the former Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales, and performed at Kate and William's wedding last year. As the couple returned to Buckingham Palace following their marriage ceremony, Jones was perched, performing on the royal harp, between the wedding cake and William's chocolate cake. This honour elevated her and the harp to the same cult status as designer Sarah Burton, who made the dress.

“In the harp world, there are big names, like Marisa Robles, but not names people off the street would know,” says Jones. “I'm introducing the harp to the masses. It hasn't been done before.”

Jones is getting married today to musician/composer Chris Marshall, who arranged her new album, and will wear a dress by David Emanuel, the same designer who made Princess Diana's wedding dress.

“I did over 180 royal engagements for Prince Charles over four years,” she says. “You usually serve two years but we got on so well he extended my term.”

Her new album for Classic FM, The Girl With the Golden Harp, with accompaniment from the English Chamber Orchestra, includes popular pieces such as Dvorak's “Song to The Moon” and Debussy's “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair”. It has traditional Welsh pieces, including “All Through the Night”, “Lisa Lan” and “Watching The Wheat”, as well as “Heartstrings”, created by Marshall to mark their engagement in Rio de Janeiro last year.

Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Jones began training in music at the age of seven, doing brilliantly in harp, violin and piano. She graduated as a harpist from the Royal College of Music with first class honours in 2007 and the same year was picked as harpist to Prince Charles. In 2009 she graduated as an MA scholar from the Royal Academy of Music.

“The Palace sent out letters to all the conservatoires in search of the next Royal Harpist,” she says.

“The list was narrowed down to three. I had to do an audition at Clarence House in front of Prince Charles's Private Secretary and three distinguished harpists. Then I did a private audition for Prince Charles at the Royal College of Music.”

Classic FM's 'The Girl With The Golden Harp' is out now