"Music brings us all together and makes us feel a sense of belonging in the world"

Bev Lee Harding.
Bev Lee Harding. / G. SCOTT
  • The 28-year-old British musician Bev Lee Harling has given concerts all over the world. This week she is on the Costa del Sol to perform as a vocal soloist with Collegium Musicum

  • Bev Lee Harling | Singer, musician and composer

Born in Hastings in 1990, multitalented musician Bev Lee Harling began her violin studies at the age of five. The 28-year-old musician and composer graduated from Middlesex University with a degree in Jazz Studies and has since toured and recorded all over the world. She has composed music for several film scores and her vocals and violin have featured on many soundtracks for dance-theatre productions. She released her debut album in 2012, (Barefoot in Your Kitchen), which features the beginning of her interest in creating music with household objects.

Harling is heading to the Costa del Sol this week where she will perform as a vocal soloist with Collegium Musicum. The amateur choir and orchestra will present a production of Karl Jenkin's poem Stabat Mater, a 13th century hymn to Mary that portrays her suffering as the mother of Jesus during his crucifixion.

SUR in English caught up with the talented musician prior to her arrival in Malaga and she told of her delight at being able to perform live for the very first time with her sister (Alison Harling), a concertina player with Collegium Musicum.

Do you come from a musical background?

Neither my parents or grandparents played music, but my big sister Alison is a musician.

You began playing the violin at the age of five: why did you choose the violin?

I would hear my sister practicing all the time and she would take me with her sometimes to rehearsals and concerts, and I was soon hooked.

Did you think at this stage that you would make a career out of music?

I think when you have the privilege of watching someone else you admire in your family applying themselves so passionately to something, it makes you think that anything is possible. I can't remember a time of not thinking I would somehow have a career in music.

Why did you change from classical to jazz?

After playing the violin classically up to my A Levels, I suddenly discovered Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee. I started singing along to these wonderful singers and then it occurred to me; could I actually do this too?

What, exactly, is a jazz singer?

I think it is a singer who uses their voice like an instrument, improvising and interpreting music with a sense of freedom and expression with a nod to the original composer.

You have your own four-piece band that uses an assortment of household equipment and kitchen utensils: can you tell us about this?

I have always felt that music is everywhere if you listen hard enough. This was my attempt to take everyday objects and show how much fun can be had with them when you use them for musical purposes. Part of my show is to get the audience involved in playing some of these things and this allows people who may not play instruments to immediately be able to interact and feel a sense of joy through making music. I'm very happy to say that my audiences always leave those gigs smiling and it's largely due to the music they end up making themselves.

You have worked with numerous celebrated artistes: is there any particular favourite?

I worked with Talvin Singh recently, which was such a great experience. He really knew how to bring the best out in my voice and violin and was also open to using the beautiful clinking of ships masts in the breeze on Brighton beach, a sound I've been wanting to incorporate into a track for about 10 years.

You have a long association with dance music, and as a composer, you have written scores for television and film: is there any particular aspect of your career that you prefer?

I think I enjoy music so much because my career has been so varied. Each new project brings with it new challenges that keep making me grow and change as an artist. One of my favourite things is to start with nothing and create something that didn't exist before, which writing/composing fulfils, but I can't imagine my life without performing, as I love the connection and interaction with other people.

In one sentence; can you explain what music means to you?

Music is everything and everywhere: it is our hearts beating, a bird singing, tinkling laughter or a child crying. It brings us all together and makes us feel a sense of belonging in the world.

Are you nervous before a performance?

Always. I have learned over the years to make my nerves my friends. When harnessed and put to good use they can help to propel your performances to new heights.

Are you superstitious, or are there certain things you do or don't do before a performance?

I am not superstitious, but I like to find a quiet space before performances where I can connect with myself and take a few deep breaths.

Have you performed in Spain before?

I once performed in an old medieval village in some mountains outside Barcelona. It was beautiful there and had a great sense of community. The people there were wonderful and made us feel very welcome.

What can the audience expect at next week's concerts?

They will see my sister and I performing together for the very first time. We may cry, or laugh, or both. We are very excited to be playing Stabat Mater, which mixes elements of classical and world music and includes a diverse collection of languages including Aramaic, Latin and English.