'Music is a gift – it's what I'm here for'
Rosie Bradford is a singer based in Teesdale. She launched Happy in Harmony Music to help people have more fun learning music. She loves writing music for choirs and creating songs that celebrate life’s special moments, including weddings and naming ceremonies, and singing for events and concerts.
How did you become interested in music?
There's a baby video of me with a selection of toys. I go straight to the toy drum and ignore everything else. That's why it’s so good to have instruments in the house, kids are naturally curious. Me and my family and friends would always sing together, around the house and in the car. Silly, fun songs were our favourites, and they still are.
My whole family are music lovers. My great uncle led a decent dance band during the war and I learned recently that my great grandad was a good singer who performed at the Albert Hall.
What was the first instrument you learned to play - and did you find it easy to pick up?
As people from brass band families will understand, it’s not a question of if you want to learn a brass instrument, just which one. Brass bands remain one of the best places to learn about music, as they are full of generous people who help you learn.
I tried the trombone, but my little lips didn’t fill the mouthpiece, so I started on the trumpet and moved onto the horn, which has a beautiful tone very like the human voice. I picked up the music easily, as a lot of kids do because it’s really just like a fun puzzle. When we were given my great grandad’s piano I became completely fascinated with it. I would eat my dinner off it so I didn’t need to move.
When did you realise that music was something you wished to become more than a pastime or hobby?
It’s always been a big part of my life. I knew I wanted to do more when I started coaching a youth band at TCR Hub. When you can say something in a new way, and it has an immediate positive effect on people, in how they play, their mood and their confidence, it’s a brilliant feeling.
Then, a couple of years ago, I found myself spinning across the A1 in my car, not sure what was going to happen when I stopped. A voice in my head said if you are lucky enough to get some more time on this planet, you need to use it well. Music is what I’m here for, and I take every opportunity to honour this gift I've been given.
Are you a singer first and a player second – or do you think of yourself as a musician first and singer second?
I’m a singer. It’s my most natural way to make music and I find voices so interesting. My instruments are my tools for writing and I love to play them when I don’t feel like using any words.
I have Barney to thank for reconnecting me with singing. Music is a great way to meet people anywhere in the world, and when I moved here nine years ago, I was given a really warm welcome by Barney School Choral Society and gang at The Old Well open mic night. I’ve learned so much from the fantastic musicians here, especially from my singing teacher Dr Robin Harrison.
What sort of music do you play?
I love singing classical music, I just find it so beautiful. I get a real buzz singing soul music, songs from musicals and the great American songbook and classic pop songs. I love learning new songs, and when I’m performing for events I get to know my clients and we make a set list with all their favourites.
I perform with musical friends or sing with professional backing tracks.
What type of music do you listen to – who are your favourites?
I love choral music, especially early music performed by groups like The Sixteen. I’m also a big musicals fan – I grew up singing and dancing on the stage in Blackpool.
I really admire vintage singers like Johnny Cash, Peggy Lee and the old musical stars like Fred Astaire. There are some brilliant young singers too, like First Aid Kit – their harmonies give me goosebumps.
Do you find writing/ composing comes naturally – or is it something you have to work at?
Songs and melodies come to me very naturally, while I’m out walking or just before I go to sleep. The “work” part is the game of putting the right words with the right notes, in the right order. This is especially true for commissions, because they have to really reflect the person that I'm writing for or about.
Would you describe yourself as a prolific songwriter/ composer?
Yes. I’m very lucky. I always have a stack of ideas ready to be finished, and I love to spend time at my writing desk developing them.
If you’d like to learn more about how I write, please visit my blog on my website. There’s lots of simple ideas to help you get started with songwriting.
What’s the difference between a music teacher and a musical coach?
To me, coaching is less formal and led by the person I’m coaching and what they want to achieve. A teacher teaches you what they think you need to know. I do a bit of both, and the balance depends on the student and where they are on their musical journey.
I coach in an interactive and fun way, where we celebrate effort and try new things, because you learn more when you laugh. I generally coach people in their homes, which is handy for families and makes people feel comfortable.
Tell us a little bit about Happy in Harmony Music
I help people enjoy making music and learn new skills to help them enjoy it even more, whether that’s some singing technique to help you soar at choir, building up your confidence to sing in public or playing the piano for the first time (or the first time in a long time). I love teaching people how to read music too, it’s like a magical new language that opens up so many exciting new things.
How important has music been to you during the past four months of lockdown – how has it helped?
Music just makes life better, because it makes us smile. It’s been particularly important to me during this time. I’ve enjoyed rehearsing online for an opera, and taking part in online choirs – I really look forward to those times in the week when everything stops for a garden singalong with my friends.
Coaching my students on Zoom has been really helpful too – it’s very difficult to brood on anything when you’re belting out Disney songs and pretending to be a mermaid.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m in a film! We were due to perform our community opera at “Song of our Heartland” at Locomotion in May, so we’re really excited to be filming it this month. I get to sing with the fantastic Opera North and be a “baddie” – a councillor who opposes a community arts centre, which is great fun as she’s the total opposite of me.
I am an optimist, so I’m working on a show where I sing gorgeous vintage music with my portable record player ready for weddings and parties next year. And I have some choir workshops ready to go as soon as we can.
Where can people discover more of your music?
You can learn more about me and what I do on my website www.happyin harmonymusic.co.uk Please follow me on social media for my latest videos and adventures, @happyin harmony1 on Facebook and Instagram, and the links are on my website too. I will be starting a YouTube channel very soon so keep your eyes peeled for that, and if you have any favourite songs to request please let me know.