Harpist, composer and singer Esther Swift is internationally recognised for her contribution to the pedal harp and her distinct compositions and songwriting style. She is a leader in creative collaboration in Scotland having worked with The Unthanks, Cherry Ghost, Jimmy Goodwin, Aidan O’Rourke, Matt Collings, Chris Wood, Siobhan Wilson, Kirsty Logan and Kirsty Law, among others.
Having attended St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh as a chorister from the age of 8, and been taught folk and classical music by harpist Catriona Mackay, Esther knew she wanted to combine her love of performing and writing new music from a young age. She went on to study at The Royal Northern College of Music where she achieved outstanding marks for her orchestral and chamber music playing, as well as for her compositions Clouds and Butterflies. She has played classical chamber music, folk music and her own music in many prestigious venues, including The Wigmore Hall, The Bridegwater Hall, The Queens Hall and The Glasgow Concert Hall.
She has been commissioned to write compositions for Enterprise Music Scotland, Manchester Jazz Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Wales International Harp Festival, Ayrshire Opera, The Scottish Forestry Commission, The Peebles Orchestra, Polaris Duo and her harp teacher at the RNCM Eira Lynn Jones.
Esther formed Twelfth Day, a partnership with violinist and vocalist Catriona Price, whilst studying at the RNCM and together they have released three albums which have received wide spread critical acclaim. They have toured extensively in the UK, as well as in Canada, Germany and Sweden, performing in festivals such as WOMAD, Celtic Connections, Hillside Festival and Bath Festival. in 2012 they won the Deutsch Bank Award with their own project Routes to Roots, which has seen them travelling to Quebec, Malawi, Brazil and Mongolia to create long lasting, musician lead collaborations.
Esther’s other group Clouds Harp Quartet, consists of four close friends that formed during their studies at the RNCM and play Esther’s music. They are one of the most respected and ground breaking harp ensembles in the world and regularly preform in concert halls and festivals around the UK.
As a soloist Esther has released 2 EPs, and played in Oxford Contemporary Music Festival, Auckland Folk Festival and The Dutch Harp Festival, as well as touring in the UK and New Zealand. She has performed at The Malaysian Book Festival with her co-commission Lord Fox, with author Kirsty Logan and Kirsty Law, a project that questions the fairytales we’re told. She was recently hand picked by the British Council for a twenty day residency and culminating performance in Vietnam, which saw her collaborating with thirty vietnamese musicians.
Esther is equally passionate about her outreach, community and teaching work and has seen how the power of music and creativity can change peoples lives. She has lead creative workshops through Drake Music Scotland, Rachel House Childrens Hospice and Intercultural Youth Scotland. She has also co-written and directed the children's Opera Wondering Osian through her on-going collaboration with tenor and founder of Ayshire Opera company David Douglas. Her new project Letter Note sees her working in different arts centres across Scotland, leading a series of workshops in tackling the issues of climate change through art and collaboration.
Through her love of improvisation and free music Esther has worked with a number of prestigious electronic artists in Edinburgh, including Matt Collings, Dara Etefaghi, and The Reverse Engineer, regularly performing under this guise.
Esther will be featured at next years World Harp Congress as a soloist, with Clouds Harp Quartet, and as a composer. She will be touring New Zealand as a soloist, touring her new album Face to Face with Twelfth Day, and writing and premiering her new large scale commission Rewilding in Hospitalfield House, among many other exciting ventures.
A feirce and open minded work ethic, alongside a desire to create and celebrate new music keeps Esther in constant demand, both locally and internationally, as she embraces her diverse and unique career.