How does a 14 year old get banned from the school music department?
By trashing a timpani?
By bending a bassoon?
No, Emma-Lou Harries, harmony vocalist with The Queen Has Two Heads was far more transgressive.
Emma loved music and singing from an early age. She’s never stopped wielding that most ubiquitous of childhood instruments; the recorder, but her progress with the piano was sabotaged by an instrumental teacher who refused to continue with a young student who was stubbornly picking things up by ear rather than by reading the dots. Fortunately, this only served to fuel her creative endeavours.
A talent show at the age of 12 saw Emma losing out to a sparkly costume performing The Greatest Love Of All but she later took the lead in school productions, learned to play the flute and joined the orchestra, all the while terrified that her inability to read from the stave would be discovered.
It’s a common story. Emma’s bandmate Dave Howard confounded early piano teachers in a similar way, though in his case they abdicated on the grounds that they didn’t want to “suffocate talent”. Whatever. Did the decisions of those tutors help or hinder? We’ll never know, but for both the roosting habits of chickens eventually took their toll.
For Dave the experience of auditioning on the stage of Northampton’s Royal Theatre, with a piano score in front of him that he read with all the fluency of a 2 year old reciting Proust was enough to induce PTSD. For Emma those chickens settled down on the day that she was asked to consider her GCSE options. Her music teacher, Mrs. Corbett, clearly satisfied with Emma’s progress to date, asked if she would like to pick the subject for one of her exam choices. Rumbled. Emma had to confess; she’d been blagging it for three years.“She told me to ‘get out’ and subsequently banned me from the department!”
The member of staff left the school soon afterwards, but Emma didn’t stop singing and performing. She sang with Bambasnatch who were regulars at Birmingham’s Tower Of Song and she has contributed harmonies to the music of Milestone Express. She sings with Birmingham City Council Choir, regularly joins The Queen Has Two Heads’ fiddle player, Leah Yendell on stage in theatre productions, is an accomplished Irish dancer and alongside recorder, flute, guitar and piano is now learning the ukulele. Despite the efforts of those early gatekeepers her passion for music has never left her, and she says it never will. Look at her now, Mrs Corbett!
Emma continues to play by ear.