Rachel was born in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. She grew up in Ullapool, living on Garve Road, the road on the way into the village until she was nearly 16 when the family moved to Edinburgh. She loved living on the edge of the village… and spent many a day climbing the hills and going down the beach.
After being at both Ullapool Primary and Ullapool High School, she went on to James Gillespies High School in Edinburgh before gaining a 1st class honours degree in Music at University of Strathclyde
Rachel’s father was the Church of Scotland minister in Ullapool. Her grandparents on both sides were pianists, organists and singers so music, although not traditional music, has always been in the blood and very much encouraged. At the time she was growing up, traditional music was really the only music tuition that was available in the area (apart from the classical piano and recorder that her mum taught in the village… (parental piano lessons never really worked!) so it was only natural that traditional music was the musical direction she went in.
In response to why she does what she does – Rachel said
“Because I love it! I love that my work is so varied. I’ve never been good with regular week after week routine, so my varied life of performing and teaching, whether it be my more scheduled weekly students here in Glasgow,the monthly lessons on the Isle of Man or the ever varied travels to Europe and further afield for concerts keeps me busy and sane.”
The influences on her work both past and present?
“I wouldn’t say there has been one influence on my work but it’s more the musicians and creatives that I meet day to day and the ones that I have met over my years of developing into a professional musician. I currently live in Glasgow, a great melting pot of a city and I’m constantly inspired and influenced by the multitude of genres of music the city has. I also have a great respect for musicians who are true tradition bearers of Scottish music, and their passion for this has been a constant influence on me. “
In recent years she has been concentrating on playing music with her group, the Rachel Hair Trio. She says she will always continue to make music with them but is interested in returning to her true roots, and work on solo harp music again. She has also been spending more time composing and is looking to develop this into new projects.
The most well read book on her bookshelves is probably the complete short stories by Roald Dahl. She was first introduced to his short stories in an English class many moons ago, and continues to delve into them and enjoy them today.
Her chosen memorable music track is Leaving Stoer, from Duncan Chisholm’: Redpoint. This tune, written by Ivan Drever, reminds her so much of Ullapool and Lochbroom. Rachel learnt it many years ago from Val Bryan (then music teacher at Ullapool High School). She thinks Duncan’s version is just stunning, and that he really is the king of slow airs on the fiddle.
Rachel now lives in the city of Glasgow. She loves the city as it is such a musical place, and for her it has such great transport connections it means it’s easy for her to easily travel abroad for work. However Glasgow remains a very Highland city, and she finds it amazing how frequently you come across other folk from Ullapool and its surrounds.
Rachel said that Glasgow is a very friendly, characterful down to earth city. It’s a great cultural hub and she loves that so many creatives have made their home here, meaning that every night there’s live music to be had, exhibitions to visit and sights to see.