Bark-hemian Rhapsody! Meet the harpist performing for dogs at Goodwoof
- Credit: Jim Holden
She's performed at Buckingham Palace and the Royal Opera House but now Siobhan Swider uses her music to calm dogs and their owners who might be feeling ruff
Photos: Jim Holden
When it comes to hitting the right note with her audience, classically-trained musician Siobhan Swider can boast that she usually has them eating out of her hand.
Sometimes they also fall asleep at her feet, put their faces into her Tibetan singing bowl and even try to paw the strings of her Harp while she performs.
But Brighton-based Siobhan, 46, doesn’t mind – in fact, she takes it as the highest compliment when she discovers the audience sleeping – and even snoring - at the end of her performance.
That’s because Siobhan, who trained at Trinity College of Music in London, and has performed at the Hollywood Superbowl and Sydney Opera House, does classical chill out sessions for dogs to relax them.
And rather than think she’s gone barking mad, pet owners and established corporations are rushing to book the harpist who also practises Sound Bath Therapy on dogs – and she’s been booked as one of the highlights at Goodwoof at Goodwood at the end of May.
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‘It’s amazing to perform for animals,’ Siobhan says. ‘They can arrive restless and charging around and as soon as I start playing, I see them relax. By the end of the session most of the dogs will be asleep and some are snoring.
‘That’s fantastic because it shows how transformative the music is and how they react to it on a very deep level. I performed for a room full of dogs and their owners in January and after half an hour, even the most boisterous of dogs were either sleeping or laying at my feet.’
It isn’t just dogs that are fans of Siobhan, who is a qualified sound healer and therapist: her cat Rosie even gets into the Tibetan sound bowl she uses and claws at the strings when she plays. ‘She really wants to get involved,’ Siobhan laughs.
The musician, who can also play the flute, discovered she was a musical dog whisperer by accident when she went to play for a woman who was ill. ‘Music is very healing and I combine playing the harp with sound therapy, and treat private individuals,’ Siobhan explains.
‘One woman didn’t feel well, and said she couldn’t leave her two dogs outside the room while I played because they’d scratch at the door. She let them in and they were running around, but the moment I started playing they lay on the floor listening to me.
‘I tried it on my sister Shannon’s Irish Setter and the same thing happened. I realised music is incredibly calming for animals.’
Now Siobhan, who is originally from Michigan, USA, has a growing canine fan club who enjoy her gentle, improvised songs. ‘Dogs have very sensitive hearing so I play softer,’ she says. ‘I never play anything energetic. It’s all about making them chilled.’
Goodwoof is being held at Goodwood on 28 – 29 May, 2022. The two-day event includes a host of activities including dog yoga, and Siobhan’s performances throughout both days.