At the time Skaila began her career in the late 1960s the commercial music industry was thriving and demand for session musicians was high. In the 70s 80s and 90s, Skaila worked in 55 different studios in London and was booked by around 56 orchestral contractors in a wide variety of musical genres. These included symphonic and operatic albums, mainly for Decca and Phillips and numerous pop singles and albums at smaller studios.
Classical sessions were recorded mainly at Kingsway Hall, EMI, Walthamstow and Barking Town Halls and film sessions mostly at Denham, Shepperton, Olympic, CBS Whitfield Street, Lansdowne and CTS Wembley. The BBC’s output for broadcasts was huge; Skaila was involved with the BBC orchestras at Maida Vale and frequented the smaller BBC studios scattered around London as well as the television studios at White City, Shepherds Bush, Lime Grove, London Weekend and Teddington for ITV.
Skaila’s first film session was at Shepperton in May 1968 on the film ‘Oliver!’. One of her longest associations has been with three generations of the Jackman family; Bill Jackman, orchestral contractor and saxophonist, his son Andrew, noted record producer and now Henry Jackman, celebrated film composer!
Through her work for Sidney Sax she met Jerry Goldsmith and became his London harpist for over twenty years. She played regularly for Bernard Herrmann, Maurice Jarre, Elmer Bernstein, Michel Legrand, Laurie Johnson, Howard Blake and many more. Full lists of composer collaborations, pop stars and soundtrack credits can be found at the bottom of the page.
On 26th March 1980 Skaila did her first session for the young and enterprising Isobel Griffiths at Marcus Studios (formerly CTS Bayswater) and to this day they have collaborated on hundreds of projects for over 40 years!
Up to the present time Skaila has performed on over 1000 film soundtracks.
Classical Solo albums include French Chamber Music with the ASMF for Chandos, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols for Naxos, Violin and Harp Duos with Maxim Xue Wei, and again with David Juritz (violin), two collections of Bax’s Chamber Music for Harp for Hyperion and Chandos with the Nash Ensemble and Academy of St Martin’s, albums with Emma Johnson (clarinet) and Philippa Davies (flute), several albums with Tommy Reilly for Chandos and Decca, traditional Irish music with Helen O’ Hara,‘Invocation’ with Julian Lloyd Webber, and the entire chamber music of David Snell,a composer and renowned jazz harpist, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Skaila has also recorded Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto, once with Susan Milan and the City of London Sinfonia for Chandos and later with Edward Beckett and the London Festival Orchestra for ASV.
Skaila has been involved in many regular television series over the years, including Inspector Morse, Tales of the Unexpected, Monarch of the Glen, I Claudius, Life on Earth, Jewel of the Nile, Bleak House, Jane Eyre, Brideshead Revisited, Mayor of Casterbridge, Hollywood, Victorian Kitchen Garden series, Poirot, Father Brown (8 series), Shakespeare and Hathaway, Poldark (5 series) and several episodes of David Attenborough’s nature films such as Blue Planet and Frozen Planet.
'To be a successful harpist for recording sessions these days, it isn’t enough just to have great technique and superhuman sight-reading abilities.
Many film scores are created under extreme time pressure, and the playability of the harp parts is way down on the list of priorities. The best harpists can re-arrange impossible parts on the fly, making them playable, whilst still reflecting the composer’s musical intent.
Time is aways short on sessions and players must often use their judgement on how many questions to ask, understanding that every question, and its answer, uses up valuable recording time. So the ability to make quick and independent calls on when to just ‘fix’ things without asking is invaluable.
Another challenge is to be able to play sympathetically with the rest of the ensemble when tucked away in a booth, with only headphones providing audio cues. At other times, the harpist may be required to navigate a path between a pre-recorded click and other live performers - staying in time yet keeping the performance musical.
Needless to say, Skaila executes all of this without equal'
~ Gavin Greenaway
Composer and Music Director
'Skaila has played on so many of my scores that it's hard to write for the harp without imagining Skaila playing it. Not only is she the consummate professional in every way, but her instinctive understanding of the music that's placed in front of her never ceases to amaze me.
Skaila is one of the musicians that is usually written into almost every music cue for the production I'm scoring as I find myself gravitating to the harp as I imagine her playing it, knowing that her performance will add so much to the score.
She will often make the most helpful and insightful suggestions which, when under time pressure, can help solve an issue or simply make the music just that little bit better. Skaila is a world-class harpist and I feel honoured to have had the privilege of working with her, and to have had her stunning performances grace so many of my scores'
~ Debbie Wiseman OBE
Composer and Conductor
'Legend doesn’t come close to describing you. Without fuss you always play like a dream. Thank you so much for your wonderful work over the years'
~ Sylvia Addison
Orchestral Contractor, Music Solutions