Interview with Northern Rivers harpist, Margaret Curtis
When did you start the harp?
Piano is my first instrument which I started learning at 4. However, during my teens I had a secret desire to also learn the harp but decided to wait until I had finished my studies with the piano.
Life took over and although my desire to learn the harp never faded it did not come to fruition until 2000 when I started lessons with Louise Johnson and I have been learning from her ever since.
What led you to want to start learning?
It is such a beautiful instrument to look at, to listen to and to play. It’s as simple as that, everything about the harp is wonderful and a constant joy to me.
What are some of your favourite experiences as a harpist?
Living in a rural area means there are not many harpists around so when I perform people are really interested in the pedal harp. I often explain about the pedals and what they do which surprises most people as they don’t realise there are pedals! I am also mostly asked about how I transport the harp and how much it cost.
Spending time with other harpists is a particular joy as I don’t get to do that too often. The Harp Holiday, held by Louise in January each year, is a great way for meet to spend time with other harpists and share the joy of playing with them.
How has living outside urban areas impacted your harp playing?
My husband and I moved to Bangalow from Sydney in 2007. We love Sydney but it was time for a change and the Northern Rivers has provided us with a new home and community.
Living away from a capital city provides a few more challenges when learning an instrument. So the use of Skype is important as well as the discipline of self-correction. However, as a full time musician my motivation is high as I get some interesting and wonderful gigs playing the harp.
When I arrived here I immediately joined the Lismore Symphony Orchestra which was delighted to have a resident harpist and have been with them ever since. That has been a terrific way to make friends and be exposed to harp music that I probably would not have played otherwise.
While I play quite a lot of solo work the opportunities to play with other instrumentalists is widely available. The Northern Rivers has a lot of quality musicians so playing with brass ensembles, the orchestra, accompanying choirs, solo performances, and recitals with my harps students means that there is plenty of harp playing happening in Bangalow.