Inspired by my harpist grandmother, I don’t think it was ever a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ I would play the harp.
My grandmother, Margo Britch, started playing the harp at age 4, and that same year performed at the Blue Mouse Theatre in Seattle. She went on to study harp in earnest with Alfred Kastner, the principal harpist of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. It was at this time, in 1925, she started a rent-to-own purchase of a beautiful Wurlitzer harp.
At age 17 she toured Mexico with the all girl band The Inguenes who were known for their incredible musicality: each girl was required to play a minimum of eight instruments to be signed-on. She was then recruited to the movie orchestra for MGM Studios back in Los Angeles. Margo Freeman was in several movies including Music for Millions, Three Hearts for Julia and a number of Marx Brothers films (where she had to play other instruments as Harpo did not let anyone else play the harp on screen with him).
My grandfather, Peter Britch, played the French horn in the US Army and, after being discharged, performed with the National Symphony Orchestra. It was during this time he found a passion for conducting.
Via different routes, my grandparents came to be in Alaska in 1947, became founding members of the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, met and were married.
My piano lessons began at age 6 with Eleanor Braendel, and continued even after I started the harp at age 7 taught by my Grandmother.
I was fortunate enough to be able to play with both the Junior Youth Symphony and the Anchorage Youth Symphony from a young age, which included national and international performances in New York City’s Carnegie Hall and the Arts Centre at Hamer Hall in Melbourne, Australia.
I continued instruction under my grandmother, supplemented with lessons from visiting harpists such as Nancy Allen and Marcia Dickstein, and I studied for a summer under Kathy Kienzle at the North Caroline School of the Arts.
When the Anchorage Youth Symphony was donated a beautiful harp from a local benefactor, I was in the honourable position to play the dedication concerto: Paul White’s Sea Chanty. The small ensemble was comprised of several founding members of the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and my grandparent’s dear friends: Arthur and Eleanor Breandel, Mary Weeda and Vivian Ayesrt.
My senior year at high school I was selected to perform another concerto with the Anchorage Youth Symphony, this time Debussy’s Sacred and Profane Danses.
I performed as principal harpist with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and the Anchorage Opera on a regular basis throughout my time in Alaska, including the annual performance of The Nutcracker, Symphony of Trees, and Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Chocolate Affair. Additionally there were numerous corporate events, weddings and special functions.
In 2002 my husband and I moved to Birmingham and are now raising our family here and call England home. I have continued to play professionally for corporate events, parties, weddings, funerals and all types of celebrations.