Unraveling the harp with Melina….

"...to communicate with the audience, the ensemble, with oneself, the music, and the space...."

Photo by darren james

Photo by darren james

Fast Facts

Where did you grow up?

Fitzroy North, Melbourne.

 Where did you study and with whom?

The majority of my training has taken place with two teachers: Xanya, my initial inspiration, and Alice Giles, who I trained with at tertiary level. Both of them were taught by Alice Chalifoux, a harpist from the US that came to be the spiritual head of the Salzedo method. The Salzedo method is a twentieth-century approach to playing created by Carlos Salzedo (the subject of my ongoing PhD studies).

Do you have a secret or not so secret hobby?

I like cooking (savoury, easier to improvise), reading novels (I’ve just finished Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’—amazing!), playing video games, watching movies, being outdoors with my dog (Marnie the toy cavoodle), dancing and listening to good tunes with friends…

A less hobby-ish interest is my love of philosophy. Whilst at university I specialised in German phenomenology and environmental ethics.

What drew you to your instrument and what makes it special to you?

I am a harpist because of Xanya Mamunya, my first harp teacher. The inspiration she gave me will last my lifetime. I first met Xanya at a chamber music concert where, at the age of five, I ran away from my parents and rushed over to her at the end of the concert and began arranging my first lesson. My parents gently attempted to delay my study, but I would not be dissuaded. I knew what I wanted, and that was to spend time each week with this fascinating woman and her strange instrument.

 Greatest chamber works that involve your instrument?

The concert grand harp is a relatively new instrument. While it is true that the original double-action mechanism was patented by Sebastian Erard in France in 1810, it took many years for double-action harps to be mastered by harpists and, in turn, for composers to write for them. Tone and intonation issues hampered double-action harps. They were not sturdy, travelled badly, and the pedal rods had a tendency to rattle and stick. By the end of nineteenth century the mechanism had much improved, and some of our first truly idiomatic repertoire was written at the beginning of the twentieth century—one of which is the Ravel septet. The Ibert is another highly idiomatic work that sits in that same French tradition of excellent harp composition.

What makes performing music important to you?

For me, music making on any instrument comes down to the fundamental desire to communicate- with the audience, with the ensemble, with oneself, with the music, with the space. This doesn’t have to be a hugely deep or existential experience, but in itself it is inherently valuable and worth supporting and pursuing.

See Melina in concert with Melbourne Chamber Players this November.