Every few weeks we will be featuring a former member of the CBYO;finding out about their time in the Orchestra and what they have been up to since.... Next up is .........
Former Member Profile No.16 - Anne Harper -Clarinet 1992-95
I started my musical education at the age of 6 at Primary school in Derry and continued it at the CBSM when my family moved to Belfast in 1986. I joined the Youth Orchestra under Stanley Foreman just before their America Tour in 1992 and have fantastic memories of playing in St Patrick’s Cathedral New York, under the St Louis Arch with the Stage Band, and in the amazing auditorium at Butler University Indianapolis.
Two years later I gave a performance of the Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie with the Orchestra in the Ulster Hall and I remember being so nervous waiting off-stage that I totally missed my name being called as the winner of The Stephen Parker Memorial Award!
In 1995 we toured France and I performed the Weber Concertino with the Orchestra in some amazing venues. I have many hilarious memories from that tour, sadly none of which I can share here! Suffice to say, the identities of some of those involved may surprise you….
I was awarded the MacFarlane scholarship to attend the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), and began my studies there in 1995 under John Cushing. A surprise failure in my very first exam gave me the kick in the backside I needed to work really hard, and in the end I graduated with a First Class degree in Music Performance in 1999. I remained at the RSAMD/ RCS for my Masters Degree (also in Performance), which I received with Distinction in 2000. During my time at college I had the opportunity to play many great works including the Copeland Concerto at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow and Covent Garden in London, the Mozart Clarinet Quintet at St Martin in the Fields, and the Nielsen Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. I was also awarded a ‘Silver Medallion’ by the Worshipful Company of Musicians at a ceremony in the Guildhall, London.
Whilst I was still an undergraduate I got my first call to work professionally, from the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. They were incredibly good to me, and really looked after me while I found my professional feet. I went on to work regularly with the wonderful Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, playing both Clarinet and Bass Clarinet. Despite establishing a busy freelance career in Scotland I always felt a bit homesick so after a couple of years I began hopping between Ireland and Scotland, working with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra and Camerata Ireland, as well as continuing to work with my friends in Scotland. Like many musicians, I seemed to live out of a suitcase!
As well as travelling between Ireland and Scotland, I toured all over the place and got to visit countries I’m sure I would never have seen otherwise. I played wonderful music in incredible places, and with some of the most inspirational musicians in the world. I had a lot of fun Some memorable gigs from that time include performances at the Proms in London with the BBCSSO, playing Wagner’s Ring Cycle with Scottish Opera, and a jammy trip to Portugal with the SCO where I was only in one short piece!!
However eventually my homesickness got the better of me and I made the decision to move back to Northern Ireland full-time. Some of you reading this will probably think I was crazy to have taken such a seemingly backward step, but for all its faults, I love this country and I felt (and continue to feel!) sad about the brain drain. I genuinely felt I wanted to contribute something here and give something back. I continued freelancing and took on some teaching. It was while I was working with the Ulster Orchestra that I met my husband Jonathan, and we got married in 2007. Gradually over the next few years with the arrival of our children and various other changes taking place, I realised I needed to make some difficult decisions. Although my passion for the clarinet very much remained, I decided it was time to step back from some of my freelancing and spend time with my children while they were very young.
Now that my kids are a bit older I’m really enjoying having more time to focus on my playing and my musical life again. Working as a Freelance Associate for the Ulster Orchestra’s Department of Learning and Community Engagement allows me to use my knowledge and orchestral experience to help improve outcomes for young people from areas of social deprivation. And of course I continue to teach and perform because I love it and it’s a huge part of who I am.
The skills you learn as a young person playing in an orchestra are far greater than the sum of their parts. They help nurture communication, confidence, creativity, and community spirit. Those things will enhance your life regardless of the profession you choose. I’m grateful to the CBYO for so many things, it played a huge part in my musical education, gave me the chance to travel, and allowed me to develop life-long friendships too. It’s wonderful to see it thriving, keep up the great work!