Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
From a very early age I was encouraged and immersed in music, studying violin and singing alongside my main study, the piano. My Mother, also a musician was terrifically strict with my brother and me about daily practice. This discipline, coupled with all the wonderful performance opportunities in childhood made following a career in music a natural progression.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Certainly my teachers, Monola Hatfield, Norma Fisher, Murray McLachlan and Joan Havill, and the two establishments I attended, Chetham’s School of Music (from 1994-2004), and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (2004-2010). Intensive periods of study at the Banff Centre and Prussia Cove post formal education have been so useful, as is the daily encouragement, challenge and pleasure of playing and working with other musicians, including my husband, the pianist, James Willshire.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Certainly getting the balance between raising a family and teaching, against the need to prepare programmes and rehearse.
The music world can seem saturated at times with so many terrific musicians. It is tricky to find a niche and to carve a career. I think I struggle from having too many ideas – from curating festivals, commissioning new music and hosting music courses – and not enough time or money to make many of them a reality!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
With the Albany Piano Trio, we recently performed live on BBC Radio 3 on Women of the World day with a programme including two premieres. Commissioning new music is tremendously exciting.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I love to perform contemporary music alongside composers such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Beethoven and Debussy.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
A lot of my programmes are based around a theme or an anniversary celebrating a particular composer. I think it is important to give structure and a narrative to programmes, both as a performer, and for the audience.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Rolston Hall at the Banff Centre, because you are surrounding by the magnificent Rockies, and supported by like-minded musicians.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Playing in the Bridgewater Hall with my husband.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I don’t think about it.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
The understanding that music is a lifetime worth of study, and to find joy and patience in the longevity of our careers. Find people you love to play with, and collaborate with composers and all other artists taking on every opportunity with gusto and dedication, wherever you are invited perform. A good sense of humour and other hobbies are also vital!
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
One of the projects that I would really like to see grow is the Christian Musicians’ Collective, which aims to bring both the best classical music, and the testimonies of Christian musicians to churches around the UK.
Philippa Harrison has an extensive and varied career performing as soloist and chamber musician throughout the UK and abroad. Her work as a chamber musician has been widely praised, featuring a broad repertoire and specialising in contemporary music. She is a member of the Albany Trio, current Park Lane Group Young Artists, with whom she has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3; performing live in concert as part of International Women’s Day 2016 and appearing on BBC Radio 3 Proms Extra. The Albanys are alumni Richard Carne Junior Fellows at the Royal College of Music, winners of the Gwyneth George Award, finalists of the St Martin’s Chamber Music Competition and featured artists by Making Music and the Concordia Foundation.
Philippa’s concert highlights include performances at St John’s Smith Square, Fairfield Halls, The Bridgewater Hall, St James’s Piccadilly, St Martin in the Fields, The Banff Centre, and recitals at the Tromso Festival, Harrogate International Festival and the Liszt Society Festival. Philippa’s interest in contemporary music has led to frequent commissioning of new works and collaborations with composers including Charlotte Bray, Judith Bingham, Rory Boyle, Rachel Stott and Judith Weir. In both 2014 and 2015 Philippa was selected to attend winter residencies at the Banff Centre, where she premiered Duelogue by Rory Boyle with the Willshire Piano Duo, and Those Secret Eyes by Charlotte Bray.
Versatile and wide-ranging in her experience, Philippa is dedicated to educational work. She strives to encourage and familiarise young people with classical and contemporary music through her workshop leadership, and as piano teacher at Junior Guildhall.
(Photograph by Marc Gascoigne)