Scottish student will be strum-thing special in Norway

A Scottish student is to perform in The Nutcracker with Bergen Philharmonic later this month.

Former Highland pupil Abigail Millar-Todd is currently studying at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

Abigail said: ‘If it weren’t for The Highland Council, I would never have started classical music. I began the harp through Feis à Bhaile, then with weekly lessons from Fèis Rois, then playing the clarsach in the Black Isle Primary String Orchestra, which was challenging given I had previously been unable to read music.

‘When I was eleven, I had a few lessons with Kirsty Fowler, a harpist from Culloden and she let me play on her concert harp.

‘Needless to say, I fell in love with the instrument and following an enquiry to Highland Council’s Music Development Officer asking if the council harp was available for use, I was allowed to have it at home to learn on. Words can’t express how grateful and ecstatic I was to have an opportunity to learn on it.’

The talented Abigail Millar Todd

In her second year of Fortrose Academy, Abigail moved to attend Aberdeen City Music School for more regular harp lessons and a chance to have theory, piano and chamber music classes as well.

However, she came back home at the weekends, which meant she was able to join the Highland Regional Youth Orchestra.

She added: ‘In HRYO I learnt a lot of necessary skills to do with playing harp in symphony orchestra, and was able to work with incredible conductors such as Garry Walker and Jean-Claude.

‘HRYO gave me the confidence necessary to become a member of the NYOS symphony orchestra when I was 13.’

Abigail’s musical studies continued as she travelled to Poland for master classes with a grant from the Friends of Highland Music, and to England with the assistance of the Agar Trust before attending Douglas Academy in Glasgow for a year.

She was following a harp teacher who couldn’t come to Aberdeen regularly, before returning to Fortrose Academy for fifth year during which she won Highland Young Musician of the Year and continued played in HRYO.

Bergen in Norway, where Scottish student Abigail Millar Todd is to perform in The Nutcracker with Bergen Philharmonic

In June 2016 she flew to Oslo to have a consultation lesson with harpist Isabelle Perrin, the Artistic Director of the World Harp Congress and a famed professor and performer, having previously taught in Paris but now at the Norwegian Academy of Music. It had been her goal to study with her since she was twelve.

Abigal continued: “It went well and she asked me to come to her course in Catalonia for a week of lessons. I worked playing background music at Inverness College events and giving clarsach lessons to pay for the course, and was lucky enough to be able to fly out for it.

‘Around this time I played in the Proms with NYOS, which was also amazing. The course in Spain was one of the best experiences of my entire life and Isabelle suggested that I should consider studying in Oslo when I left school.

‘I also played as part of NYOS Camerata in 2016 which was really exciting too.Following a successful audition, I am now studying harp full time in Oslo, which most certainly would not have happened without the Highland Council Instrumental Tuition Service, and the early experiences of Highland Young Musicians groups.’

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