Elizabeth McNulty

Harp Teacher and Performer

Elizabeth’s Music Story

Elizabeth decided at an early age that she wanted to learn the harp.  She is not quite sure where this came from as she grew up in Kent, but she does have an Irish family.  Perhaps it was the presence of the harp on these trips to Ireland, on coins and in performances, that inspired her at age 5!  However, it was recommended that she start with the piano to learn the basic music theory.

It was not until she was 9 that she started learning the harp, as her parents were waiting for a harp to be available for her to play from the local music centre. It was a two-year waiting list to get the harp but worth waiting for!  She had lessons with a teacher from the Kent Music School, who she then stayed with for some time. She also continued piano to grade 7 and completed grade 8 violin.

Elizabeth continued her studies at at Royal Holloway, University of London where she did a degree in Music and then went to the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance to do her Masters.

Following this she has done a variety of performing and teaching. Notable performances include Ginastera Harp Concerto, Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto, Mozetich El Dorado, Debussy Danses sacree et Profane and Ravel Introduction and Allegro and Handel’s Harp concerto with groups such as Kantanti Ensemble, Symphonia Academica and Berkeley Ensemble.  She has freelanced with The London Philharmonic Orchestra, English National Ballet, Welsh National Opera, RTE Concert Orchestra, Northern Ballet and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Since 2016 she has been the principal harpist at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Throughout her time, she has also taught the harp privately and spent time teaching at various schools including Hill House International Prep School and Queens College, Harley Street, Sevenoaks School and St Dunstan’s, Forest Hill. She has participated in many education projects with The LPO Education department. She is currently harp tutor at Liverpool University and enjoys occasionally coaching the National Youth Orchestra harp section.

"It was helpful for me to learn the piano before the harp as I then have a good understanding of the theory of music"

What was Trinity and Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance like?

I did my master’s here, and it was just such a great experience.  It is based in a beautiful location in Greenwich which is really inspiring, and it is a great place to study the harp. Gabriella Dall ‘Olio who runs the harp department is outstanding. With it being both a music and dance institution as well there are great opportunities for collaborations.

Where would you suggest people buy a harp from?

You can rent a harp these days easily and this is always a good way to start. Smaller harps have between 32-38 strings whereas a full size concert harp has up to 47 .

Some of the main harp retailers in UK are: Salvi Music London, Pilgrim harps, Clive Morley harps, Telynau Vining, Teifi harps, Starfish designs.

Most of these have a ‘rent to buy’ option, so you hire a new harp for perhaps 6 months, and then decide if you want to buy the instrument at the end of the rental period, all the money you paid towards rent goes towards the purchase.

If you’re interested in a second hand instrument, you can find many listed on affairsoftheharp.com.

What age do you recommend starting to play the harp?

It was helpful for me to learn the piano before the harp as it gave me a good understanding of the theory of music.  But it is not essential to learn piano first. I would say it depends on the child, but age 6 is not a bad age to test out the harp and there are smaller models for beginners.

What has been your career highlight to date?

I would say the first time I performed the harp in Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall and the first time I performed in the Nutcracker at the Coliseum.  Both were very memorable experiences. Performing Ginastera Harp Concerto was a real privilege. The last RLPO tour to Japan was also a particular highlight!


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