St Albans harpist comes to rescue of Queen Mary 2

HARPIST and singer Geraldine McMahon found herself in the spotlight on the Queen Mary 2 cruise liner, when she had to fill in for classical artists who had missed the boat.

Two classical musicians, a pianist and flautist from Scotland, were booked to fly out to join the ship in New York to provide recitals on board the world-famous liner on its transatlantic voyage to Southampton.

But due to bad weather and high winds, their flights were cancelled so they were unable to get to New York.

Geraldine, who lives in St Albans, had been on the Queen Mary for the previous month providing background harp music and was asked by the musical director if she would give recitals, in place of the duo, in the prestigious thousand-seat Royal Court Theatre.

She said: “I was delighted to be able to help out. I have given many recitals before and love performing to a live audience. What I do is somewhat unique in that as well as playing harp instrumental pieces, I am able to sing with the harp. This makes for a much more varied programme. It’s a little like getting two soloists for the price of one!

“I perform well-known pieces like the Schubert Ave Maria or the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria or Wings of Song by Mendlessohn as well as some popular Celtic melodies.“

She went on: “I also put in a short history of the instrument and explain how the harp works. Most people are amazed to hear that as well as 47 strings, the harp has seven pedals and over two thousand moving parts. It is quite a feat of engineering.”

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As a student, Geraldine studied singing, harp and piano and when she graduated from the Royal College of Music in London, found that she got a lot of engagements singing with the harp. As well as giving recitals, she plays for weddings and business functions and teaches the harp.

All of her pupils gain merits and distinctions in their exams. While she was on the Queen Mary, she got the news that three of her pupils who had taken Associated Board harp exams had all passed with distinctions One of her pupils, who has been studying the harp since she was six years of age, gained 139 marks out of 150 for her Grade Six exam and another, a mature student who has only been learning for six months, gained 135 marks for her Grade 1.

Geraldine has worked for many years as a professional harpist and singer, having lived in Ireland and America. She was born in London and originally trained as a teacher before going on to the Royal College of Music for a further four years of study.

She won several prizes during her course of studies, including a scholarship to the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. She has been based in St Albans now for more than 20 years.