On April 22, harpist Jill Atkinson celebrates 46 years playing with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. She tells Clive Paget how she came to play and love the harp – “a difficult instrument, very unforgiving” – why she wishes Chopin wrote for solo harp, her favourite pieces to play (all operas), why she so enjoyed working with conductors Muhai Tang and Guillaume Tourniaire, and how she is coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

Jill Atkinson. Photographs courtesy of Queensland Symphony Orchestra

How old were you when you started to play, and what made you choose the harp as your instrument?

I always say I didn’t choose the harp; it chose me. I was ten years old when I inherited a harp from my paternal grandmother who lived in NZ. (No one else wanted it!). I had already been playing piano for three years and loving it, progressing well and reading every piece of music I could get my hands on, so apparently, I was the obvious choice (and I never said no to anything back then!). As luck would have it a teacher miraculously arrived in the country town where we lived in NSW at...