We interview South African harpist Kobie du Plessis about her music and life in Catalunya.
I came to Barcelona in 2003 because of my husband’s work. What I love most about the city are the trees, the different walkways, and Gaudí’s imaginative buildings. Also the feeling of space like I had in South Africa.
I started playing the harp when I was 12. A friend of the family—a professional musician—arrived at our house with a Celtic harp in the boot of his Mercedes, on the understanding I would learn to play. Once I had my first lesson, I was hooked.
I had to leave home at 15 and go to a strange school just to continue with harp lessons and music. That was almost my undoing, but it taught me independence and to fight for my right to perform music, something that came in very handy later in life!
I was a bit of a freak as a child. I won lots of prizes on the piano, my first instrument, and I had super-cultural parents who liked Shakespeare and classical music, which was a bit weird in those days!
First and foremost, I am a performer. I just love to play in public, and would love to play more in Barcelona and its surroundings. I have also started to write original music for the harp, which is exciting and a new field for me.
Playing the harp feels like an extension of myself. I am in love with its sound and it brings beautiful images to my mind, as it has such a silvery, kind of fairy-like sound.
I taught both my children to be musical. Learning an instrument broadens a child’s perspective, makes them concentrate better, and gives them good life skills.
We live in Castelldefels halfway up the mountain with the sea beneath us, and our house in South Africa is also halfway up the mountain with the sea in the distance.
Performing at the Liceu was great, but tense at the same time. I received the piece for harp and chorus five days before, and had to study in record time, only to find the day before the performance I had been given the wrong partitura [score]. I practised right through the night to be able to give a peak performance.
Having breast cancer taught me that nothing is so important anymore. To have my family and my husband, to have my health back and to be able to play harp again is enough for me. I have become more spiritual and thankful that God has saved my life, and I also learned to respect the Spanish doctors here in Barcelona, as they were, and are, wonderful!