Back to her future 

Alison Hunter retired from teaching and returned to her first love — the harp

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Angelic sounds Alison Hunter is performing on the harp again, after retiring.
  • Photo submitted
  • Angelic sounds Alison Hunter is performing on the harp again, after retiring.

When Alison Hunter retired from teaching music at Spring Creek Community School this June she was not short of things to do.

Hunter, who had also taught music at Myrtle Philip Community School in a career that spanned 20 years, is involved in Whistler's children and adult choirs, and helped start the community band.

But she returned to her first love, the harp, the very thing that brought her a career in music, and is delighted.

"I am so happy playing harp again," she says. "My own music had been on the backburner for the last few years, which was really sad. I was teaching school full time and teaching the children and adult choir, and the community band. Doing everybody else's music but my own. I sort of fell off the radar."It was time to retire from school and return to being a harpist."

Hunter, who studied harp at the University of British Columbia and also in France, was in charge of the harp program at the Vancouver Academy of Music when she moved to Whistler 25 years ago, and was also playing in a Vancouver chamber orchestra.

"When I first moved to Whistler I commuted for a couple of days a week. That was when they were building the highway," Hunter recalls.

In years gone by, Hunter played a lot of chamber music, weddings, hotel and corporate events, and even moonlight ski night dinners at the old Roundhouse building on Whistler Mountain.

She has even performed in a hard hat in Whistler construction zones for public events involving visitors coming to check out new projects."I'm able to judge my audience. I can play 'Stairway to Heaven," she laughs.

"I still play a fair bit of Celtic and classical."

Hunter is performing during Tasting the Divine: Cooks With Books, a reading at the Whistler Writers Festival, on Friday, Oct. 16, at 6:15 p.m.

She promises to learn how to play "Food Glorious Food" for the event.

Tickets are $15 and available at

"Being a musician is a lot like being an athlete and I was keeping my area of expertise up, but I wasn't really progressing. I wasn't getting in the couple of hours of practice a day that I needed to do," Hunter says.

"So to change this has been really great this summer. I got my practicing in and I am working with a really great violist, Lisa Jablonowski, who has moved to town."

They are currently planning a concert for November, hopefully at the Whistler Museum, Hunter says.

"It's just really casual. We're practicing a lot of Bach and Vaughan Williams," she says.

"I do Celtic music as well."

She is also playing at the Whistler Farmers' Market this weekend.

How many harps does a harpist have? In Hunter's case it is seven.

"I have a concert harp, of course, and then I have smaller harps, Celtic harps and lap harps. I teach harp, as well. I have a couple of students and hope to expand that."

Who are her students?

"Anybody who sees it wants to learn it. It's a huge age range; I have adults and kids. The harp is very much like piano. My mother always said, no matter how badly someone played it always sounded good," Hunter laughs.

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