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From Bjork's Utopia to Newport for jazz harpist Tara Minton

Tara Minton will play the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend in Newport, in September. <i>(Image: Monika S. Jakubowska.)</i>
Tara Minton will play the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend in Newport, in September. (Image: Monika S. Jakubowska.)

Australian-born Tara Minton is headed to the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend next month, to showcase what she admits is a complicated, hard to learn and difficult to master instrument.

"The harp is all those things," she laughs, in an interview with the Isle of Wight County Press.

"Playing the harp will ruin your life! It's always a logistical nightmare but I have found myself in funny situations that I can look back on later and laugh about."

Jazz is something you don't play FOR people, you play WITH people, she explains, as she considers her love for the genre.

Tara Minton, in 2018, accompanying Bjork

When she heads across The Solent to Newport Methodist Church, on Friday, September 15, she will bring 'two of her favourite people,' Ed Babar (double bass) and David Ingamells (drums), to play with her.

"Jazz is communication and a conversation," she says.

"The concert we are about to give or receive will happen now, in this moment and will never happen again.

"It's something that's shared with the people who are there, and that's really special."

As a ten year old, Tara saw the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business on TV and watched Harpo play the harp.

She fashioned one for herself, out of a lunchbox and elastic bands.

It was inevitable her parents would eventually 'cave in' and buy her one, allowing her to follow her calling.

However, as she developed her career in music, it became evident not everyone in jazz expected to see a harp on stage.

"I used to get, "jazz harp?" with a massive question mark," Tara admits, adding there is something of a renaissance underway.

Isle of Wight County Press: Tara Minton will play the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend.
Isle of Wight County Press: Tara Minton will play the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend.

Tara Minton will play the Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend. (Image: Monika S. Jakubowska.)

Isle of Wight County Press: Tara Minton with Ed Babar, left, and David Ingamells.
Isle of Wight County Press: Tara Minton with Ed Babar, left, and David Ingamells.

Tara Minton with Ed Babar, left, and David Ingamells. (Image: Monika S. Jakubowska.)

While Americans Brandee Younger and the late, great Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane have championed its place in the genre, this beautiful stringed instrument is starting to appear elsewhere too.

"Florence and the Machine plays with a harpist. There are harps popping up. It's starting to get into the public psyche a little bit more."

Meanwhile, Tara has herself made a foray into chart music, playing on Bjork's 2017 album, Utopia.

"Bjork plays the harp. She's a master. I played what she gave me and it was beautiful.

"I had the good fortune of stepping on to her tour and filling in for her harpist, who was fully booked."

It was (literally and metaphorically) another string to Tara's extensive bow.

In 2020, she released her critically acclaimed album Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid.

"My life's mission has been to bring the harp down from Heaven and put it on Earth.

"I'm a jazz musician and I happen to play the harp," she says.

She also happens to be a gifted singer, who says there is nothing like the energy of a huge crowd (and she has plenty of experience with that).

Her Isle of Wight debut will be a more intimate affair - but that is when you get a special 'crackle in the air,' she says.

"The harp is versatile. It's not just for pretty music. It's for real gutsy music.

"You listen to the space and sit within that."

Although Tara was born in Australia and her husband is from New Zealand, her Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend performance, though her first time here, will prove to be something of a homecoming.

Tara's husband's family can be traced back to the Island, according to research by the British Museum.

The couple won't get to see much of our diamond isle this time though - she has to be at a wedding the next day. But she promises to be back, without her harp, for easier travel.

"You don't think through life-choices when you're ten - like living on the ground floor and driving a people-mover," she laughs, and the physical requirements of playing the harp  instead of, say a more portable flute, hasn't stopped her from being, "an eternal explorer and adventurer."

  • Grab an Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend ticket now (see the link above), to hear Tara share her love of jazz, beautiful arrangements and more. 

"It's a joy to open people's minds to the possibilities of the harmonies and textures and how expressive the harp can be," she says.