Know your choir - Madeleine Johnson

Know your choir – Madeleine Johnson

How did a 7th generation Tasmanian with no obvious connection to Italy come to be playing the piano with the Dante choir in Canberra?

I shall start at the beginning. My parents met at a piano lesson in Hobart. Both came from musical families – many generations of church organists, choristers, a choir conductor, bush band instrumentalists and instrument makers. I started piano lessons at 3 years old, begging to have lessons like the ones I heard my mother giving in our home. By the time I left school I had completed all my piano exams, gaining my Licentiate of music in piano performance (LMus A), had experience as a choral singer and accompanist in both secular and church music, and had started teaching a few piano students under the guidance of my mother. However, I chose not to continue with music studies, and whilst continuing with some teaching and choral singing I studied law at the University of Tasmania.

After several years working in Tasmania as a lawyer, seeking a little more adventure away from my home state, I joined the Royal Australian Navy as a legal officer. This brought me to Canberra. It was here that I fulfilled one of my life-long dreams – to study the pipe organ. I continued with this, and church choral singing, both in the Canberra area and in the USA for some years.

Upon returning to Australia, by now with two young children, I decided that for me music would be a much better career than law, so I returned to teaching piano, and accompanying church, school and community choirs and instrumentalists.

Once my children left home, again looking for a new adventure in my life, I turned my attention to dancing, dabbling with different dance forms until finally settling on Scottish Country dancing and Irish set dancing.

It was through my involvement as a dancer at the National Folk Festival that my second life-long dream was reawakened – to play the harp. My first harp was a Celtic harp. Playing this beautiful instrument opened up a whole new world for me and I began playing with various folk music groups around Canberra.

Last year, through Scottish folk music, I met fellow Tasmanian Geraldine Triffett – a violinist with the Scottish Fiddle Club, and also with the Dante choir. Through Geraldine I was invited to play for a specific performance of the Dante choir. I came for that one performance – and stayed! I stayed because the Dante choir is filled with the most welcoming, happy and enthusiastic singers and musicians! It is a joy to be part of this choir.

Madeleine Johnson