Artist gives back to her community with music

As a singer, songwriter, cellist, pianist, teacher and poet, Morag Northey says the arts help her to express emotions and work through hard times

Famous jazz musician Ray Charles often said, “I was born with music inside me.”

Local cellist, singer and poet Morag Northey feels the same. The cello is much more than just an instrument for her, she says.

“I was born to create. I was born to be an artist and to play music,” Northey says. “It’s who I am and what I do, how I think and how I breathe.”

Northey is currently playing her cello in Theatre Calgary’s new musical, Next to Normal. But one of her favourite places to play is in St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Calgary because of the way music sounds acoustically.

Last year, Northey started Together Calgary, a free concert series where she plays improvised music in the Cathedral for an hour during lunchtime. She says she got the idea because she wanted to give back to her community.

“I felt like I’ve been helped so much by my community, my friends and my family. I wanted to give that back in a way that I felt I could,” Northey says.

She says sharing music challenges others to feel the emotions of the artist and be present in our world.

“The artist’s job is to question. We observe, we question and we express. And in (sharing music), others can also take those emotions,” she said.

Another way for Northey to share her music is through teaching. She teaches young children to play the cello at the Mount Royal Conservatory. She also runs private lessons at her home.

One of her students, Bruce Hildesheim, says he often thinks of Northey as ‘the Lady Gaga of the cello world.”

“She’s incredibly passionate about what she does,”, Hildesheim says. “She’s very comfortable in her own skin and she does her own thing.”

Northey says teaching gives her an opportunity to inspire others.

“It’s a fantastic thing to be able to get people to dive in and feel what it feels like to work with vibrations and sound.”

Northey also writes poetry to help her process her life experiences. She say poetry and songwriting helps her to get through hard times.

“By expressing myself through words, I can read it again. “I’ve gotten it out onto paper,” she says. “The healing begins because it’s present and been brought to light.”

Northey says the key to being an artist is to be confident in what you do and your source of inspiration.

She says she gets her inspiration from anything and everything she sees, hears and feels.

“If those words are coming from a place of truth, they’re going to be valuable to someone. And I guess that’s art to me – boiling down to expressing something real and something true,” Northey says.

Northey will continue the Together Calgary Series early next year.

-Pauline Zulueta  /  Calgary Journal