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'Wonderfully stuck' in Queenstown: Kate Targett-Adams and her Celtic harp

Queenstown’s cultural scene only improved when world-leading Celtic harpist Kate Targett-Adams settled here last year. PHILIP CHANDLER talks to her about why she decided to move here, how she got into playing the harp and the many other strings to her bow

While Covid’s a huge curse for Queenstown, the resort’s also become a refuge for some amazing talent.

A great example is world-renowned Celtic harpist and singer-songwriter Kate Targett-Adams, who’s been, in her words, ‘‘wonderfully stuck’’ here.

Originally from Scotland, she’d been based for 12 years in Hong Kong till early last year.

With her Kiwi husband Tim Bridges — brother of ex-National Party leader Simon Bridges — having a holiday home at Lake Hayes, she’d enjoyed regular Queenstown summer holidays.

Pre-Covid, they’d planned to shift to Phuket, Thailand, for their four-year-old’s schooling, s they’d not found Hong Kong ‘‘child-friendly’’.

Last March, however, two weeks after Targett-Adams joined her family at Lake Hayes for a three-week holiday, New Zealand went into lockdown, and Queenstown instead became heir new home.

Now 41, Targett-Adams’ career’s arisen from her passions for music and languages, her vivacious personality, and from seizing opportunities along the way.

She started piano lessons at six, but says a year later her teacher sat her mum down ‘‘and said, ‘she’s never going to make it’.’’

Offended, but undeterred, her mum looked for another instrument — happily, her daughter got smitten by the harp when attending Edinburgh’s harp festival.

She eventually started lessons with the ‘‘legend’’ who started the festival on the traditional Celtic harp, or ‘clarsach’.

As her talent for playing and singing grew, so did her aptitude for learning languages, culminating in studies at Oxford University.

Her first ‘break’ came from an invitation, which she initially declined, to play for the Scotland Tourist Board in Washington D.C. during her finals.

Her biggest break came when a Chinese ambassador heard her play in Scotland’s Stirling Castle, and invited her to perform in China.

High brow: Kate Targett-Adams with Scottish comedian Sir Billy Connolly after performing for him in Hong Kong in 2019P

While enjoying huge success in Britain, performing for the likes of the Royal Family, J.K.Rowling and Sir Sean Connery, she moved to Hong Kong to pursue opportunities in China and broader Asia, including work during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

What impressed the Chinese, she says, was her willingness to perform in their language.

While in Hong Kong, she also added many strings to her bow, so to speak.

Finding there wasn’t any Ceroc dancing — she’d just been training in it in London — she brought the dance form to Asia, and now owns Ceroc franchises in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

‘‘And that’s how I met my husband — he walked into my dance class.’’

Targett-Adams got into more MC’ing, and also started a personal branding consultancy — till last year she was training Miss Universe China candidates plus hotel staff across Macau and Hong Kong.

She’s also continued pushing the harp’s boundaries into genres like pop, jazz and electronic music.

She’s released six albums and written many songs, including one for the survivors of a huge Chinese earthquake.

Performance highlights have been playing in front of 16,000 people in Nanning, China, and in Beijing’s Forbidden City.

However, she also enjoys small, intimate venues like Queenstown’s Thomas Brown Gallery ‘‘where you can see people connect with your music’’.

A bonus of moving here, she says, is ‘‘because of the Celtic links to the South Island, I can sing all my Scottish songs again’’.

During lockdown, she started, with her son’s enthusiastic support, a TikTok channel in China recording children’s nursery rhymes, many filmed with views of Lake Hayes — ‘‘we’ve got about 120,000 followers’’.

Partners in China add English and Mandarin subtitles.

‘‘We even managed to persuade ‘daddy’ to sing in a few.’’

Targett-Adams says she’s getting quite a few harp gigs, too, which she couldn’t have got in
Asia right now — her next is a concert this Sunday at Cromwell’s Cloudy Bay cellar door with the duo, Imaginary Friends.

She’s also joined local salsa and modern-jive dancing groups.

‘‘The more we settle in here, the more comfortable we feel.

‘‘You’ve got everything here, and it’s got that family feel we were looking for that we didn’t
find in Hong Kong.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz