It’s true to say that over the last month and a bit, I’ve fallen completely and utterly in love with Montsalvat. If you’ve read the Montsalvat posts you probably already guessed that.  I’ve never told you this, but my first memory of the gorgeous old place is from my twenties.  I was taken there by a boyfriend. We walked in to one of the buildings and a Beethoven piano concerto was ringing around the rafters from a record player.  The attendant on the day was reading the score from an enormous book of music.  I was spellbound.  Beethoven in such a beautiful place. I didn’t want to leave until the last note of the concerto had been played… From that time on, whenever I heard the name Montsalvat, that was where I went.  I’ve been back over the years for concerts and the like but this recent concentrated month and a half has deepened those experiences in a lovely rich way.  I’d hate to think of a world without Montsalvat…I talk about it endlessly with friends and family… I’ve looked forward to every visit and come away feeling enriched by the beauty and the activity I’ve encountered there. Like all not for profit organizations, it’s survival and nurturance depends upon a small handful of people.  Montsalvat relies on a Board of Management to make decisions and oversee initiatives that will take it further into this century and beyond. Given that, I’ve been really keen to speak to the Chair of the Montsalvat Board, Morag Fraser.

I loved talking with her last Friday.  Maybe because her response to Montsalvat is similar to mine. She loves the endless fascination of it. She’s been coming to Montsalvat since the 1960’s, but says she still finds little places and experiences which surprise and delight her. She’s noticed that children respond to this aspect of it.  In her own words…

“It’s a place that allows you to make discoveries.”

The most recent experience was earlier this year sitting in the Great Hall for the Stanley Yates (guitar) concert with the afternoon light coming through the Matcham Skipper windows, illuminating the event in a unique way.

She wants as many children and adults to experience the wonder of Montsalvat as possible.  She wants them to enjoy the creative heart embedded in the original buildings and stonework.  She wants artists and artisans and students of art to feel enabled to make things within those buildings and to benefit from the opportunities for discussion and inspiration provided by a lively artistic community. She believes that this will continue through Montsalvat’s ongoing artist in residence program (attracting the likes of Dena Ashbolt) and by making studio spaces available for artists like Susan Reddrop. She acknowledges that all of that comes at considerable financial cost…so taking care of the finances is a key aspect of the Boards work.

We talked about adding a photo to the post so Morag sent me the photo above, from her personal album. A favourite of hers, in her favourite place at Montsalvat, doing her favourite thing… making her own guitar in Chris Wynne’s studio.  She loves the way her blurred hands indicate the speed with which she was planing. She doesn’t just love Montsalvat from her position as Chair of the Board, she loves it with a passion, in a hands on kind of way. I love that.

The list of Board Members is impressive… Phillip Adams, Sigmund Jorgensen, Max Jorgensen, Barry Jones, Catherine Dale, John Howie, Allan Willingham and of course Morag herself. Each board member brings a high level of commitment. Membership of the board is voluntary. It’s heartening to know that Montsalvat is in good hands and that it will not only engage and fascinate visitors for many years to come but also remain as a place where artists can gather to make things that delight and challenge us.