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Of music and theatre

Wednesday, 5th December, 2018

Marilyn Harris PICTURE: Emily Ferguson Marilyn Harris PICTURE: Emily Ferguson

By Emily Roberts

MARILYN Harris’ passion and enthusiasm for music and theatre is very well known around Broken Hill, all of which began at an early age. 

Marilyn was born and raised over 1,000 kilometres away from Broken Hill in Newcastle, before she came to Broken Hill 40 years ago. 

Marilyn’s love of music began when her parents bought her a reconditioned piano when she was nine and nine months old. She began lessons straight away and progressed quite swiftly through piano.

“I desperately wanted to play the piano but my parents didn’t have the money to buy a piano, they had to get extra jobs and stuff, it was great that they did that,” said Marilyn. 

“I studied piano until I was about 17 and then I started singing lessons in Newcastle, I went to the Newcastle Conservatorium for singing lessons and then I started going to Sydney for singing lessons and after a couple years at that I got a job at Avondale Tertiary College and taught singing there for two years.”

During that time she met her husband John over in the Newcastle area, he was a mining engineer and a Broken Hill local.

The pair have been married for 40 years and made the move to Broken Hill in 1978, a decision that Marilyn was sceptical of to begin with.

“You don’t transplant locals if you can help it,” she said. “It was quite an interesting thing for me (moving to Broken Hill) I’d always lived in the same area.

“It has turned out to be a good change, it wasn’t at first, took me seven years to decide to stay and meanwhile I had my three sons.”

Marilyn has three sons, Mitchell, Glendon and Andrew, whom she considers to be her greatest achievement. 

“My three boys are probably my biggest achievement. The eldest is married with a little boy, my second one was a nurse, he was a sound engineer and now he’s a primary school teacher, a really wonderful teacher and our youngest one is a doctor who works in Broken Hill at the present time. He was a high school teacher and then he went into medicine and just finished his GP exams,” said Marilyn. “I’m very proud of my three sons.”

Marilyn became involved in the music scene in Broken Hill very early on. She joined the Philharmonic and Eisteddfod Societies and then a little later the Repertory Society, “Those captured and kept my interest for 40 years.”

Marilyn has been a part of the Eisteddfod Society for 40 years and with the Repertory Society for about 35 years and for the past few years the secretary. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done with the Repertory, we put on three to four shows a years.”

“We’ve really worked hard at it to make it a better place and we love it; my husband it the president and chairman of the board.”

Marilyn is also the pianist for the Morgan Street Public School Choir and the Philharmonic Choir, and has been for many years now.

As well as her adoration for music, Marilyn’s love for theatre also started early.

“I used to go to Gilbert and Sullivan shows in Newcastle as a child, we always used to go to every show that they had,” she said.

“My first piano teacher was a singer as well and he used to be in all the shows and we’d go and see him and that sparked my interest in theatre.”

“I was keen to direct something for myself. In the 90s I was asked to do stage direction for Bacardo for the Philharmonic and Repertory Societies so that got me into directing.”

After that Marilyn started her own shows and now she puts on two to three shows every year, which she loves. 

Annie, the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and Shrek are just a few of the shows that Marilyn has put on over the years. She was unable to decide on her favourite production as they are all so unique, “They’re all great, they’re just so much fun.”

“The best part of working with children which is what I do, most of the people I work with are 8 to 18 and to see them progress in confidence, it’s such a wonderful experience,” she said.

“That’s very fulfilling, it’s wonderful.”

Aside from her children, some highlights and achievements in Marilyn’s life so far consist of her passions, her husband and herself.

“Mainly my music and speech and drama and directing and stuff like that.”

She is also extremely proud of what her husband does too.

“He has been involved in the Eagle Arts College which has just closed. Now he’s working to reopen it in a different format, so he’s very keen to do that, he works really hard at it,” said Marilyn. 

Marilyn finds great achievement in herself and she is proud that she made it this far.

“After being bullied through school, having depression and stuff like that, just to have come through it and be able to help other people.”

From Marilyn’s perspective, Broken Hill is a town of determined people who don’t give up on what they want.

“We’re fighters, we don’t go down without a fight. There’s so much that has happened in Broken Hill over the years, so much that has come to try and put us down and everybody just keeps on getting up... we go on.”

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