Jacob Portelli: ‘All my life is marked and defined mostly by music-making’

Harpist Jacob Portelli tells all in our Q&A

Jacob Portelli
Jacob Portelli

The highly sought-after harpist is proficient on both the Celtic and the Concert Grand Pedal Harp and is regularly engaged to perform in prestigious events such as State dinners at the President’s Palace and corporate events, as well as wedding ceremonies and receptions. Regularly invited to perform solo recitals of high calibre, Jacob Portelli holds diplomas with distinction in harp performance.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Coffee and a prayer.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Always improve never regress. You can only change yourself.

What do you never leave the house without?
Mobile, keys, harp, sanitizer.

Pick three words that describe yourself
Resilient, hard-working, sensitive.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Becoming a self-employed harpist.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Drinking too much coffee...

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
You will always have to pay a price, not only for bad decisions and action but also for good ones.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
Harps and icons.

Who’s your inspiration?

My model and inspiration is Jesus and all His faithful followers.

What has been your biggest challenge?
The decision to leave a stable job as a teacher and embark on the journey of being a freelance musician.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing?
I would definitely be a full-time calligrapher... something I never have enough time to practice.

Do you believe in God?

No shred of doubt in that.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Henriette Renie... or perhaps St Cecilia.

What’s your worst habit?

Not being so diligent in sleeping at 10pm.

What are you like when you’re drunk?
You have to had the experience of being drunk to know that.

Who would you have play you in a film?
Eddie Redmayne.

What is your earliest memory?

Looking at my mum while she sings lullabies for me.

When did you last cry, and why?

Last month during my daily meditation and prayer. I felt moved with what struck me at that moment from a passage of the Gospel.

Who would you most like to meet?

I wish to meet Enzo Bianchi and have a good chat over a coffee.

What’s your favourite food?

Anything from my mum’s menu.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now? Giovanni Scifoni.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?
Baroque age... no doubt.

What book are you reading right now?

Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul


If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?
Master the Triple Baroque Harp.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Sherzi Musicali – Sances: Dialoghi Amorosi.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?
That’s my quiet moment... total silence.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
People who are not authentic and just copy others in all their steps.

What music would you have played at your funeral?
I think that all my life is marked and defined mostly by music-making. I think silence or the absence of music will highlight that I am there no more.

What is your most treasured material possession?
My harps, Henriette, Cecilia and Agnese and also my iconostasis.