Known as a spellbinding soloist and a versatile ensemble player, harper and vocalist Kim Robertson has helped to build the momentum of interest in Celtic harp across North America. She tours extensivley and can be heard in the trio Ferintosh.
Greetings from the great Midwest, and thanks for asking me to contribute. Being a long time fan of The Thistle & Shamrock, I was thrilled to receive an "honorable mention" in one of the listener's surveys.
It has been especially gratifying to have tracks from my releases, including Searching for Lambs (Gourd) and Ferintosh, (Ferintosh) featured on the program with so many of my own favorite Celtic musicians. In the midst of the worldwide explosion of Celtic music, the harp is currently enjoying quite a boom in North America, with increasing numbers of festivals, players and builders.
When I first discovered the Celtic harp over 30 years ago, I was a paper-trained classical musician, playing piano and the larger, chromatic pedal harp. At first, it was the transportable size of the smaller harp that appealed to me but as I began to explore Celtic music, I became captivated by the beauty of the melodies and modes. The diatonic "limitations" of the instrument allowed a generous freedom of expression and I became inspired to develop my own arrangements and compositions.
My teaching and performing experiences were also transformed, as I could use a creative (playing by ear) approach with any level of student, and performances became spontaneous excursions into my own creativity, quite unlike the angst-ridden classical recitals I used to play.
Although I got my start recording for a "New Age" label, I've since switched to a Celtic label and am shedding that old identity. The mystical, mellow, therapeutic image of the harp is steadily being augmented (some would say subverted) by the renaissance of the small harp.
These days, one can find small harps ranging from precise historical replicas to electric-blue midi-harps, find performers wearing anything from period-costumes to spandex and leather, and find recordings embracing influences from plain chant to pop music.
The world of the small harp is amazingly diverse -- there are gut-strung, nylon-strung, wire-strung, double, triple and cross-strung harps; there are assorted historical harps -- Celtic, Latin, African and Asian harps (I currently play a nylon-strung, cherry professional model Celtic harp by David Kortier).
People play them on their right shoulder, left shoulder, with their fingernails or fingertips, standing up, sitting down, right side up or upside down (really!). There's even some debate over what constitutes a Celtic harp.
The only common denominator is that they are all descended from the bow and arrow, and beyond the angel and fairy-imagery, there does seem to be something magical in the sound. As a relative veteran in the U.S. folkharp scene, I have come to realize that aside from the boom and popularization of the harp, it all comes back to music and the music comes back to self-discovery.
When I felt the call of the Celtic harp at the age of 20, it was a doorway to my own individuality, an opportunity to stop worrying about how I fit in and to find my own "voice". If there's an essential quality in my career that brings it all alive for me, it's this question of individuality. I look forward to meeting all of you again (individually!) via the airwaves with future recordings.
For more information on Kim and all of her recordings, visit her website: www.kimrobertson.net