When: Friday, 7: 30 p.m.
Where: Alix Goolden Hall Tickets: $30 at Munro's Books, Stampers! on Quadra, The Sheiling and Heritage Cat Clinic
Additional performances in Courtenay (tonight), Nanaimo (Saturday) and Duncan (Sunday).
Celtic harpist Kim Robertson calls herself a classical music defector.
Joining a symphony orchestra and playing regular gigs of Mozart and Chopin is the stuff of dreams for many musicians. It's just not for her.
"As a classical musician, I felt cut off from life, because it's such a demanding thing to learn music and keep up that skill level," she said. "The music we play now is definitely more accessible and for me, I want to be part of life."
Accessibility seems to be what it's all about for Robinson, who is currently touring with the Winter Harp ensemble as a special guest. Having moved on from her classical roots, she has established herself as a pioneer of the American folk-harp movement in North America, according to organizers.
She has performed in concert halls, luxury cruises and remote mountaintops. But if there's any indication she cracked the mainstream, it was her appearance on popular TV series Beverly Hills 90210 - even if the Celtic harp maintains a relatively niche audience otherwise.
"I still get emails from friends in Europe who catch a rerun," said Robertson, who also gets the occasional royalty cheque.
But making the switch to folk music wasn't easy when Robinson did it in the 1970s. With no established Celtic harp community in the United States, she said, she had to teach herself through independent research, travel and creative thinking.
"This was before YouTube," she said. "It was hard to find the recordings and the music."
More than 30 years later, the results of her efforts - alongside others' - are obvious to those in the harp world. "When she started, there were only a few players and hardly any harp makers,"
Winter Harp director Lori Pappajohn wrote in an email. "Thanks to her incredible work and inspiration as a performer, recording artist and arranger of harp music, there are now thousands of players in North America."
Robinson joins the Winter Harp ensemble, which has been performing annually for nearly two decades, for the first time this year.
In a candlelit setting and sporting medieval attire, the crew presents music from well-known carols to Celtic, medieval, world and Spanish tunes during its 11-city tour.
Robertson is joined by storyteller and wire-strung harpist Patrick Ball, as well as musicians Janelle Nadeau, Roger Helfrik, Lauri Lyster, Jeff Pelletier and Joaquin Ayala.
"All the players are really stellar," Robinson said. "Everyone is a soloist unto themselves."
Other instruments include classical harps, drums, tambourines, bells, flutes and an assortment of ancient and rare instruments. According to Robinson, the crew must tune 250 strings before the show starts and during intermission.
Besides bringing together a mixed crowd, ranging from kids to busloads of retirees, the familiar music strikes a chord with many listeners.
"My mother always said, 'I only like songs that I know,' " she said. "Now my goal is to play music people respond to." firstname.lastname@example.org
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