Taking the sound of the harp to new places is what Canadian musician Alys Howe is all about. With performances that explore new stylistic territory, Alys will shake your belief that harp music can only be soothing.
Drawing upon her classical roots, Alys also immersed herself in the ancient modalities of the Scottish and Irish harp traditions, training in Scotland (RSAMD), Ireland (University of Limerick), and Cape Breton (Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts) to weave three strands from the Celtic traditions into her own contemporary soundscape. With an approach dedicated to promoting multiculturalism in the music she loves, Alys has appeared in many different concert venues, on radio, television, and documentary programs performing as a soloist and in ensemble – both live and in the studio. Performances have taken her from the mainstage with her Celtic band Leum!, into clubs with a pop cover-band, to performing for the Prime Minister of Slovenia. Alys has appeared at The World Harp Congress, The Mission Folk Festival, CelticFest Vancouver, Feis Slighe Nan Gaidheal, for Vancouver Television, with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, and The National Youth Orchestra of Canada. As an accompanist she has worked with Pandora’s Vox, Ariel Sung, Jubilate Choir, and The Vancouver Gaelic Choir. Crossing the border into the US, Alys has performed at Seattle’s Dusty Strings on several occasions, most recently as a duo with harp and voice partner Seumas Gagne.
Alys Howe’s debut recording, Phosphorescence, combines innovative arrangements of traditional material with new compositions, and features songs in both Scots and Gaelic. Demonstrating her masterful understanding of the techniques developing among contemporary harp players, Alys has won awards of distinction including two Mod Gold-Medals, The Watkins Fellowship, and grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. Alys Howe’s music is a special blend of the ancient and modern: traditional music from Scotland, Cape Breton, and Ireland, juxtaposed with contemporary grooves derived from jazz, blues, and pop.
Currently immersing herself in the musical dialects of Cape Breton, Alys’s arrangements incorporate the ragtime and boogie-woogie influences of Eastern Canadian piano accompaniment into her repertoire of lively dance tunes, Gaelic waulking (work) songs, “puirt-a-beul”, traditional songs, and original harp compositions. The advent of the electric harp is opening doors to innovative sound styles, and bridging the gap between this ancient instrument and modern technology. Recently, Alys has become involved in new avenues of musical expression on the harp with effects pedals, amplification, and electronic collaborations.
A dedicated teacher and tradition-bearer, Alys shares her love of the harp with students world-wide, most recently teaching for Edmonton Kiwanis Festival and the International School of Celtic Harp in Wells, BC. Exploring her instrument with passionate energy and dexterity, the music of Alys Howe will open your ears to the diverse contemporary sounds of the harp.