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Multitalented: Ailie Robertson

Ailie Robertson is a phenomenal talent who can boast equal success as a performer, a composer, and a teacher; it is our honour to present her in concert at the Espace Camac.

Hailing from Edinburgh, Ailie was a five-time Gold Medalist of the National Mod and a finalist of the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year. She has recorded extensively, with three albums to her name; her debut album ‘First things first’ won the Live Ireland award for ‘Best Instrumental Cut of the Year’. 

Ailie Robertson Photo: ©Archie McFarlane

Ailie Robertson with her DHC 32 Photo: ©Archie McFarlane

As a musician who wears a number of “hats”( harpist, composer, teacher), we asked her if each discipline feeds inspiration for the other?

“Yes, absolutely. I think that the three are really intertwined for me – as a harpist, I understand how to write for the instrument well, so composing for it is great fun.”

As a composer, Ailie has been commissioned by some highly prestigious orchestras and cultural institutions, an element she also communicates in her harp playing: 

The composition I do for other instruments and ensembles, gives me ideas for new colours and textures to bring back and try out on the harp.”

She performs and teaches all over the world, in masterclasses, workshops and in private lessons.

 

“I also love writing and arranging pieces for my students, and trying to think of ways to keep the music fresh and exciting, whether it’s at Grade 1 [elementary] or professional level. I’m also running a new course at the moment about ‘how to conquer performance anxiety for harpists’, and that’s really forcing me to look at how I think and feel when performing, and how we can teach performance confidence to our students.”

Ailie Robertson plays on her Camac Aziliz Photo: ©Louise Mather

Ailie Robertson plays on her Camac Aziliz Photo: ©Louise Mather

 The harp is a truly international scene these days, and that means, whatever genre in which you work, one needs to travel in order to reach your audience. We asked, what are the ups and downs of this?

“The ups are definitely getting to experience new cultures and meet wonderful people from all over the world! I love how interconnected our scene is. I’m lucky to have performed all over Europe as well as in the USA, Canada, Australia, India, Argentina, South Korea and Hong Kong now! One of the downsides is of course flying with a harp – but my lovely Camac DHC32 and flightcase make that much easier! The other, right now for me, is that I have a 16-month old daughter, so international travel has another layer of complication to it!”

We are proud that the DHC32 brings something special to Ailie’s work (apart from being easier to transport!); in the summer, Ailie plans to record a new album of harp and electronics this summer, and she is writing all the new material on her DHC.

“I adore the versatility of this instrument. The ‘natural’ sound is already so rich and sonorous, but then when you put it through different effects pedals, a whole new world opens up. Every time I plug it in, I can lose myself for hours just enjoying the range of colours and textures that the instrument can give.” 

Ailie Robertson ©Euan Robertson

Ailie Robertson Photo: ©Euan Robertson

Despite spending so much time on the road, Ailie is still finding time to explore her art, and new sound worlds. She continues to cultivate new work, new music and use all phases of her creativity:

“I am writing a new harp duet, inspired by nordic folklore, for the wonderful Chroma Duo, as well as some choral pieces with harp accompaniment. Performing-wise, I have quite a few European dates this year with my band The Outside Track […] and I am in the process of setting up some tours for a new duo with harpist Adriano Sangineto.”

And that isn’t all! : ”I also curate the Winter Harp Festival in January each year, which is an online festival for harpists from around the world, so I’m starting to plan our 2025 edition!”

So, you see, we are lucky that Ailie has found time to play for us at the Espace Camac, on 16 May 2024. Entry is free but reserve your place here. See you there!

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