Celebrating the migration of music
By Stephanie Jadrnicek
CLEMSON — When Bridget Kibbey was a little girl, she attended a small country church with her family in Findlay, Ohio. One morning, a woman began playing the harp during Sunday service — and Kibbey’s jaw dropped to the floor.
“My dad noticed, and he asked me if I wanted to try it. So I started taking lessons from her,” Kibbey said. “By the time I graduated high school, in a town that’s today made up of maybe 30,000 people, there were 40 harpists in my town. You find these little enclaves of harp schools all over the country.”
Her devoted teacher drove her to master classes and festivals all over the Midwest, and from there she developed a passion for the instrument.
“The harp is one of the most versatile instruments in existence. It can sound like a keyboard,a massive guitar or a salon instrument from the French Epoque,” she said. “It can be the most genteel, elegant instrument, and it can also create a fierce backup groove.”
Her greatest passion and joy comes from crafting projects that show new audiences what the harp can do. Kibbey will perform with violin virtuoso Kristin Lee and percussionist John Hadfield at the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts at Clemson University tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Titled, “The Bridge Project,” the concert explores the capabilities of the harp while honoring the work of composers who immigrated to the U.S. in celebration of International Month.
“We’ll track the migration of certain song and dance forms around the globe. With colonization, slavery and immigration, you have these dance forms that travel from West Africa to South America, from Spain to South America, from Morocco to the U.S. And, and as a result, there is this cross pollination of cultures that create completely new forms of popular music.”
The Bridge Project encompasses many different colors and flavors, and the audience may hear more common, familiar threads throughout the show from the music that’s traveled around the world over the past three centuries.
“We’ll be sharing a little bit of background about these dance forms before we play them,” Kibbey said. “A lot of these, especially the Spanish dances that immigrated to Brazil and Columbia, you might recognize elements of samba, bossa nova, tango — all of these elements are influences for a lot of today’s writers who have immigrated to New York from all over the globe.”
This isn’t Kibbey’s first time at the Brooks Center. She performed a solo recital in January 2010 on the Utsey Chamber Series. Brooks Center director Mickey Harder reconnected with Kibbey last January in New York City when she served as a panelist on a program for the Young Performers Career Advancement Program.
Harder said she and Kibbey discussed the various, innovative projects the harpist is involved in, and when Harder learned about Kibbey’s plans for “The Bridge Project,” she was hooked.
“I love to bring an artist back with a different ensemble or a new idea, and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that this subject matter would be so timely,” Harder said. “They will be playing music composed by composers who immigrated to the U.S., and I am so proud that we have an opportunity to honor these composers, particularly given what has been happening politically in recent weeks.”
The trio will showcase Sephardic traditional music, Brazilian choro, North African kora influences and beyond. Kibbey said the music is folk-inflected so she hopes the audience feels like dancing. Her work has been described as unorthodox and a review by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Kibbey plays the harp like a piano set free of its hammers and case.
“I love playing the harp because I have direct access to the strings with my fingers,” she said. “We create a sound by manipulating the strings with our fingers. There’s no bow, there’s no reed, there’s nothing between me and the instrument, it’s just me and those strings — and I find that completely romantic and challenging and wonderful in the best way.”
Harder thinks that Kibbey will enchant the audience, not only with her beautiful playing, but also with her personality.
“She has a magnetism that is both wonderful and inspiring,” she said. “I’m confident that everyone will be carried to another world.”
The concert is free. For more information, call (864) 656-7787 or visit clemson.edu/centers-institutes/brooks.
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