For our March 2015 issue we featured an interview with the Harp Twins of the U.S.A. Some of their music is available to be streamed from our Free Music tab.
THE HARP TWINS
by James A. McQuiston FSA Scot, USA
For our March “Spirituality” issue we have an interview with Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known professionally as the Harp Twins. They are identical twins who have made quite a name for themselves playing this ancient Celtic instrument. In addition to being the official symbol of Ireland, the harp is typically the only instrument found in drawings of angels on heavenly clouds. You certainly won’t see angels playing a Les Paul guitar – no Strats in the stratosphere – just harps announcing the way to the afterlife. Let’s get right to the interview!
CG: Hello Camille and Kennerly. We’d like to welcome you to the pages of Celtic Guide.
C&K: Thanks so much for having us! We’re honored to be included in this issue of Celtic Guide!
CG: One of our readers suggested we contact you for an interview. We notice that you often wear medieval outfits and you certainly play one of the most Celtic of instruments. Do you feel a link to the Celtic countries, maybe through your family history, or through the instrument you’ve chosen?
C&K: We love that the harp has such deep roots in Celtic culture. Our heritage is mostly Nordic (Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish), but we do have a bit of Scottish and French blood. Even though we play many different styles of music, we definitely feel the Celtic connection, and love the rich history that is a unique quality of the harp!
CG: What first gave you the desire to play harp, and was that desire equally shared by the two of you?
C&K: Yes! We started playing harp in middle school because we were both really drawn to the beauty of the harp. It’s always seemed like a magical instrument for us. However, it took us a while to convince our mom that we were serious about learning the harp. We showed her that we were serious by earning some of the money for our first harps through babysitting, walking dogs, and other odd jobs.
CG: We’ve included this interview in our “Spirituality” issue of Celtic Guide as there is probably no instrument more associated with heaven than the harp. We suspect there is a spiritual aspect to your music, and your many other creative adventures. Can you elaborate on this?
C&K: We think that music is spiritual to us because we connect with music on a special and deeper level than most things in life. We’re not sure why the harp is so closely associated with spirituality, but we think its tone and texture resonates in a much different way than most instruments. The harp is arguably one of the oldest instruments and has roots in almost every culture around the world. There has been much research about the healing effects of the harp on those with illnesses, and the calming effects on those with anxiety. In our own musical life, we have heard from so many that our music has lifted them emotionally after a bad day, or helped them complete a project, or cleared their mind, or comforted them after the loss of a loved one. If our music can touch people on an emotional and spiritual level or help someone in some way, we could not be more gratified. We feel that our music speaks in a way that our words cannot.
CG: You’ve performed for heads of state and have done some international performances. What would you say were your top three most interesting or exciting appearances?
C&K: We recently performed a tour in Paraguay and it was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. We represented the United States at the World Harp Festival there and the Embassy also asked us to stay and tour schools and towns in Paraguay for additional performances and to speak on empowerment for girls and women. We had a full Harp Twins live show open to the public the day after the World Harp Festival ended and 900 people showed up to a 350 seat theater! So, we asked the Embassy and venue if we could add a second full show right after the first. It was so much fun to play back-to-back shows for our amazing fans in Paraguay!
Another one of our favorite performances was performing small and very personal concerts this past summer for the residents at Little Angels – a care facility for children and young adults with severe disabilities and complex medical needs. The residents at Little Angels require 24-hour care - most are confined to wheelchairs and cannot express themselves verbally. But it was such a wonderful experience for us to bring our music to them. We played our harps for several groups in different parts of the facility and also brought our blue Harpsicle Harps to set on their laps. We helped them individually strum the harps and the joy and excitement on their precious faces kept us smiling all day.
We also had the opportunity to perform for an event where President Obama was the featured speaker! That was such an honor and definitely a performance highlight for us.
CG: We also understand that you share a considerable musical education. Can you expand on this for our readers?
C&K: We were trained classically and received Bachelor of Music degrees in Harp Performance from the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College. Prior to transferring to the Conservatory, we completed our last two years of high school while simultaneously enrolled in a music studies program at our local college.
We were fortunate that our harp teacher (who was also the harp professor at the University Conservatory that we later transferred to) was able to temporarily become faculty at our local college so that we could transfer harp lesson credits. It was definitely a very rigorous program and we were grateful to have an amazing Harp Professor at our University. Our conservatory repertoire was classical music, but we also managed to find time for arranging contemporary music while completing our studies. While at our Conservatory, we performed with several of the choirs there. We have also studied privately with several harp teachers in the United States and Canada.
CG: What is the nature of the typical live performances you give, and do they ever include Celtic events such as Highland Games and Irish Festivals?
C&K: One of the wonderful things about performing is that every venue, performance, and audience is different! One day we’ll be performing for celebrities or dignitaries and another day we’ll be performing a concert for school children.
Most of our concerts are rather low-key environments where the audience can sit and relax while listening to our music. However, since we play both acoustic and electric harp, our music can be quite versatile! We have performed at some Celtic events and we would love to perform at more in the future – a traditionally Celtic instrument with a completely modern twist is the perfect act for these kinds of events! We think that our concerts have a little bit of something for everyone.
CG: Typically, when a person is talented in one area, they tend to branch out into others. Can you tell our readers about other creative or adventurous avenues you’ve pursued, together or individually?
C&K: Some of our creative endeavors related to our music are our music video creations. Our video creating skills are self-taught. We didn’t take any classes to learn to film, record, video edit, etc., it was just something that we learned out of necessity. We wanted to post “samples” of our arrangements for clients to see and we wanted to do it in a creative way.
We love to create costumes that fit the music that we’re covering and our video concepts. We sometimes make clothing items that we need and often alter items that we already have and use them in several videos in different combinations and ways.
As far as non-music related activities: We have always been active and we love trying different activities and sports: swimming, soccer, riflery and Tae Kwon Do. Tae Kwon Do was something that we continued for a long time. We worked our way through the ranks to earn our 3rd degree black belts and eventually taught Tae Kwon Do ourselves. We love traveling, working out, acting, and volunteering with those who have special needs.
We have had the opportunity to act in some commercials and a few films – and our harps were featured in several of those films! We think it’s important to have balance in life. So even though much of our life is devoted to music, we like to branch out into other activities. Life is much better with creativity and adventure!
CG: There are stories of twins having a secret language that only they understand, or an empathetic understanding by one of how the other is feeling, even at a distance. Do you have any good stories along these lines to share?
C&K: We haven’t experienced any telepathy, but our thought processes are so similar that it probably often looks like we’re telepathic! We definitely have an empathetic understanding of each other, but we haven’t experienced any strange phenomenon yet. ;) ;) We have only spent very short periods of time apart and thankfully haven’t had any traumatic experiences apart from each other.
CG: Is it ever a struggle to maintain your own separate lives and identities?
C&K: We don’t feel that keeping our “identities” has ever been a struggle. Our lives have always been tightly entwined and we don’t feel the need to have “separate lives”. People definitely have some pre-conceived notions about twins and almost a phobia of twins that seem “too alike”.
We think this is due to the fact that most people can’t comprehend how they would still feel like an individual if they had someone else with the same DNA. However, just because someone looks and thinks similarly to someone else, doesn’t mean they don’t feel like an individual. When we look at each other, it doesn’t feel at all like we’re looking at ourselves. People can be wary of things that are “different” from the norm, but we love “different” and we love being different together.
CG: What’s the next big project on the agenda for the Harp Twins?
C&K: We’re currently working to finish our Harp Attack 2 CD. This is our third album and the first album that we are having professionally mastered! We are also working on our Harp Fantasy 2 CD as well as an EP of original music. We also are starting to plan an album of Celtic, classical and spiritual music. So, there will be a lot of new music coming from up this year and beyond!
CG: Is there one final thing you’d like our Celtic Guide readers to know about the two of you.
C&K: We love hearing from fans and supporters and those interested in our music. We generally spend several hours a day answering fan questions, responding to comments and interacting with fans online. We would love to hear from Celtic Guide readers on our social media sites! Please come over and say “hi”!