Canadian harp player Alys Howe is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions. Specializing in repertoire for the Celtic harp, Alys has studied and performed throughout Scotland, Ireland, and the East Coast of Canada.
The harp, one of the most ancient instruments in the world, is also one of the most beautiful. The tone is mellow and soothing, yet equally stirring and lilting when occasion demands. Its perfection lies in its versatility. Alys Howe is a harp player whose versatility equals that of her instrument. With a BFA Hons. Music Performance on both classical and Celtic harp, an M.A. (First Class Honours) Traditional Irish Music Performance, and eighteen years of performance experience, Alys Howe's distinct voice as a Canadian performer has developed from the uniquely rich and diverse multicultural traditions for which Canada is recognized. Her repertoire of songs and solo harp music is a special blend of original compositions, Pan-Celtic, French Canadian, and traditional Scottish and Irish music.
Growing up in Sechelt and Vancouver, British Columbia, Alys was twice awarded the gold medal for the Advanced Harp competition at Vancouver Mod (a Scottish Gaelic music festival). She has been awarded a Canada Council Grant, the Watkins Fellowship, full scholarship to the Banff School for Fine Arts, and The RSAMD Trust Fund for performers of traditional Scottish music . Her career as a teacher spans the breadth of Canada, from the East Coast of Cape Breton to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. She has also taught Irish music at the undergraduate level (University of Limerick). Alys has made several recordings, including a solo album of mainly traditional Scottish music.
Alys Howe began playing the harp at the age of seven, and since then she has pursued studies in both Celtic and classical music in Scotland, Ireland, and across Canada. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Alys credits her early interest in music to the Orff program implemented by the Vancouver Waldorf school, which she attended during her elementary years. Early harp instruction was with Alison Hunter, Miranda Brown, and especially Elizabeth Volpé, the VSO Principle Harpist. She also worked with American harpists Kim Robertson and Deborah Henson-Conant. Alys' love for traditional music led to two Gold Medal-winning performances in the Advanced Harp competition at the Vancouver Mod, (a Scottish Gaelic music festival; 1997, 1999), appearances with Lori Pappajohn of Harps International and Winter Harp (1995-1999), performances for CBC Television private functions (Vancouver, 1998), entertainment for a Jane Goodall lecture at The Orpheum (Vancouver, 1999), a spot on Vancouver Television's breakfast show (weddings, 1999), and interviews and performances in a documentary about the Vancouver Gaelic Choir, called "Road to the Isles" (1999). She has contributed to several recordings, including the seasonal "A Saviour is Born", and an album of duets with flautist Justine Bliq. A participant in various ensembles, Alys was a member of the Vancouver Bach Youth Choir (1995-1999) and the Vancouver Gaelic Choir (1997-1999), whom she appeared with as a concert soloist and whom she also accompanied on harp over a season of concerts (1998-1999). Having twice been a member of the Vancouver Opera Children's Chorus, Alys performed in Turandot (1997) and La Boheme (1998).
In 1999, Alys was the first overseas student accepted into the B.A. Scottish Music and Ethnomusicology program at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, where she was awarded the Trust Fund (2000). While at the RSAMD, Alys received harp instruction from clarsach tutors Patsy Seddon (better known as half of the duo Sileas ), Wendy Stewart, and Corrina Hewatt, in addition to private studies with Savourna Stevenson, and Mary MacMaster (the other half of Sileas ). Alys studied Scottish Gaelic with Mina Smith, Gaelic Song with Kenna Campbell, and Scots Song and Ballads with Alison McMorland and Andrew Hunter. In Scotland she appeared in various venues throughout Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Orkney Islands, and Skye (1999-2000), as a harp soloist, in a two-harp, fiddle and vocal ensemble with Rosie Morton and Kirsty Cottar, as a harpist for the RSAMD Scottish Music concert tours, as accompanist to Emily Smith (1999-2000), and as a member of the Glasgow Gaelic Choir for the "Gaelic Women In Song" concert series (1999). Alys also recorded her own album, mainly of Scottish traditional music, while she was in Glasgow (2000). Based on this recording, Alys was offered full scholarship to attend the Banff School For Fine Arts (2001).
After moving to Toronto to study harp with Sharlene Wallace, Alys graduated with a BFA Hons. in Music Performance from York University, where she also studied music composition with William Westcott and improvisation with Casey Sokol. In Eastern Canada, Alys has continued her Scottish Gaelic language and song studies with David Livingston-Lowe (through the U of T Celtic Studies program), and also with Catriona Parsons, Hector MacNeill and Angus MacLeoud (at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in Cape Breton). She has studied Cape Breton-style piano accompaniment with Anne Lederman ( York University ) and with Kimberley Fraser (the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts). Her appearances in Ontario include The Toronto Harp Festival (2001), where Alys was invited to perform as a soloist, was accompanied by Graham Kennedy on percussion, and gave the premiere of her own composition "Nocturne" for two harps (with Sharlene Wallace). She has also given performances on solo harp for such diverse occasions as: Christmas by Lamplight at Pioneer Black Creek Village (2002), the Canadian College of Armed Forces (2003), Osgoode School of Law (2002), York Orientation (2002), and York Alumni Association (2001). Alys has appeared as harpist for the York University Women's Choir performances of Britten's A Ceremony of Carols (2002), and performed as harpist, singer and arranger for her own graduating recital at York, with Luxon Burgess on flute and vocals and Andrew Mason on bass and cello. She has also performed on harp and vocals with Casey Sokol's Improvisation Ensemble (2002/2003) and has given performances on harp, vocals, and Cape Breton-style piano for Anne Lederman's Celtic Canadian Ensemble (2001-2003).
The recipient of a Canada Council Grant and the Watkins Fellowship (2003), Alys completed her Masters at the University of Limerick in Performance of Irish Traditional Music (2004), graduating with First Class Honours. At UL, she studied harp with Fionnuala Rooney, Laoise Kelly, Janet Harbison, Michael Rooney, Catriona McKay, Karen Tweed (accordion), and Clive Carroll (guitar). Taking piano lessons with Geraldine Cottar, Alys engaged in a comparison of Irish piano accompaniment styles versus those found in Cape Breton. Studying vocal technique for traditional singers with Elaine Cormican, as her elective, Alys also studied Scottish Gaelic song with Christine Primrose through electronic media, a co-operative initiative between Sabhal Mor Ostaig and UL. Alys took the opportunity to research material for her thesis while writing an ethnography contrasting the styles of Sharlene Wallace, Kim Robertson, and Janet Harbison. Based on interviews with harp players and other musicians in North America, Ireland, and Scotland, Alys hopes to discuss the role of musicians who approach Celtic and traditional music from the standpoint of cultural outsiders. As part of the music technology module on the course, Alys recorded and engineered a demo CD. Alys has given performances for the Prime Minister of Slovenia (at the Limerick City Museum, 2004), for the UL Alumni Association (2003), at the Lunchtime Concert series in the Performing Arts Centre (as featured artist, accompanied by Bridget O'Connell, Nicholas Yenson and Alison O'Connell (2003); accompanied by Sarah-Jane Woods and Alan Colfer (2004); in ensemble A, ensemble "Fanny Power", as accompanist to Olivia Ryan (2003), and for her own graduating recital).
Alys Howe's career as a teacher spans the breadth of Canada, from the East Coast of Cape Breton to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. In addition to the private students she has taught in Vancouver, Scotland, Toronto, and Ireland, Alys has been a harp presenter at the Coast Summer School of Celtic Music (2003), assistant harp instructor to Rosie Morton at the Edinburgh Harp Festival (2004), as well as to Heather Yule at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in Cape Breton (2003), has taught harp and piano for Presto Music Studios in Ontario (Dorothy Stavrinos Lavkulik, director), and is on faculty for harp at Toronto's Classical Music Conservatory (Lusiana Lukman, director). She was also engaged to give harp instruction to both M.A. and undergraduate students taking harp as their elective at University of Limerick. Returning to the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in the summer of 2004, Alys offered harp instruction to students of all ages throughout July and August. Since moving back to Vancouver, BC in 2004, Alys has been teaching privately and for Amati String Studios, and performing in such local venues as Aberthau House ("Monday Night Live", 2004), Amati String Studios (2004), and for the studios of Elizabeth Volpe, where she was also invited to give a masterclass (2004).
Alys has worked as a busker (street musician), an extra, and an actor - the highlight of which was playing Amy in United Players' production of Little Women (1996). At UL, Alys was cast as Audrey in the Drama Society's production of Little Shop of Horrors . Besides her love of music and theatre, Alys continues to pursue her interests in creative writing and literature. Accepted as a double-major into the Creative Writing Program at York, Alys is the author of four plays, two of which were performed at the Vancouver Fringe Festival ( Critics 1991, The Ownership of Women 1992), another winning second place in the Vancouver Teenrites playwriting competition and subsequently performed at the Gastown Actors' Theatre ( AWOL 1995), and the fourth, short-listed for publication in the UK "Sacred Earth Dramas" playwriting competition ( Arc En Ciel 1996). Alys has had two works of short fiction published in the Douglas College journal "Pearls" ( Rapunzel's Revenge and Pomegranate Seeds 1998). In 2002, Alys received Honourable Mention for Poetry in the York President's Prizes competition ( Monogamous Moon ). She has also published poetry in "Existere Magazine" ( Altered Conditions 2003), "The Fence: a Bi-Women's 'Zine" ( Monogamous Moon and Heartburn 2003), a short story in "Garm Lu" academic journal ( The Children of Lir 2003), and various articles in "The International Society of Folk harpers and Craftsmen" and "B.C. Harps" magazines (1995 - 2000).
as of October 2004