Northern Light - Artists seek it; wise men follow it.
Since the 19th century, the kantele has been the Finnish national instrument. Its history dates back about 2000 years, and is described in the epic poem, the Kalevala. In the epic, the hero Väinämöinen made the first kantele from the jawbone of a pike. Its music was so powerful that the whole world stopped to listen. The traditional instrument was carved from a single piece of wood with 5 strings stretched across the sound board. Modern day kanteles may have up to 38 strings, and some also have sharping mechanisms.
Valerie Klemetti Blessley began playing the kantele several years ago in Portland, OR, after playing the harp for many years. Making the transition between the instruments has been challenging as she has learned new techniques of string playing. Her kantele playing style is a hybrid of classical harp and folk kantele techniques. Valerie began playing music during childhood, when she learned to play the recorder and flute.
She has studied harp with David Harper, in Albuquerque, NM and Marion Fouse in Portland, OR. Most recently, Valerie has studied kantele with kantele masters Wilho Saari and Cathy Cushing of Washington state, and Dr. Arja Kastinen, a respected Finnish kantele professor/performer.
When not playing harps, Valerie works with her husband, Dr. Mark Blessley, in their woodworking shop making harps as Blessley Instruments. She has taught harp lessons for several years in Vancouver, WA. Valerie also teaches pottery, photography and resource room at the high school level in Vancouver.
Valerie plays harp, kantele, and woodwinds in the popular northwest duo, Celtic Muse with Jennifer Pratt-Walter. She also performs with the Finnish-American kantele ensemble, Livakat, and the trio, Soittorasia (Music Box), in the Vancouver - Portland area.
Look for her book of harp music entitled, A Harper's Croft, and her
Celtic Muse recordings, Wind and Wood: A Sylvan Dance and
Merry and Bright: Harp for the Holidays at www.pacifier.com/~blesses, www.soundtracks.com or www.amazon.com.
Instruments on this album are: 36 string Songbird harp, Blessley Instruments, Vancouver, WA; 36 string diatonic kantele, Jussi Ala-Kuha, Töysä, Finland; 10 string kantele, Kaustisen Soitinverstas, Kaustinen Finland; 5 string kantele, Väinämöisen Laulu, Forest Grove, OR; Armstrong flute; Moeck baroque recorder; Sweetheart maple pennywhistle.