ROBIN HUW BOWEN
Welsh Triple Harp
Robin Huw Bowen's influence on the worlds of Welsh folk music and harping has been far-reaching. Of the few harpists worldwide who can play the triple harp, he is the foremost professional now specializing solely in this particular field. He is recognized internationally as the leading exponent of the Welsh national instrument and ranks among the most important figures that Welsh traditional music has produced. At the Machynlleth Festival 2000 Robin was awarded the Glyndwr Award for "an outstanding contribution to the arts in Wales".
Robin Huw Bowen comes from a Welsh-speaking family based in Anglesey in the North of Wales. Initially Robin was drawn to the harp through the music of the renowned Breton harpist Alan Stivell, who inspired him to learn about the harp music of his own heritage. In 1979 he received a degree in Welsh Language and Literature from the University College of Aberystwyth, Mid-Wales. He began his pursuit of the Welsh triple harp in 1980 while employed at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. He seized every opportunity to research into the music and techniques of the old Welsh harpers by studying many of their old manuscripts and publications. He was also able to extend his research beyond dusty archives, learning tunes and techniques from several elderly harpists, who passed on their own family's musical heritage to him. Thus Robin carries on an unbroken musical tradition respecting the style and technique and the content and interpretation of this music. His musical insight ensures that he does not merely reproduce the music as a dry academic exercise, but rekindles its very soul at each performance and thus delivers it as a living entity.
Robin started touring first as a member of the Welsh folk group Mabsant, and since 1983, has toured North America, Australia and Europe as a solo performer. He has performed at major festivals, concerts, colleges and for cultural groups and British royalty as well as taught classes and workshops. Between 1990 and 1996 he performed and recorded with Cusan Tân, playing primarily music composed by Ann Morgan Jones, and in 1998 he joined together with three of Wales' finest traditional musicians to form Crasdant, the most exciting new traditional music band to come out of Wales in recent memory. Many of Robin's albums have been licensed to record labels in North America, making Welsh music readily available all over the world for the first time. In short, he has introduced Welsh music to thousands who formerly had never experienced it, or who would not otherwise be very likely to.
His influence has also been widely felt at home in Wales. There has hardly been one recording of Welsh traditional music released over the last twenty years which hasn't benefitted from Robin's work researching and publishing old forgotten folk melodies. Through him the body of Welsh music has increased considerably.
Although Robin's repertoire closely reflects that of the Welsh harp in its heyday (mid-17th to the end of the 19th Century) his playing and interpretation of the music continue the unbroken tradition. Whether it is a fiery tune from the repertoire of the Welsh Gypsies, a long forgotten hornpipe or a slow air showing off the intricacies of his harp's three sets of strings and the unique style of variations on the melody, Robin Huw Bowen is a master musician.
Click here to listen and see a live performance at the Kennedy Center's Millenium Stage on February 13, 2001.
The Press Are Saying...
Robin's style reminisces the carefree, Welsh
gypsy harpists of the last century, who clung to
the tradition of the triple harp even as the
respectable London soiree crowd were trading theirs
for fashionable new pedal harps. His infectious, always sensitive, sometimes irreverent,
arrangements delight in taking the triple harp out of
the parlor and into the public house for a bit of fun.
Robin is a stunningly good harpist...the notes
trip off the strings with rhythmic precision and melodic empathy.
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