Valerie Klemetti Blessley
Harp, Kantele and Woodwinds
Nominated for Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year, 2007
A second generation Finnish-American, Valerie Klemetti Blessley has been at the harp for over 15 years. During that time, she has performed with the New Mexico Harp Circle, Clark College Orchestra, and the Portland Christmas Revels as part of their Celtic and Medieval/Renaissance bands. For the past eleven years, Valerie has regularly performed with Jennifer Pratt-Walter, in the Pacific Northwest, as the popular harp duo, Celtic Muse. She also performs with the Finnish-American kantele ensemble, Livakat, and the Finnish-American trio, Music Box, in the Vancouver-Portland area.
Celtic Muse were featured performers at the International Folk Harpers and Craftsmen's HarpCon 2005, held in July, 2005 in Big Sky, Montana. There Valerie delighted the folk harp world with the magic of Finland's kantele and its music in concert and in workshops. In the summer of 2006, she was a featured teacher at the La Pine, OR harp retreat, and she has taught Finnish folk music and dancing workshops at the Ft. Worden Folk Harp Festival in Port Townsend, WA.
Valerie has studied harp with David Harper, in Albuquerque, NM and Marion Fouse, former principal harpist with the Oregon Symphony, in Portland, OR. In addition, she has attended numerous workshops and festivals, studying with noted harpists Kim Robertson, Tina Tourin, Laurie Riley and Harper Tasche. Most recently, Valerie has studied kantele with kantele masters Wiljo Saari and Cathy Cushing of Washington, Dr. Arja Kastinen, a respected Finnish kantele professor and performer, and Senni Eskilinen, electric kantele player.
When visiting family members, Valerie purchased her first 10 string kantele in Joensuu, Finland in 1992. She began seriously playing the large kantele several years ago in Portland, OR, when she was invited to join the Portland kantele ensemble, Livakat. Making the transition between the instruments has been interesting and challenging as she has learned new techniques of string playing. Her kantele playing style is a hybrid of classical harp and folk kantele techniques. Perhojoki (short side) folk style playing was a natural for her as she moved from harp to kantele.
Valerie brings the spirit of the pelimanni to her playing. Though she is classically trained on the harp, she prefers to play a professional level folk harp that is perfectly suited to the music she loves so much. The music of the people throughout the generations touches her heart and begs to be played. Through her love of both the harp and the kantele, she is able to bring both her Finnish and Irish heritage to her music.
During childhood, Valerie learned to play the recorder and flute, thus beginning her musical career. She played flute and piccolo in bands and orchestras during her entire school career. Her continuing with the instrument has been a testament to the value of school music programs. She continues to be a life-long learner in musical pursuits.
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 English at the high school level in Vancouver.
Valerie has published three books of harp music, and has made several CDs. Two are Celtic Muse recordings, Wind and Wood: A Sylvan Dance and Merry and Bright: Harp for the Holidays. A third (solo) CD, Northern Light: Celtic and Scandinavian music on harp and Finnish kantele was released in October of 2004. Valerie can also be heard as a featured soloist on Toinen Vuosisata: Second Century, the CD celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Messiah Finnish Lutheran Church. Look for more information about Valerie and her recordings at www.pacifier.com/~blesses, or www.cdbaby.com. A review of Merry and Bright: Harp for the Holidays can be found at www.Christmasreviews.com.
You may contact Valerie at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-576-8111.
She is available for performances and workshops, first in her duo, Celtic Muse, or as a solo performer and/or teacher.
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