After the ferociously talented harpist Bridget Kibbey unpacked her 47-stringed instrument at our NPR Music offices, she proceeded to crush the stereotype of the genteel harp, plucked by angels. She proved that the instrument can be as tempestuous as a tango, as complex as a Bach fugue and sing as serenely as a church choir.
Kibbey is crazy for the harp. She first heard one at a country church amid the Northwest Ohio cornfields where she grew up. Now she's the go-to harpist for contemporary composers, some of whom who are writing pieces especially for her.
For this Tiny Desk set, she deploys her arresting technique to rework music both old and new. Her blistering arrangement of J.S. Bach's familiar Toccata and Fugue in D minor offers tightly interwoven voices, like gears in a clock, with melodies and rhythms that sparkle. Her steamy rendition of jazz great Paquito D'Rivera's Bandoneon, the Argentine tango, struts proudly. And, finally, she returns to Bach, to let the instrument sing variations on the aching chorale "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," from the St. Matthew Passion.
With an irrepressible musician like Bridget Kibbey, we're going to have to start re-thinking the harp.
Bach (arr. Kibbey): "Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565"Paquito D'Rivera (arr. Kibbey): "Bandoneon"Bach (arr. Kibbey): "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded"
Bridget Kibbey: harp
Producers: Tom Huizenga, Maia Stern, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative director: Bob Boilen; Audio engineers: Josh Rogosin, Alex Drewenskus; Editor: Jack Corbett; Videographers: Maia Stern, Jack Corbett; Associate producer: Bobby Carter; Executive producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Catie Dull/NPR