Maybe you’ve heard of Camille and Kennerly Kitt, better known by their stage name ‘The Harp Twins.’ The fitting title comes from the girls’ love of the harp instrument as well as their most-obvious distinction of being identical twins.
The girls have risen to viral internet and worldwide status after a series of harp cover tunes, including the likes of Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and The Eagles, among others. They have hundreds of thousands of social media followers, who most recently rejoiced when the pair parlayed a private booking here in St. John’s into two free and jam-packed shows at Mochanopoly in downtown St. John’s. It was the Kitts first time on the island since their younger years.
“We’ve really enjoyed our time here, it’s been a lot of fun,” said the twins, who were completely understanding and familiar with writers not knowing which twin was which. “The people have always been so nice and friendly. You just can’t beat it. The cool thing about Newfoundland is there’s no other place in the world like it.”
‘Harp Now Hear…
When delving into the origins of the Kitts’ foray into the music world, Camille and Kennerly admitted that nothing was handed to them, that they scraped and saved to get to the envious point they currently reach.
“We started playing the harp at about 12,” they shared. “We started piano before that, actually playing a keyboard because we didn’t have enough money for a piano. We had a friend whose mom really wanted us to be in music lessons … our friend’s mom played the harp and we tried it and thought it was the best music instrument ever. We told our mom we wanted to play harp and she said, ‘No I don’t have the money, sorry.’ She maybe thought it was a whim and we weren’t serious about it. We did dog walking and babysitting and office filing and earned enough money for a small harp. We bought and shared a small used harp and eventually earned enough money to buy a second one. Because it wasn’t handed to us, we really had a huge motivation to work hard. It was something that we worked for, so we never took it for granted. Putting in all of those long practice hours and getting caught up to people who have been playing since they were four years old … We really wanted to play duets, which is what we really always wanted to do with the harp. We found a teacher that allowed us to do that as long as we got our other studies done.”
Natives of Illinois, the twins graduated with top honours from the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Harp Performance. While classical music is appealing to them, it’s tackling and arranging the works of some of their heroes, the likes of metal and rock artists, that has really become the calling card of the twins.
“We started to teach ourselves how to arrange music. We wanted to look around and find music that was rock, metal or classic rock, the kind of music we like to listen to, and we couldn’t find anything for one harp, let alone two. Because we weren’t trained to arrange just to perform, we had to teach ourselves and kind of built our repertoire. We’d sneak our arrangements into our classical recitals. We’d sneak them into the program and not list them. Like a Johnny Cash or something like that. It’s really fun for us to play things that people don’t expect to hear on harp.”
Classically trained twin girls wouldn’t be your stereotypical metalheads. But as avid Iron Maiden fans (admittedly the girls’ favourite song to play is Maiden’s Fear of the Dark), tackling the complexities of metal music as well as embracing a genre they love, is one of the perks of the job for the twins.
“A lot of people brush off metal or other genres,” they shared. “It’s one of those things that we take a song that was played by an entire rock band and stripping down all of the different elements, combining those and seeing hope it can work with two harps. Sometimes it’s a huge challenge, especially with things like metal which is really complex. It’s not like a pop song that has four chords and goes around and around. Iron Maiden has so many meter changes and tempo changes. It’s fun for us to have that challenge – to take a song and play it in a classical way. If someone didn’t know Fear of the Dark and they heard us play it they might think it’s a classical song just by the way we’ve arranged it, in a way that’s really complex that does the song justice while making it our own. If the original artist hears it we want them to say, ‘Wow, that’s cool! What’s going on there?’ It’s always cool when artists give us feedback.”
Spreading harp awareness across the globe, the girls are more than proud of the cool image they have helped create with their chosen instrument, and the millions of followers and video views can attest to that.
“Harpists have been playing the same for centuries. We feel the harp has been a little bit left behind in music in general. Violinists, cellists and other strings have been used in rock music for decades. The harp has really been left behind and has been seen as an instrument that’s boring and they associate it with weddings, orchestras and elevator music and not something cool. It’s just such a versatile music and we love showing that it can be more.”
While getting fans connected to the harp is a huge bonus, sharing a career and livelihood with each other is the admitted payoff for Camille znc Kennerly.
“I think it would be tough if we weren’t working together, just because we’re best friends. I think we’d be really miserable not working together and not being together all of the time. We’re best friends and we’re happiest when we’re doing things together, so working together is like the ultimate. I can’t imagine it any other way.”
For much more on The Harp Twins, visit their official social media accounts and check out http://harptwins.com (photo by Dan Smith Photography)