NAMED one of Scotland’s leading young composers, multi award-winning harpist Ailie Robertson’s Celtic Connections performance is highly anticipated. The five-time Mod National Gold Medalist has recently been selected to play as part of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young Composers Programme, and will soon complete her PhD in contemporary composition. Edinburgh-based Robertson has performed her critically acclaimed harping style across the globe, introducing international audiences to Scottish, Irish and contemporary techniques. Aside from writing and playing music, Robertson has been curating innovative music performances around the country with her company Lorimer Events since 2014. The musician’s New Voices commission will see her play pieces inspired by Gaelic grief rituals alongside a string quartet and electronic section.

What motivated you to begin playing the harp?

Robertson: I started playing when I was about 12. I already played the piano, but every year my school choir did a Christmas concert with a harp group, and I just loved the sound, so pestered my parents until they finally agreed to let me learn.

You draw lots of inspiration from traditional Gaelic culture, don't you?

Robertson: I’ve grown up immersed in Scottish history and folklore, so our traditional culture is very important to me. We’re fortunate to have such a rich cultural history, and the traditional music, stories, songs and poems of Scotland hold great resonance for me, and I am continually using these influences in my work. It’s not always a conscious choice, but inevitably some of those folk influences creep into almost all my music.

What can people expect from your Celtic Connections performance?

Robertson: I’ve written a piece for harp, string quartet, vocals and live electronics, featuring myself alongside some of my favourite musicians. The music is about searching to make sense of loss, about the relationship between public and private grief, about the generations that came before us and how we connect to them, and to the rituals and ceremonies that surround the passing from one life to another. I hope it’s dark and gritty and beautiful and uplifting all at once.

You've won several awards and will soon have a PhD – what comes next?

Robertson: I’m hoping to release a new solo album this year, as well as a new album with my band The Outside Track. I’m also writing pieces for various people and ensembles, including a harp concerto and a piece for the London Philharmonic Orchestra so that will keep me busy. Plus, my side-project for 2018 was launched on January 1 and is called The O’Carolan Project, which is a mission to record and film all 214 O’Carolan tunes by the end of the year.

Ailie Robertson performs in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s Strathclyde Suite today (February 4) at 1pm. Tickets cost £12 plus booking fee from, from the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall box office or via phone on 0141 353 8000

Interview by Laura Webster