Inspirational blind harpist aims to soothe the sick by playing at north and north-east hospitals

Fiona Kyle, Richard Lochhead MSP and Gus the guide dog
Fiona Kyle, Richard Lochhead MSP and Gus the guide dog

A harpist who has mastered the instrument despite being blind is to play soothing music at hospitals across the north and north-east as a way of helping patients and their families relax.

Fiona Kyle, who lives in Elgin, recently brought her harp to the town’s Dr Gray’s Hospital for some trial sessions – and was astounded by the positive feedback she received.

She now aims to serenade the sickly at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Raigmore Hospital as she expands the scheme next year.

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The 43-year-old knows all about the healing power of the instrument, which has become one of her life’s defining passions.

She fell in love with it as a 10-year-old and learned it by ear, as her poor vision prevented her from learning by traditional means.

Usually, aspiring harp players know which strings to pluck by their colour, but Ms Kyle was unable to distinguish them due to her condition, retinopathy of prematurity.

However she has never let her disability stand in the way of her musical ambition and last night outlined her plans for the future.

Ms Kyle said: “I want to go around the wards in hospitals, playing to patients.

“I have already done three days in Elgin and am to become an NHS Grampian volunteer.

“The music has a benefit for patients, but also helps staff and visitors to feel more relaxed.”

The harpist last night returned to Moray after playing “the biggest show of her life”.

Ms Kyle, accompanied by her guide dog Gus, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Royal National Institute for the Blind by playing to a crowd of distinguished guests at Holyrood.

She chose to perform a piece she penned herself, about a previous guide dog she had named Krissie.

Ms Kyle attended Moray College, and worked as a social worker for years before devoting herself to music about a decade ago.

She has since played at Eden Court, Speyfest in Fochabers and in Romania.

Under the title Inspirational Harping, she takes booking across the Highlands and Aberdeenshire for charity and corporate events and has been asked to play some unusual pieces when booked for weddings.

On one occasion, the happy couple asked her to perform a particularly peaceful cover version of Nothing Else Matters by heavy metal band Metallica.

And Ms Kyle’s two-year-old labrador has been known to provide musical backup as well as helping her to get around.

She said that Gus sometimes gets so into the harp music that he will attempt to play along by wagging his tall against the strings.

Moray MSP, Richard Lochhead, was present for the Holyrood show and was full of praise for the harpist, describing Ms Kyle as a “very talented” performer.