The Story of Thistle's Music
The genre-defying harp and voice based music of THISTLE has been described as haunting, transportive and angelic. With lyrics inspired by literature, poetry, fairytales and lullabies, this original music is meant to be heard anywhere there is natural or man-made beauty. Led by composer, singer and harpist Thistle Jemison, THISTLE includes a revolving cast of professional musicians in the jazz, classical, and world genres, who are each accomplished in their own right. Cello and percussion round out the ensemble, marrying world and jazz rhythms, through classical composition, to melodies influenced by South Indian, western classical and folk musics. THISTLE's 2019 debut album on harp "The Ice Maiden Comes," is eleven songs, each inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story. Her upcoming release is entitled "Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe," and includes some of Edgar Allan Poe's unadulterated poems such as "Spirits of the Dead," and "The Raven," which have been carefully crafted into songs.
Thistle took piano lessons from the age of seven and especially enjoyed playing the music of Bach. She began performing as a vocalist while attending The George School, a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania. One of her classmates was the daughter of Pura Fe, lead singer and founder of renowned First Nations group Ulali. Together they performed a cappella the music of Ulali, in the Tuscaroran and English languages, using rattles for accompaniment. Throughout high school, Thistle also sang in rock bands. At Hampshire College she began an intensive study of singing, theory and composition in multiple genres, using the Five College Consortium to her benefit.
Thistle finished her formal musical studies at the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in Manhattan, achieving a BFA in Jazz Voice with honors. Shortly before graduating, she took up the electric guitar and eventually the drums, creating a three piece rock band which she named Queen of Sibyls. This music was heavily inspired by the alt rock female groups of the 1990's (link to album "Dark Horse" in Music tab). Parallel to these endeavors, for a six year period, Thistle studied Karnatak voice with Saavithri Ramanand in Queens, learning devotional songs of the Brahman caste in the Hindu, Tamil and Sanskrit languages.
Thistle didn't take up the harp until adulthood. After a year of studying under Tomoko Sugarawa, a classical harpist and reviver of the ancient Japanese Kugo harp, Thistle purchased her own harp. She did some work with bands as a session harpist and background vocalist. She also took lessons from Marilu Donovan, harpist in the violin/harp duo Leya. Two years into her discovery of the harp, Thistle "quit" music. During a four year hiatus, she created an interior design firm, built an inn in the Catskills and took drum lessons with Sara Landau of The Julie Ruin. In 2015, when asked to join a band in Brooklyn, she returned to the stage and to the passion she once had for playing harp and composing. Thusly, THISTLE was born.
Writing and performing music is very much a service to others in the eyes of Thistle, a service that borders on spiritual awakening and recovery. Please take a moment to sign up on the mailing list and enjoy her gift of music.