Yesterday I gave my lecture on the clàrsach or Gaelic harp, to the undergraduate students on the Scottish Music degree course at the University of St Andrews.
As is my wont nowadays, I filmed the lecture for you, but there was a mix up with my battery charging, and the camera died 40 minutes in, so you are missing the last 11 or 12 minutes.
Continue reading Colonial views of Gaelic harp traditions
Karen Loomis discovered the presence of mercury in the red pigment on the Queen Mary harp, when she did X-ray fluorescence analysis in 2010. This pretty much confirms that the pigment is vermilion, a mercury sulphide compound.
Karen reported that only the pigment on the curved body of the fish on the forepillar indicated mercury; the pigment on the flat panels of the forepillar contained no mercury. A rendering of the CT-scan data printed in her Galpin Society Journal article (vol LXV, 2012, p.166) shows high-density spots in the crevaces between the interlace of the fish shoulders, and also around the fish eye.
As soon as Karen told me about this I thought of re-painting my replica. Continue reading Vermilion
At Scoil na gCláirseach last month I presented a lecture and a workshop on the medieval Gaelic harp traditions. The lecture outlined my recent work on the setup and tuning of the medieval Gaelic harps, while the workshop later in the week explored the different strands of evidence for medieval Gaelic music.
Continue reading Medieval Gaelic harp setup and repertory
I was in Kilkenny the other week, for the fourteenth annual Scoil na gCláirseach – summer school of early Irish harp. During the week, I explored some of the issues I have been working on so far this year, namely the new setup for the medieval Gaelic harps, and the issues of using fingertips instead of long nails for playing the 18th century Irish harp repertory.
Continue reading Reflections on Scoil na gCláirseach
Reviewing my version of Carolan’s Concerto which I played at Wednesday’s concert, it struck me that this old setting of mine (which I learned many years ago) was pretty clunky and crude. I was reminded of John Lynch’s 1662 assessment of fingernail playing:
Continue reading ruder performers only
Today I presented my concert in St Andrews, “the Memoirs of Arthur Ó Neill”.
I read excerpts from his autobiography, and played the tunes referred to in the anecdotes.
Here is my video of the complete, half-hour performance:
Continue reading The Memoirs of Arthur Ó Néill
Edward Bunting‘s first field notebook, which he used to take down live transcriptions from the old harpers in 1792 and later, is kept at Queens University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4/29.
Usually known as ms29, it is a small oblong notebook stuffed full of sketchy drafts and scribbled transcriptions from the playing of the last tradition bearers.
On page 1 of the book is a two-staff arrangement of “The Banks of Claudy”.
Continue reading The Banks of Claudy
Speaking on 10th July, 1849, the Irish harper Patrick Byrne explained to the antiquarian John Bell, the system for tuning the early Irish harp. After starting at na comhluighe, and using a cycle of 5ths to set the middle octave of the harp, he says
Then you sound the G on the violin & B & D, and the octave above which is G which makes a common chord
Continue reading a common chord
I’ve been playing almost every day now for a week and a half, using the tips of my fingers, with my nails trimmed short. Here are a few preliminary observations.
Continue reading Some observations on playing with finger-tips
Today I was working on tunes collected by Edward Bunting from the 18th century Irish harper, Arthur Ó Néill, for my concert in St Andrews on 3rd August.
As I played through some of his settings of Carolan and other baroque Irish harp music, using a copy of an 18th century Irish harp, I started thinking about the whole issue of playing the harp with long fingernails.
Continue reading “…the fleshy part of the finger alone”