I am working hard this week, preparing for three events in three days. On Saturday I am in Dundee; on Sunday in St Andrews and on Monday in London.
Sunday’s event in the Museum of the University of St Andrews is to be a concert using the bowed lyre. The Museum wanted a musical event to tie in with their new “One World” exhibition, showing off the range of ethnographical collections held by the University but not normally on display. I thought that the unusual, squeaky, alien sound of the bowed lyre would well suit the ambience of the exhibition, with its diverse selection of odd objects.
The exhibition is divided into six cases, each themed around a “continent”, though the divisions are slightly odd; Antartica and Greenland are bundled as one; there is the Americas, Africa, Australasia (I noticed the political slicing of New Guinea in two, with half in Asia!). The boundary between Europe and Asia is set along the Russian border, rather than the Ural Mountains, but this all means that my selection of Northern and Arctic-fringe melodies will cover four of the six “continents”. I am not even going to try and find northern bowed lyre tunes connected to Africa or Australasia!
On Monday, I have to go to London, to play the replica Queen Mary harp in the British Museum. The real Queen Mary harp is down there, on loan from the National Museum in Edinburgh, as part of The Celts exhibition. I have three half-hour sets to play, and I am going to concentrate on music that has some kind of connection to the Queen Mary harp. As well as John Robertson’s repertory, which he played on the original Queen Mary harp when it was kept at his house at Lude, Perthshire, (and which I recorded for my first CD, Clàrsach na Bànrighe), I thought of including some of the 17th century tunes associated with Rory Dall, who is said to have visited Lude in around 1650. And of course there is the ceòl mór I have been working on, which has traditional connections to the Lords of the Isles, who likely were the original owners of the Queen Mary harp in the 15th century if not before.
I will use the same repertory and programme ideas for Saturday’s Cappuccino Concert in the Wighton Centre in Dundee, for an hour long programme of “Music for the Queen Mary Harp”. I am also working up to trying to sing one of Margaret Robertson’s early 17th century Scots songs, for yet another aspect of music connected to the Queen Mary harp – we can’t be sure that she would have heard or played the Queen Mary harp at Lude House, but it seems likely.
Thanks to Ealasaid Gilfillan for the wonderful long-exposure portrait of me in the National Museum of Scotland with the Queen Mary harp. Inspired by Julia Margaret Cameron I think!