Yesterday I was at the Birnam Hotel in Dunkeld, to address the Pìobaireachd Society‘s annual conference on the subject of “clàrsach ceòl mór”.
I was delighted and honoured to be asked by the Society to give this presentation on my work.
In this video, you can’t see the slides I projected onto the screen, so here’s a PDF of the slides.
Instead of trying to make any kind of historical claim for the harp origins of pibroch, I decided that I would talk about my own personal journey, starting with the medieval harps in the museums in Ireland and Scotland, commissioning replicas, working out plausible stringing and tunings, and playing techniques, and searching for repertory appropriate to the instrument.
I also talked about the development of the idea that pibroch originated with, or was connected to, the medieval Gaelic courtly music of the clàrsach or Gaelic harp.
I illustrated the talk with performances on the replica Queen Mary harp, playing Denis O’Hampsey’s set of Burns March, some fragments of Caniad San Silin out of Robert ap Huw’s manuscript, and finally giving a complete performance of one of the pibrochs attributed to Raghnall Mac Ailean Òig, and featured on my CD Tarbh.
I had a wonderful day; the sky was clear blue and the spring sunshine streamed down onto the Perthshire hills and woods. I had a lovely drive up there (though I narrowly avoided disaster, getting to Kinross services for a recharge with only 6 miles remaining on the clock!)
It was good to catch up with Keith Sanger, and I had a good talk with Barnaby Brown about presentation style, and reconstructing ancient lyres, amongst other things. I was also very pleased to finally meet David Hester, who runs the Alt Pibroch Club, an online community for research and experimental performance of this repertory.
I got there in time to see David’s presentation, which was very interesting and thought-provoking. Barnaby was filming all the presentations so hopefully you’ll be able to see David’s talk online soon.