“But Cambridge forty-eight, for many years, was the greatest peal that was rang or invented” (Tintinnalogia p.2)
In Duckworth’s Tintinnalogia, published in 1668, he gives the full text of “three old peals on five bells, which (though rejected in these days yet) in former times were much in use” (p.15-17). I am interested in these three as rare testimony of the state of change ringing in its true infancy in the early to mid 17th century.
Continue reading The Cambridge 48 – an early 17th century composition
Patrick Byrne explained to the collector, John Bell, about the unison strings on a Gaelic harp which are called na comhluighe, or the sister strings:
The open on the bass string of the Violin is one of the Sisters on the harp. The next string below on the harp and it, were tuned in unison, for which reason they were called the sisters. These two unison notes are sometimes called, and in ancient times were called, Ne Cawlee – or the companions. Afterwards they were called the Sisters.
The harp is tuned to the Sister note
(John Bell’s Notebook, cited in Henry George Farmer, ‘Some Notes on the Irish Harp’ Music & Letters vol. XXIV, April 1943)
But did Byrne actually use na comhluige on his own harp?
Continue reading Knowing about na comhluighe, but not using it?
When I first strung my first harp with brass wire, I ordered only four reels of brass from Malcolm Rose, in just four gauges of wire. I was inventing my own stringing regime, and I was inspired by the late 19th century scheme on the harp in the Kingussie museum, which was measured and published by Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird in Tree of Strings (appendix A, p.213)
I thought it was not sensible to follow a late Victorian revival scheme, and the jumps in tension and touch between the gauges seemed crude, and so I purchased more reels to fill in the intermediate gauges, and ever since I have (like others working in this field) aimed to have gentle transitions in tension and touch from one gauge to the next.
Continue reading Tactile cues in string feel
As part of my work to re-connect with the most recent threads of the old Gaelic harp traditions, I have been working a lot on the late 18th and early 19th century Irish tradition-bearers. In some ways that work is easy; we have portraits, we have their harps in the museums, and we have live transcriptions of their playing, both treble and bass.
But what about the Scottish side of the tradition? What do we actually know about the 18th century Scottish harpers? To begin, what do we know about the instruments they were playing?
Continue reading Gaelic harps in 18th century Scotland
Having just re-wound a harp that had its strings wound on to the front of the tuning pins, I wondered if there was any evidence as to which way the old harpers wound their pins.
Continue reading winding strings on to tuning pins
Ann Heymann was probably the first person to spot the lyrics “Here lies Lappin” associated with Burns’s March, including them in her book Secrets of the Gaelic Harp (1988). Continue reading Here lies Lappin, harper’s king
I first became aware of Edith Taylor many years ago, from reading Frances Collinson’s book The traditional and national music of Scotland. After describing briefly the wire-strung clarsachs made by Arnold Dolmetsch, he writes:
Miss Edith Taylor, the first Honorary Secretary of Comunn na Clàrsaich, has one of these on which she once played for the writer at a B.B.C. ‘Country Magazine’ programme from Lochaline, Morvern.
Continue reading Edith Taylor of Rahoy
Back in 2013, I did my talk “Harps and Tunes: Matching instruments to repertory” at Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny, and one of the harpers I talked about was Rose Mooney (from 39:24 in the video).
Continue reading Rose Mooney & Carolan
I knew about my Great Uncle Victor, because I have long had a photograph of my grandmother with her siblings as children. Victor is the wee boy front right.
Continue reading Great Uncle Victor