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
Usually, the classical Anglo-European pedal harp is framed as the exact opposite of the Irish harp. But my recent visits to Hospitalfield house to see their 1830s Erard pedal harp have got me thinking about how these instruments fit in to the native traditions.
Continue reading Pedal harp in Irish harp tradition
I found this project proposal I had written back in the Autumn of last year, but had never followed up on. Continue reading “Archæological” copies of old Gaelic harps