Category Archives: concert

Forthcoming events

As well as doing some work canvassing for the referendum, I have been preparing for a couple of forthcoming events in Dundee. On Wednesday 1st October I am presenting Scottish music 78s for the Wighton lunchtime concert, though more imminent is my concert on Wednesday 17th September, on the eve of the referendum. I’m playing the harp in the elegant and unusual setting of the captain’s cabin on board HMS Unicorn, moored in Dundee docks. This classy wood-panneled room will be a lovely setting for the replica Queen Mary harp. There will be an interval with a glass of wine, and for the second half I am planning to play my “Lament for the Union” programme.

For the first half though, I am thinking of continuing the “300 years ago” theme with a selection of 18th century harp music. Normally I use the Downhill harp for that, but I know the Dundee people love the Queen Mary replica, and I only recently commandeered the Downhill back from my student who has it, so I am thinking laterally. Perhaps one of the ports played by John Robertson on the original Queen Mary harp in the early 1700s will allow me to joke about “Port Athol, Port Gordon and Port Seton” given the nautical setting!

I am also thinking that, as I always like to in a longer performance, I should pull something completely different out as a novelty and so I am thinking of playing a tune on the fiddle. Port na bPucaí has a suitable marine story to go with it and I think might be a nice suprise item. I just have to practice enough to be able to play it convincingly! We’ll see if my resolve can hold until next week!

Lament for the Union concert in St Andrews

Today I performed my Lament for the Union concert in St Andrews. I played the programme of music from my CD-single of the same name, and I used my Downhill harp for the event. The big growly voice of this harp worked very well for this pungent 18th century music, and suited well the airy acoustic of All Saints Church hall.

As well as the candles lit, we also had a big vase full of red and purple roses. At the end audience members each took a rose away “to remember the Union”.

Lament for the Union concert

Next Wednesday, I will present a topical concert of tunes from three hundred years ago when the Act of Union was signed between England and Scotland.

The concert is on Wednesday 3rd September, at 12.45pm, in All Saints Church Hall on North Castle Street in St Andrews, and is titled “Hot political tunes from three hundred years ago”.

I will present tunes from my new EP-CD Lament for the Union – thoughtful musical pieces which were composed or played in the years around 1707. They reflect contemporaries’ feelings on the newly signed act of union, and express a wide range of emotions felt by people at the time, from sorrow, to anger, to excitement, to cheeky practical joking.

For this concert, I plan to use my reproduction of the baroque Irish “Downhill” harp made in 1702.

Art exhibits!

At tomorrow’s concert, we will have two of Ealasaid’s artworks on display. I’ll play a couple of the tunes from my Tarbh CD, and so today I looked out the original artworks from the CD booklet for these two tunes, and framed them, so we can put one on each of the little shelves behind me in the hall. I have often thought before of exhibiting the artwork at a performance of the music, but I have never actually organised to do it before. We’ll see how it goes!

Ranald and the Ghost

On Wednesday 6th August is my next concert in this summer’s series. I’ll be playing the replica Queen Mary harp in the lovely setting of All Saints Church hall on North Castle Street, St Andrews, starting 12.45pm. As usual, admission is free and all are welcome.

August’s programme is the supernatural music associated with the 18th century harper-composer, Ranald MacDonald of Morar. I’ll play just two of these huge architectural compositions, each of which is set in a mysterious world of weird beings and dangerous encounters with ghosts.

Concert at Armadale

Here’s the first photo I have seen so far from the Ceòl Rígh Innse Gall concert at the Museum of the Isles, Armadale, on the Isle of Skye a couple of weeks ago.

Left to right: Concert organiser Ian MacDonnell, harpist Simon Chadwick and singer Gillebrìde MacMillan in front of the reproduction of the medieval Iona grave slab of Aonghus Og, Lord of the Isles. Photo: Judith Parks

Medieval bardic poetry recital at Armadale, Skye

Yesterday evening I was in Sleat, presenting the medieval Gaelic poetry addressed to the Clan Donald Lords of the Isles, alongside Gaelic singer Gillebrìde MacMillan. We did two different hour-long sets, the first a more formal presentation in the atmospheric acoustic of the Museum of the Isles, and the second after a delicious buffet supper in the Victorian Stables building on the Armadale estate.

The audience, who comprised the great and good of Clan Donald, were entranced and delighted by Gillebrìde’s singing of the classical Gaelic verses praising their 12th and 13th century ancestors Angus Og as well as Donald himself.

As well as playing the harp to accompanying Gillebrìde’s delivery, I also did some solo harp tunes on the replica Queen Mary harp, including Cogaidh no Sith. I was delighted to get the same reaction as when I played it in St Andrews – people said it mesmerised them and seemed much shorter than the 15 minutes (I played a half-version with only 6 variations).

I understand there was some videotape made as well as photographs – I have not seen any of this yet though.

Sleat was beautiful; this morning I woke up early and walked down through a wooded valley to a secluded bay where I was able to swim in the sunshine before going back to the B&B for a hearty breakfast with fresh local eggs and strawberries.

Here’s the view across to Morar while waiting on the 8:30am ferry this morning:

I am really looking forward to repeating some of this material with Gillebrìde on Sunday 29th at the MacMhuirich Symposium. Do come along if you can, at 7pm at the Western Club, 32 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AB.

Lament for the Union

I have long been interested in the organisation of society, the use of symbols and ideas to motivate people and populations, and the structures and institutions that express and control the aspirations and ideas of peoples. Many years ago I got hold of a copy of Uniting the Kingdom (ed. Grant & Stringer, 1995), a book of historical essays on the relations between Scotland and England from earliest times through to the present day. From that point of view the current Union is a curious and unusual settlement.

I find it very interesting to be here at the time of the referendum, when people are talking passionately on all sides about the way that the nation and the state and society are set up, administered and controlled.

I have for some years been aware of the pibroch titled “Lament for the Union”. Now that I have finally got it up and running as a harp tune, I love it! The ground is a plaintive, emotional lament, full of regret and pathos. The variations by contrast are very different, with unexpectedly changing rythym from 4-time to 3-time and back to 4 time, and with a brooding, urgent, almost menacing sequence of theme notes, and a progression of gestures which becomes quite frantic, like the excited chattering of political activists.

I have put together a programme of a few other tunes with direct connection to the political events of three hundred years ago, when Scotland and England stopped being independent nations and joined together as a united kingdom. I will be playing this new programme for the first time at a referendum-themed art exhibition in Cupar this coming Saturday. I don’t know how many people we will get turning up at 11.30am on a Saturday morning but either way it will be a good opportunity for me to shake down this new programme!

‘Hear the Nation’

Corn Exchange, Cupar, Fife
Saturday 21st June 2014 10.00 am – 4.00 pm

 featuring contributions from 
‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Undecided’ writers, artists, and musicians


Harp Concert in St Andrews

Today was the first in my series of lunchtime harp concerts in St Andrews. This is the first year that we have not been running these in the Cathedral ruins so I was apprehensive both about the new venue, and how many people would come.

In the end the venue was wonderful. All Saints church hall is a very atmospheric place, with lovely carved oak panelled walls decorated with painted wooden plaques, and big high arched windows letting the light from the sky stream in. The acoustics of the room are very nice for the harp as well.

Turnout was modest, but no less than we used to get at the cathedral for the first event of the season.

I played Cogadh no Sith, an epic half-hour pibroch. People were entranced; more than one commented that it felt like a lot less than half an hour, how they were “sucked in” to the music.

I’m looking forward to the next in the series on 2nd July already!