Today in St Andrews I played the second in this summer’s season of medieval harp concerts. I chose to play the traditional piobaireachd, Cogadh no sith (war or peace), re-imagined as a medieval ceremonial march for the Lords of the Isles.
My idea is that this grand geometrical composition can stand as a kind of proxy for the lost medieval Gaelic harp repertory, which would have been played on the Queen Mary harp in the great hall at Finlaggan in the 15th Century for the Lords of the Isles.
Steach gu Ciosamul an aighir,
Far a faighte cuirm ri gabhail
Ol fìon o oidhche gus an latha,
Pìobaireachd na feadan lagach,
‘s clàrsach bhinn ga gleusadh mar ris…
I was at Castlebay this past weekend, to play the harp at the Galley Castles Conference organised by the Islands Book Trust. I played three times for three different events during the conference, all of them fairly informal. Though I didn’t get a chance to formally present a paper on my research into the medieval Hebridean harp music and instrument tradition, I was pleased to be able to discuss my research and work with a number of interested academics working in this area on the history and archaeology of the castles and society of the medieval Western Isles and the Lordship of the Isles.
On a whim, I went to the cave, and recorded a video of the pìobaireachd, Uamh an Òir (the Cave of Gold). Continue reading Uamh an Òir
Earlier today I listened to this newly-published interview with Allan MacDonald and Barnaby Brown, online at altpibroch.com. I think this is an excellent new development on this admirable website and I look forward to hearing future installments in this series!
I was interested to hear Allan’s comments on ‘cronan’, and reflected on its use in the harp tradition to describe the string an octave below na comhluighe. I was pleased to hear Barnaby picking up on its relationship with the bass drone of the bagpipe.
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.
I have recorded the Lament for the Union programme and I am putting it out as a handmade CD single!
http://www.earlygaelicharp.info/union/ will get you the details as well as a sample track.
It’s not officially released until 1st July, but I have made up some pre-release copies to take along to tomorrow morning’s performance, 11.30am at Cupar Corn Exchange.