As an appendix here I am listing some other recordings which have some connection with early Gaelic harp music. None of these includes early Gaelic harp (by which I mean the historical harp of Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, strung with brass and other metal wire). However I think they are of interest in understanding where the Gaelic harp revival of the 1970s and onwards was coming from.
At least five of the artists here later owned wire-strung harps; three subsequently recorded with them. I think it is fair to say that they all were trying in some way to come to an understanding of the historical harp tradition of Ireland and Scotland; they simply had not considered using historical techniques on a replica instrument with wire strings.
Javier Sáinz Música de harpa: El Lamento de la Cierva Herida Sony Classical SK 62257, 1995 This first solo record by Cantabrian harper Javier Sáinz is a thoughtful and historically aware selection of British and European harp music from medieval to 19th century sources. Since recording this CD on a Camac lever harp, Javier has switched entirely to using replica historical instruments; his second CD, Silva Caledonia, was released in 2008
Alison Kinnaird The Harper's Gallery Temple 003, 1980 Alison Kinnaird sings and plays a 1930s Briggs gut-strung lever harp. The selection on this disc includes a number of pieces from the early Gaelic harp repertory, taken from manuscripts and old printed books. Available secondhand from the Emporium
Alison Kinnaird The Harp Key Temple 001, 1978 Alison's first recording, and the first release from Temple Records, still available from them. Alison plays a variety of Scottish music on her 1930s Briggs gut-strung harp, including a number of pieces from the early Gaelic harp repertory. This is a very important recording in the rediscovery of the Gaelic harp repertory from the Scottish sources.
Seán Ó Riada
Ó Riada's Farewell Claddagh CC12, 1972 Seán Ó Riada recorded this solo record in 1971 just before his death. He founded the group Ceoltóirí Cualann in 1961, with the aim of approaching Irish music from a new angle and particularly to revive the music of Carolan and the other harper-composers. He was dismissive of the musical potential of the gut-strung "neo-Irish" lever harp, and played the harpsichord to try and approximate the lost sound of the early Irish harp. He apparently acquired an original 18th or 19th century harp, and Grainne Yeats has suggested that this influenced his harpsichord playing on this his last recording. Still available from Claddagh.
Seascape Clarsach Recordings CR 04, 1968 The fourth in the series. 'This original form of music, matching the Celtic harp with "mermaid's singing"...' .
An Treisamh Clarsach Recordings CR 03, 1966 The 3rd in the series; rather avant-garde abstract 'soundscapes' played on a Clarke gut-strung lever harp, with wordless singing. African influence appears on a couple of the tracks including 'Dance of the Drops' featuring mbira. The sleeve notes are diverting, e.g. '3. The Welkin: brings portent of nebulous space through which the voice wanders in an unending theme'
Highland Harper Clarsach Recordings CR 02, 1966 The second record in the series is a pleasant musical journey; Heloise's 3 compositions are "Drifting Wrack", "Sea Rain" and "Spring River".
Ceol Clarsaich Clarsach Recordings PR 5313 / CR 01, 1964 Heloise's own compositions, played on a Clark gut-strung lever harp with wordless singing. A more abstract development of her earlier classical style. The harp shown on the front cover is the instrument now preserved in Kingussie Museum. It was for a long time thought to be many centuries old but is now considered to be a Victorian copy.
Available secondhand from the Emporium
Songs with Minstrel harp RPL LP 25995, 1960 An unreleased LP; the late Peter Kennedy made a recording for me. I have never seen the original. On this recording, Mary sings and plays a harp with (I think) gut strings. There is a photo of a 1930s Briggs harp in the back of Joan Rimmer’s book which shows a harp credited to Mary; it may be this one. She is stated to have restrung her harp with wire strings “in the ancient minstrel style”1, though another source says that in 1961 she had to grow her fingernails since she was used to playing without them on gut and nylon strings2.
One track on the LP is “Scotts Lamentation” from Bunting’s 1840 book, making this an important stage in reconstructing the core old Gaelic harp repertory. Mary’s main claim to early Gaelic harp fame, however, is that she was the person who was asked to perform on the original medieval trinity college harp after its restoration in 1961. More...
Alan Cochevelou Musique Gaëlique Mouez Breiz 4597, 1959 Alan Cochevelou started playing a gut-strung harp in 1953; his first record was the EP "Musique Gaëlique" (Mouzh Breizh 4597, 1959; still available on CD combined with his 1961 LP "Telenn Geltiek" under the latter's title). In 1964 he started playing a wire-strung harp; in 1967 he took the stage name "Stivell". His records from the 1970s, mostly on wire-strung harp, were and still are very influential in the Celtic harp scene.
'Sa Choill Ud Thall (The Island Herd Maid) / Taladh Eiresgaidh (Eriskay Lullaby) Beltona 2034, 1933 Songs from Marjory Kennedy-Fraser's arrangements. Heloise sings in Gaelic and English. She later acquired one of Arnold Dolmetsch's wire-strung historical harps, but never to my knowledge played it on record.
A' Chruinneag Leach (The Islay Maiden) / Iona Boat Song & 'Strusaidh Mi Na Coilleagan (The Cockle Gatherer) Beltona 2035, 1933 This record was also recorded at the same time as the other two on Beltona but I have not seen or heard a copy. Thanks to Bill Dean-Myatt for telling me about these 3 records.
Land of Heart's Desire Beltona 2146, 1933 Another of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser's "Songs of the Hebrides", sung most passionately and openly in English with lever-harp accompaniment. I don't know what is on the other side of this disk.
Songs of the Hebrides Columbia 9838, 1929 The Mull Fisher's Love Song / Islay Reaper's song / Fairy Plaint (Music from within a Fairy Mound) / Pulling the Sea-Dulse. This is not at all "historically informed performance" but is an interesting historical recording. Patuffa sings pieces from her mother Marjory's "Songs of the Hebrides" (Gaelic folk songs re-arranged as contemporary chamber music) and accompanies herself on a Morley gut-strung lever harp. I think it is the earliest Scottish or Irish harp recording.
Ordering instructions: I carry a number of Gaelic harp books and CDs in stock at the Emporium. I am happy to try and source out-of-print or hard-to-find items not currently in stock. Go to the Emporium homepage for more details.
I also will buy secondhand copies of many of these items. Contact me with details of what you have and we can discuss terms.