Harp Music in Dundee

Free lunchtime music events in the Wighton Centre, Dundee. The next event is Wednesday 18th Oct 2006, 1.15pm.

On 4th October, Simon Chadwick presented the first in a series of lunchtime concerts and events as part of the “Wighton Harpist” residency. In the beautiful setting of the Wighton Heritage Centre, he played 17th and 18th century Gaelic music on a beautiful replica medieval harp, to an attentive and appreciative audience.

Simon is a specialist in the early clàrsach and this programme will explore and uncover some of the old Gaelic harp music hidden in Dundee Central Library’s Wighton Collection of old Scottish music books.

The books, dating from the 17th to the 19th century, were brought together in the 1840s and 50s by the Dundee merchant Andrew Wighton. After his death they were left to Dundee Library where they are now kept in a purpose-built study centre and performance space.

Simon has studied manuscripts of old Gaelic harp music from Ireland and Scotland, and is now delighted to be able to work with the old books in the Wighton Collection. “The old Gaelic harp tradition died out by the 1750s” he said, “and all that is left of it is the instruments preserved unplayable in museums, and the music hidden in old and rare books like those in the Wighton Collection”. He added: “the familiar modern clarsach, invented in the 19th century, is a completely different thing from the medieval original”

Simon plays a replica of the famous medieval “Queen Mary” harp, with strings of brass, silver and gold wire. He has been studying the tunes and techniques preserved in the old books and manuscripts for seven years, and is one of a small number of people worldwide who play the ancient Gaelic music on replica historical instruments using the original playing technique of plucking the strings with the fingernails.

“These lunchtime events every 3rd Wednesday of the month are a unique opportunity for the people of Fife, Angus and Dundee to discover an ancient Scottish Gaelic tradition”. And what’s more, they are completely free!

The programme until Christmas is as follows:

Wednesday 18th October 2006, 1.15 – 1.45pm
Illustrated talk. What is an early clàrsach anyway? Simon will present a short talk, illustrated with slides and live musical demonstrations, on the history of this prestigious instrument, its music, its players, its decline and extinction in the 19th century and its rediscovery in the 20th.

Wednesday 15th November 2006, 1.15 – 1.45pm
Workshop. A chance to play an early clàrsach, or just watch and listen. We will explore one of the first tunes taught to 18th century harp students. Please book in advance if you wish to participate in the hands on section, as there are a limited number of replica early harps available. Otherwise just turn up as usual.

Wednesday 20th December 2006, 1.15 – 1.45pm
Lunchtime Recital. Take a break from the festive frenzy with a selection of old Irish and Scottish harp music. This recital will highlight the Irish repertory and will feature a new replica of the 18th century “Downhill” harp.

All events are held in the Wighton Heritage Centre, Dundee
Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee, DD1 1DB. Admittance Free.

For more information contact simon@simonchadwick.net or call 01334 474263

Wighton harpist website: www.simonchadwick.net/wighton

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