A genre of the earliest recorded repertory for Gaelic harp, the port, is to be found in 17th- and 18th-century Scottish lute manuscripts, captured in lute tablature. As this notation describes where to put the fingers on the lute, these are fully fleshed-out compositions of the period. Together, we will unlock Renaissance lute tablature for the harpist, working at transcribing and learning to play two lovely, representative pieces. The first, 'A Port' is from the lute-book of Robert Gordon of Straloch. Written in 1627–1629, the original is now lost, but a 19th-century copy survives. The second is 'Port Ballingowne', from the c. 1630 Skene manuscript, written by, or for, John Skene of Hallyards, in Midlothian. We will experiment with idiomatic historical phrasing: the beautiful play of stress inherent in the Gaelic language, and its relation to the fingers and fingering, bringing this forward in our own phrasing at the harp.
To bring context to our work with the Scottish lute books, this course will begin with an introductory session on the history of the lute and its music in Scotland, presented by Dr Matthew Spring, one of the foremost experts on the subject. Our course closes with a lecture on the history of harps in Scotland, with an in-depth look at the Gaelic harps, presented by Dr Karen Loomis.