Online Harp Workshop: Sing to the Harp

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Wire Branch of The Clarsach Society

Gaelic song and the wire-strung clarsach have an ancient history together – but self-accompanying at the harp can be a daunting task! James Ruff, tenor and early Gaelic harp, will lead an online workshop suitable for all levels addressing how to go about finding, learning, singing and playing a Gaelic song: self-accompanying at the harp. Using the example of one song, we will briefly talk about the general structure of Gaelic poetry, rhythmically speak through the lyrics together – making sure to clarify sounds that are difficult to form. We’ll take in the melody and explore the traditional art of matching it with the stresses of the poetry. We’ll play the melody on the harp, briefly looking at fingering and damping issues that arise, and explore ways to accompany this melody on the wire-strung harp following historic lines. We’ll discuss the idea of harmony and ornamentation in this tradition, and find ways to deepen expression. You’ll learn to put song and harp together, joining this ancient tradition of singing to the harp. We’ll finish by going through possible sources for early Gaelic song that can be sung to the harp, as well as Gaelic language sources in general. I’ll include a score and a recording of myself speaking the song lyrics slowly for practice, as well as a performance of the song.

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