The Harper's Land by Ann Heymann & Alison Kinnaird
Alison Kinnaird is already well known, and in Ann Heymann we have a virtuoso second to none on the wire strung harp. Again, Temple produces a first. This was the first record to combine the sounds of the gut and the wire strung harps. This album is a record of two different, but related, small harps. The approach to the music, and the harps on which it is played, has been formed by years of research in both Scotland and Ireland. The music itself has been gleaned from many sources, including the oral tradition, ancient archives and collections, and also includes original compositions by Ann Heymann and Alison Kinnaird, the harpers.
MUSIC WEEK - A beautiful album - could be snapped up by the MOR/light classical market as well as the widest possible range of folk appreciators. With faultless playing they conjure up visions of misty heather-clad hills or smokey peat fires, and one is transported to a gentle world where all is peace and beauty.
EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS - ... with two well-received solo albums to her name already, this record of Alison Kinnaird with Ann Heymann will win her and her music more than a few followers. Award: 1st in Folk Section MTS Awards 1983.
Buy this album now CD: £11.50 + p&p
|1||The Harpers Land
|2||Ellens Dreams||Solo Alison Kinnaird||
|3||Lady Iveagh||Solo Ann Heymann||
|4||The Braidwood Waits||Solo Alison Kinnaird||
|5||Rory Dall Morisons Jig / Far-Fuadach
(The Harpers Dismissal)
|Solo Alison Kinnaird||
|6||THE GRANARD TUNES
a. Carraic na h-Uaine
b. The Market House
c. John Dungans Return
d. The Canons Cup
Solo Ann Heymann
|7||Bas Alastruim / McAllistruims March||Duet||
|8||Miss Hamilton||Solo Ann Heymann||
|9||Cumh Easbig Earraghaal (Bishop of Argyles Lament)||Solo Alison Kinnaird||
|10||Baltiorum / Charlies Fancy||Solo Ann Heymann||
|11||Blar Sliabh An t-Siorraidh / The Battle of Sheriffmuir||Duet||
|12||The Bells of Cork City / The Dusty Miller||Solo Ann Heymann||
|13||Clarsach Na Cloiche (The Harp of the Stones)||Solo Alison Kinnaird||
|14||Airs By Fingal||Solo Ann Heymann||
|15||Leslie's March||Solo Alison Kinnaird||
TOTAL DISC TIME
THE HARPER’S LAND - Music for the Irish & Scottish Harps played by ANN HEYMANN & AUSON KINNAIRD
This album is a record of two different, but related, musical traditions played on two different, but related, small harps. The approach to the music, and the harps on which it is played, has been informed by years of research in both Scotland and Ireland. The music itself has been gleaned from many sources, including the oral tradition, ancient archives and collections and also includes original compositions by Ann Heymann and Alison Kinnaird, the harpers.
The musical traditions of Ireland and Scotland owe much to each other. Over the centuries, continuing down to the present day, the musicians of each country carried their music to and fro, borrowing and “stealing’ what they felt could be usefully assumed from the other tradition. It is only to be expected that people so geographically and linguistically close should deeply affect each other, not only politically and commercially but also in tradition and culture generally.
There is no reason to suggest that the pattern was any different in the realm of the harp and its music. Commentators such as the scholar monk Giraldus Cambrensis (12th century) noted the harpers travelling frequently and widely in both countries. At a later date we find Echlin O’Cahan, an Irish harper, in Scotland and the Highlander, Murchadh Clairsair, being sent to Ireland. Indeed one Thomas Connellan, from County Sligo, was made a baillie of the City of Edinburgh in 1717. This honour seems to haw been conferred on him because of his prowess as a player of the harp. O’Carolan composed some variations on Scottish themes. We can also find versions of tunes attributed to him in the great Scottish collections. This suggests that Carolan inspired and in turn was inspired by his Caledonian contemporaries. With this record Alison Kinnaird and Ann Heymann continue this process.
Ailson Kinnaird comes from Edinburgh and plays the gut-strung harp, within the Scottish tradition. Ann Heymann, from Minnesota, USA., plays the wire-strung harp, within the Irish tradition. Those who may question the credibility of Irish music played by an American should consider the depth of Irish tradition to be found in the United States. This was based on the emigration from Ireland beginning in the mid-19th century and continuing to this day. It is also worth noting that the world is a much smaller place today than in the hey day of the harpers. Ann can reach Shannon Airport in a fraction of the time it would have taken Connellan to travel from the West of Ireland to Edinburgh. Further, the tradition of harping, in Ireland and Scotland, is a broken one. Ann and Alison haw had to research the subject deeply in order to reach conclusions about the nature of the technique and the music played by the old harpers.
Alison and Ann first met in 1981. Ann had listened to Alison’s two record albums on this label. She was fascinated to hear the Scottish repertoire and recognised a kindred spirit in Alison’s approach to melody, decoration and harmony, an approach, which sees the clarsach as an instrument separate from the classical pedal-harp. It has its own repertoire, which requires an approach radically different from that flowing from the tradition and grammar of classical music. Alison, for her part, being unsatisfied by the music she heard played on the wire-strung harp, borrowed one and worked at it for a few months. The players she had heard treated tat if it was a gut-strung instrument. She quickly came to the conclusion that in order to play it properly she would have to developed different technique to the one that works on her own instrument indeed the very day that Ann arrived, unannounced, at her door Alison was returning the borrowed wire-strung clarsach to its owner. After the usual formalities, Ann played her harp. It was immediately obvious that here was someone who had developed the very technique that Alison had seen to be necessary to unlock that beautiful instrument.
On this album are joined two traditions, two harps, and two fine musicians. Ann Heymann and Alison Kinnaird continue the line of the great harpers of the past.
1. THE HARPER’S LAND (Hi ri
ri ri ho) — Duet
2. ELLEN’S DREAMS (Solo — Alison
3. LADY IVEAGH (Solo — Ann
4. THE BRAIDWOOD WAITS (Solo—Alison
5. RORY DALL MORISON’S JIG/FAR-FUADACH
A’CHLARSAIR (The Harper’s Dismissal) (Solo—Alison
6. THE GRANARD TUNES
7. BAS ALASTRUIM (The
Death of Alasdair)/ McALLISTRUIM’S MARCH (Duet)
8. MISS HAMILTON
(Solo — Ann Heymann)
9. CUMH EASBIG EARRAGHAAL
(Bishop of Argyle’s Lament) (Solo — Alison Kinnaird)
10. BALTIORUM/CHARLIE’S FANCY
(Solo – Ann Heymann)
11. BLAR SLIASH AN t-SIORRAIDH
(Solo – Alison Kinnaird) / THE BATTLE OF SHERIFFMUIR (Duet)
12. THE BELLS OF CORK CITY / THE
DUSTY MILLER (Solo — Ann Heymann)
13. CLARSACH NA CLOICHE (The
Harp of the Stones) (Solo — Alison Kinnaird)
14. AIRS BY FINGAL (Solo — Ann
15. LESLIE’S MARCH (Solo — Alison Kinnaird)This is another march called after General Sir David Leslie, who commanded the Covenanters’ forces, first against Montrose, who was fighting for Charles II, and then, when the Covenanters decided to support Charles, against Cromwell, who defeated Leslie at Dunbarin 1650.
All tracks produced by Robin Morton
TEMPLE RECORDS COMD 2012
|Instruments:||Solo gut harp, solo wire harp & duets|
|Genre:||Scottish / Irish Traditional|
ANN HEYMANN comes from Minnesota, and is a versatile musician who plays wooden transverse flute, concertina and harmonium as well as being recognised as the foremost exponent of the wire-strung harp. She came to the instrument rather by accident after a horse fell on her, breaking her leg. Till then riding had been her career - Ann had Olympic potential and was leading rider for the entire upper Midwest. During the enforced rest, she happened to meet a harp-maker, Jay Witcher, one of whose wire-strung harps Ann has played ever since.
Ann plays her harp in the old manner on her left shoulder, and plucks the strings with her nails, which are grown long. She is thus playing the opposite way round from the gut-strung harp, with her left hand playing the treble strings and her right hand the bass. Ann’s own explanation for this is that old Celtic culture recognised a sexual spatial division between the right and left, with the right side being masculine and the left being feminine. On a 30-string harp, the treble half down to G corresponds to the average range of the female human voice and the bass half for the male voice. Bunting stressed that the old harpers’ right and left hands clearly had their own territory, with special terms being used for a crossing of hands.
Ann plays with the “long crooked nails” so often mentioned in early descriptions of the old harpers. “Crooked” probably does not mean curved, but slanted, the shape to which the playing itself wears them down. Keeping all one’s nails long enough to play poses special problems. In Scotland when a chieftain was displeased with his harper, he would have his nails cut off, effectively silencing him till they grew again. This may well have led to the growth in popularity of the gut-strung harp! Ann’s hand position is also totally un classical with a dropped elbow and fingers turned in towards the strings. This allows for rapid playing with very little movement of the fingers, and those particular decorations and grace notes, which are peculiar to the wire-strung harp.
She had already read the descriptions in Bunting “The Ancient Music of Ireland” (1796, 1809, 1840) of the techniques used by Irish harpers. These examples, however, were either inadequate, confusing or inapplicable to a specific problem, particularly in the realm of damping. So, using Bunting as a starting point, Ann has gone on to create her own methods of playing. The result is completely unique. Unlike the gut-strung harp, where a note is struck and dies relatively quickly, on the wire-strung harp the note will ring, literally for minutes, until it is stopped. Most people who have attempted to play this instrument play it with what is basically the same technique as the gut-strung harp, with the result that the number of notes left ringing gradually builds up until the sound is an in comprehensible jangle. Ann has worked out stopping and damping techniques with which she makes a conscious choice as to which strings are to be allowed to ring, and how long they will ring before they are damped. All other notes, even in rapid passage, are individually damped as they are played. The result is a clear melody above a ringing, but always appropriate, harmony line. The articulation in her playing - the difference between legato and staccato - is only possible with these varied playing and damping techniques.
Ann’s interest in traditional music is shared with her husband, Charlie, who comes from a Chicago Irish background and has been playing Irish music since he was a child. They were both members of the “Dayhill’s Irish Band” before it split up, and they formed the duo “Clairseach”. Since then they have recorded two albums and have performed all over the United States, Europe and Ireland at concerts and festivals. Ann’s contribution to the music of the wire-strung harp was widely recognised when she won the Grand Prize at the Bun-Fleadh harp competitions at Granard in Ireland in 1981 and 1982.She teaches master classes and workshops on the wire-strung harp, and has produced a book called “The Secrets of the Gaelic Harp” on the techniques of playing, which she has developed.
|Contact Details||Ann Heymann|
|Artist Web Site||www.clairseach.com|
ALISON KINNAIRD began her musical training as a ‘cellist from the age of seven. At twelve she was offered the chance to pursue a career as a soloist by the foremost English ‘cello teacher but she and her family decided it too great a commitment to make at this age. The following year she heard the clarsach for the first time and immediately felt that this was the instrument for her. She studied with Jean Campbell in Edinburgh, and won the major harp prizes at the National Mod and the first Pan-Celtic Festival in Killarney. She has travelled widely, performing from Yugoslavia to Hawaii, and has done many broadcasts on radio and television.
Alison gradually realised, however, that the music she was offered to play on the clarsach was not satisfying. Most of it was arranged by pianists and concert harpists and she felt that it did not express the character of the clarsach as a traditional instrument. Both wire-strung and gut-strung harps have been played traditionally in Scotland for many centuries but, as in Ireland, the gut-strung harp took over in popularity at the end of the 18th century. The problem is that, because the technique is basically the same as that for the concert harp, it is possible to play the clarsach as a “small classical harp”. In the same way that violin and fiddle music can be played on the same instrument but demand a radically different approach, Alison felt that she wanted to play the clarsach as a “harper” rather than a “harpist”, and decided that it was important to establish a repertoire of music which had been specifically composed for the clarsach. She had been told that the harping tradition had been broken irrevocably at the end of the 18th century. However, when she began to search for Scottish harp music, she found that as well as the few harp tunes listed as such, there were many compositions hidden in old collections which were obviously those of harpers, as well as tunes which had been taken over by other instruments. The main problem is that none of the harpers ever wrote down their own music so what has survived is usually only a melody line, sometimes with a single bass line below.
Alison’s approach to the music, in putting it into a playable form, has been much influenced by the music of her husband, Robin Morton, from Co. Armagh, and the many fine traditional musicians they have as friends in Ireland and Scotland. She found it was necessary to consciously reject a classical background, and approach the clarsach as a melody instrument, not as the harmony instrument that it is primarily used for in classical music. The most important elements of Scottish instrumental music are melody and decoration. In fact, the melody, imaginatively decorated, creates its own harmonies. The whole harp, of course, is constantly ringing in sympathy with the actual notes struck. Harmony is very limited in the Scottish tradition and needs to be used with great restraint and care, considered with reference to the other traditional music and song. The rules of classical harmony come from different cultural roots and are not relevant to traditional Scottish music.
Alison has been told that it was impossible to play traditional harp music, because of the break in the tradition. However, she has come to the conclusion that it is possible to play the music that has survived, and that which is still being composed, in a traditional manner. Traditional music is a constantly evolving process, which did not fossilize at any one moment in history. While it is not possible to say that this is how harp music was played in the days of the old harpers, it certainly can be played in a traditional style which is relevant to today’s music, a style which reflects the, strength and dignity of the harp’s place in its country’s history.Alison has produced two books, a collection of old Harp tunes, “The Harp Key”, and a Tutor for the Small Harp, focussing on traditional-style playing and arrangements. These and her other recordings have been critically acclaimed as leading the way in a revival of the Scottish harp.
|Contact Details||Please use form on Alison's web site click here|
|Artist Web Site||www.alisonkinnaird.com|