genuine source of the art.‘


Harping on

The harp or clarsach is Scotland‘s most ancient instrument. yet has enjoyed a chequered history. Norman Chalmers celebrates its


The world beliey‘es that Scotland‘s national instrument is the great llighland bagpipe. but

there are three instruments that could lay claim to

that title. the other two being the harp and the fiddle. the most ancient of these being the harp. known in (iaelic Scotland as the clarsach. Although in Wales y'arious configurations appeared. including an exceedingly difficult to play version with three parallel rows ofstrings. in

Scotland and Ireland the instrument has remained

essentially the same through the centuries. ()ne fan was the 13th century Welsh monk and scholar (iiraldus (‘ambrensis who. after commenting beautifully on the supreme technique and accomplishment ofthe great Irish harpists. went on to remark. ‘It is to be observed howey'er that both Scotland and Wales. the former from

intercourse and affinity of blood. the latter from

instruction derived from the Irish. exert themsely'es with the greatest emulation to rival Ireland in musical excellence. In the opinion of many. howeycr. Scotland has not only attained to the excellence of Ireland. but has eyen. in musical science and ability. far surpassed it; insomuch that it is to Scotland that they all resort. as to the

In 17th century Scotland. howey‘er. the harp.

with its limited yolume. found itselfgradually

displaced and its repertoire taken oy'er by the bagpipe and the fiddle. later. with the demise of the clan system. the ending of the chieftain‘s patronage and the loss of the status that clarsairs.


History ofthe llarp. Bleach. Scottish chart. Folk/Jazz interminglings. Judas Priest.(‘hapterhousu Kurt Weill. Edinburgh Folk Festival.


bards and poets had prcy'iously' held. the harp had. by the mid- l Sth century. fallen into a terminal decline.

The instrument was to enjoy a renaissance. howey'er. instigated by the Victorian romance with ()ssianic myth. the rise til the (‘eltic societies {it home and in the colonies abroad. and the ( ‘eltic twilight of the parlour rey'iy'al in old ballads and (iaelic songs. in piano settings by Kennedy l’raser or accompanied by his daughter on a newly constructed Version of the ancient harp.

Although for too long a promoter of the small harp in a twee setting. the (‘larsach Society has oy'er the past decade or so been catching up with the times. and the national organisation has worked hard to project the instrument out of the drawing room into schools and onto the stage. the airwaves. the recording studio and men into rock


Sixty years old in 190] . the Society was formed by a dozen or soenthusiasts afterthe 1930 Noel in Dingwall. and can now be satisfied that the small harp is played widely all oyer Scotland. Indeed. we may well be entering another golden age for the

clarsach. as there are now more players and instrument-makcrs than at any prey'ious time. One contemporary difference is that the ancient harpists were generally male. whereas nowadays they are oy‘crwhelmingly female. but that is a function of the instruments prey ious image. and thingsare beginning tochange.

‘lt's a shame that mums and dads tend to giy e the girl the clarsach.‘ says Alison Kinnaird. performer. teacher and historian of the Scottish harp and its music. currently writing a book with Keith Sanger on the instruments history . “It‘s like traditional dancing. the harp is seen as being effeminatc. Not so much abroad. mind you. “my don‘t hay'e problems with male harpists and female pipers in the States. But they still do in Scotland.' she laughs. ‘lt's the Scottish male that‘s the problem?.

Male and female harpists are in a more equal proportion at this year‘s Izdinburgh l larp l'cstiyal. which takes place in tandem with the lzdinburgh I’olk l‘iestiy'al (sec listings). 'lhc lidinburgh branch of the t‘larsach Society organises this annual and ey'er-expanding festiy'al. probably the biggest single reason for the clai‘s;icli\ renaissance. [here are concerts. ceilitllis. Workshops. tutorials and instruction courses. lectures and demt instrations. and an exhibition by the major harpmakers.

.-\lison ls'innaird admits that ‘t )y er the past ten years. he become yery' optimistic. altliough I feel that people are perhaps not critical enough. still i not good enough in the sense of working at the basics ofthe tradition. You can still be a traditional player and be effectiy ely contemporary . it you play well.‘

The Ilit‘lll/I l'.t/1’)1/>urje/1Harp l't'y‘lit‘tz/Iukt'yp/at't' from 33 ~27.\I(1/‘<‘/i. l’lt'usu/It'e 'lilietzlre, lfi/in/wrg/r.


I WIMPS ON A STICK. or what? Atterplaying an ‘absolutely brilliant' gig in Glasgow and happily enduring a hail otmissiles in Gourock. Manic Street Preachers blew outtheir Edinburgh date duetothe singer’s sorethroat. We mustadmit to being disappointed. Couldn'tthey atleast have concocted some overdose orarresl

story more in keeping with theiruntamed public image?

I SCOTTISH MUSIC SHOW '91 —boring. orwhat? lntimidating stallholders scaring oft anyone who isn‘t a retailerormanutacturer. a lew session guitarists showing otttheirtrickiest licks on the latest lineot cybernetic virtual reality

axes— a place to avoid.

surely? Well. not necessarilythisyear. when Music MakerExhibitions are striving to maketheir SECC bash as open and accessible as possible. One teaturethis yearthatmight make it extra interesting is that bands havethe opportunityto playin anotherhall intheSECC overthe weekend thatit‘s on (21—22 September). Interested bands should contact. without delay. Clive Morton. Music Maker Exhibitions. Alexander House. Forehill. Ely.

‘- Cambridgeshire CB7 4AF.

I THERE ARE SEVERAL reasonsiorshelling out40p tor‘lncredible Shrinking Fabzine‘. One is to follow the adventures ot‘Alien Brother— Parasite From Pluto‘. but it‘s tarmore likelythatthe readersjust can‘t live withoutthe dietot punk. hardcore. thrash and various otherindependent produce thatthe ‘zine covers. They would be absurdly grateful tor any demotapes and other information from like- minded souls. all the more so as a compilation tape or ilexi-single are under

consideration for their next issue. Forsome reason. they wantmailtobe addressed to a place called The Shrinking Launderette. 28 Howe Park. Edinburgh EH107HF.

ITHEWORD lSthatZulu Syndicate maybe about to sign a deal with a revamped Move Records. the Edinburgh-based soul label run from Edinburgh byAlan Omokhoje inthemid-80s. Atterthe label ceased

Zulu Syndicate single. l I lT AIN'T neccesarily so. i justlikethe song says. it turns outthatTommy j Smith'storthcoming Blue Noterelease (due on 7May. EMlsaylwill be an album ol standards afterall. and not asreported in the last issue. Meanwhile. apologiesto Roland Perrin,

who mysteriously metamorphosed into that

well knownlictional

creation Reginald in our

trading. 0m0kh0l9 90!?! review otthe ‘Evidence' majorlabeltalent-scouting albumrwoissuesnack!

job. butseemsto be onthe

verge of reviving it tora 'J

the List j: March ~ 4 April 1991—29