Online Group-Tuition Programmes

Acadamy Programmes

Beginning - 07 May 2022

Historical music of the Scottish Highlands and Islands

Description

Explore medieval to 18th-century Scottish music: 1) An overview talk on the history and craftsmanship of the harps of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. 2) The mysterious port (puirt) in 17th-/18th-century Scottish lute manuscripts, which may be the earliest notated repertoire in Scotland for the harp. 3) A port from the manuscripts of the Maclean-Clephane sisters on the Isle of Mull, a rich resource that deserves to be better known. 4) How the Gaelic language, with its rhythm and stress, the ‘Scotch snap’, and anacrusis in poetic line, can inform, and bring about, more of a natural lilt in your playing of Gaelic song airs. 5) Playing sacred music from one of the earliest sources of music in Scotland, the St Andrews Music Book. 6) A piece that Bill Taylor considers to be a surviving ancient piobaireachd – a sophisticated music of theme and variations for solo bagpipes – with wider implications for performance on clàrsach, fiddle and keyboard.   


Note: the first session will be an illustrated presentation on harps of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, with guest speaker, Dr Karen Loomis.

In this course students will:

  • explore the role, and performance practice, of harps in the medieval church
  • learn how to deal with the issue of chromaticism on a diatonic harp
  • create an ‘intabulation’ to be able to play several different voices of a polyphonic piece
  • gain understanding of the compositional structure of a piobaireachd
  • develop dexterity to execute ornamental melodic figuration fluently, and to use string-damping techniques
  • Examine historical port sources, how to transcribe from Renaissance lute tablature, discover ornamentation embedded in the tablature, and analyse the ‘bass’ in early ports to inform reconstruction of later examples
  • work on reconstructing different possibilities for harp basses in 17th- and 18th-century Scottish repertory
  • sing and play a portion of a Gaelic song, looking at the Gaelic-language lyrics to inform that performance

Course Duration

6 Sessions

Level

Intermediate+

Class Time

3.30–4.45

Tutor(s)

Price

€120.00

Saturday | 3.30–4.45

07 May

Session 1

Harps of the Scottish Highlands and Islands – An illustrated talk [Guest speaker: Dr Karen Loomis]

Harps of the Scottish Highlands and Islands – An illustrated talk [Guest speaker: Dr Karen Loomis]

This presentation will explore the history of the harp in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and take an in-depth look at the two surviving historical instruments: the Queen Mary and Lamont harps. We'll consider these two harps in the context of their historical time periods, examine their craftsmanship and decorative work, and discuss how they can inform performance practice for present-day players.

14 May

Session 2

'Port Robart' from the Wemyss MS – Uncovering the secrets of the 17th-/18th-century port [James Ruff]

'Port Robart' from the Wemyss MS – Uncovering the secrets of the 17th-/18th-century port [James Ruff]

The mysterious puirt (ports) preserved in 17th- and 18th-century Scottish lute manuscripts may be the earliest notated repertoire in Scotland for the harp, and, unlike many other Gaelic harp repertory sources, include a full musical texture.  Using the example of 'Port Robart' from the Wemyss MS, we will go over the basics of lute tablature in order to transcribe these pieces into modern notation, before playing it on the harp. In particular, we will look at the use of the bass in these pieces, to help inform our reconstruction of later puirt, as well as the ornamentation embedded in the tablature.  A review of sources will be included.

21 May

Session 3

'Is eagal leam am bàs' – The Maclean-Clephane sisters and the harp [James Ruff]

'Is eagal leam am bàs' – The Maclean-Clephane sisters and the harp [James Ruff]

The music manuscripts of the Maclean-Clephane sisters, on the Isle of Mull, are a significant early 19th-century source of indigenous harp music and song from the Gaelic tradition, and are a largely neglected resource that deserve to be more well known. The three sisters were harpists themselves, collecting local harp music, Gaelic song, and traditional Highland lore – in fact, Sir Walter Scott, executor to their father’s will and close family friend, received the Gaelic traditional lore for his novels from them!  Most interestingly for us, these manuscripts include repertoire transcribed from Irish clarsair Echlin Ó Catháin, as well as ten anonymous puirt.  We will look at one of the recognizable puirt, a setting of 'Is eagal leam am bàs' – a melancholy consideration of death – which we will learn together, discussing and trying different possibilities for harp bass as we go.

04 Jun

Session 4

Mary MacLeod’s song, 'Crònan an Taibh' – A key to rendering Scottish Gaelic song on the harp [James Ruff]

Mary MacLeod’s song, 'Crònan an Taibh' – A key to rendering Scottish Gaelic song on the harp [James Ruff]

Approaching any of the myriad of beautiful song airs in the Gaelic tradition, much less an actual Gaelic song, can be a daunting prospect for us.  Even without a knowledge of the Gaelic language, some basic rules of its stresses and cadence can transform the way we play these pieces on the harp. In this class – using a portion of Mary MacLeod’s song 'Crònan an Taibh' – we will look at basics of word stress, poetic form with its rhythm and stress, the ‘Scotch snap’, and anacrusis in poetic line, and how we can apply these building blocks to bring about more of a natural lilt in your playing of Gaelic song airs.

11 Jun

Session 5

'Alleluya, Virga dei mater pia' – Sacred medieval Scottish music from the St Andrews Music Book [Bill Taylor]

'Alleluya, Virga dei mater pia' – Sacred medieval Scottish music from the St Andrews Music Book [Bill Taylor]

This class will explore playing a sacred motet, 'Alleluya, virga dei mater pia', from one of the earliest sources of music from Scotland, the St Andrews Music Book. Also known as Wolfenbüttel 1, after its current library classification, it contains a section with over 40 two-voice motets dedicated to the Virgin, written by Scottish composers when the manuscript was owned by St Andrews Cathedral.

18 Jun

Session 6

'‘S fhada mar seo tha sinn', an ancient piobaireachd in Daniel Dow’s Collection of Ancient Scots Music (1776) [Bill Taylor]

'‘S fhada mar seo tha sinn', an ancient piobaireachd in Daniel Dow’s Collection of Ancient Scots Music (1776) [Bill Taylor]

This class will look at a piece from Daniel Dow’s Collection of Ancient Scots Music (1776). The piece, '’S fhada mar seo tha sinn' [‘too long in this condition’], has several different titles, and it is possible that the editor confused the melody and the title. But what is certain is that it is a surviving, ancient piobaireachd – a sophisticated music of theme and variations for solo bagpipes – with wider implications for performance on clàrsach, fiddle and keyboard.  

What to Expect

  • Six live classes, each lasting 1.25 hours, in an online Zoom room, shared with other participants
  • Each session is video-recorded and available to you, 48 hours after the live event, until your course-access period ends
  • You will have access to downloadable PDF and / or audiofile class materials

Technical Requirements

  • A laptop, desktop or tablet computer; we do not recommend using a phone to participate
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Access to a printer for downloadable course materials
  • Access to the Zoom platform; further information to help you get set up for participating over Zoom will be sent after you have registered

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