CD A0149: The New Strung Harp

The New Strung Harp by Máire Ní Chathasaigh

CD Cover: The New Strung Harp by Máire Ní Chathasaigh In 1985 Máire recorded the first harp album ever to concentrate on traditional Irish dance music - the culmination of many years spent developing an array of new techniques for the purpose, particularly in relation to ornamentation. Using her deep knowledge of the idiom of the living oral Irish tradition, she thus firmly re-established an authentically traditional style of harping. This album had such an extraordinary effect on the harp world that it has been described as "the most influential Irish harp album of the twentieth century: a single-handed reinvention of the harp".

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Profile page & index of recordings & sheet music

Track Listing & Audio Samples

1 * Charles O'conor/Father Hanly
2 O Ho Nighean, E Ho Nighean
3 * Madam Maxwell
4 The Pullet/The Volunteer
5 An Speic Seoigheach
6 The Humours of Ballyloughlin
7 Hindero Horo
8 The Bantry Girls' Lament
9 The ganter in the Pratie Hole/ The Queen of the Rushes
10 Carolan's Farewell to music
11 The Fisherman's Hornpipe/The Cuckoo's Nest
12 The boys of Malin/The Old Oak Tree
13 * Planxty Sudley
* Written by Turlough O'Carolan, Arr.Maire Ni Chathasaigh
All other songs and tunes are Trad. Arr.Maire Ni Chathasaigh All Copyright Control

CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes

Máire Ní Chathasaigh-The New Strung Harp

1.  Charles O'Conor and Father Hanly
(a) Charles O'Conor (by Turlough O'Carolan) From John Mulholland "Collection of Ancient Irish Aires", Belfast 1810.
The O'Conors of Belnpore in Co.Roscommon and the McDermotts Roe of Alderford, two ancient princely families, were Carolan's chief patrons. The O'Conors were directly descended from the last High Kings of Ireland. Charles O'Conor, for whom this piece was composed, was taught the harp by Carolan. He distinguished himself in later years as a scholar and antiquarian. (b) Father Hanly (Jig) - Also known as "The Rambler".

2. O Ho Nighean, E Ho Nighean
Collected from Mrs. John Currie (Peigi Nill) of North Glendale in 1932 by Margaret fay Shaw, and published by her in her definitive volume "Folksong & Folklore of South Uist" (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1955).
A song of lost love from South Uist in the Western Islands of Scotland. The poet conveys a sense of desolation which is entirely untainted by bitterness.
"Ach mas e's gun d' rinn thu mi' fhagail
'S gura h-e 'm fear ur as fhearr leat,
Mo mhile beannachd gu brach leat..."
"But you have me and
prefer a new love, my thousand
blessings with you forever..."

The Gaelic dialect of South Uist may, in the present performance, be slightly contaminated by that of West Cork!
As well as harp I also play synthesiser here and sing lead and harmony vocals. My sister Nollaig and Mairead add their harmony voices and fiddle and whistle respectively.

3. Madam Maxwell (by Turlough O'Carolan)
From Edward Bunting's "The Ancient Music of Ireland", Dublin 1840
Thought to have been composed in honour of Judith, wife to John Maxwell-later Farnham of Farnham, Co. Cavan.

4. The Pullet and The Volunteer
The first of this pair of well known reels is to be found in Petrie, the second is from the repertoire of Micky Doherty of Co. Donegal.

5. An Speic Seoigheach
From Edward Bunting's "A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music", London 1796. The meaning of the title is uncertain: it has been tentatively translated by Donal O'Sullivan in his authoritative edition of Bunting's work as "The Joyces' Country Greeting". Joyces' Country stretches out to the west of Lough Mask and Lough Corrib in Co. Galway. This majestic tune exhibits all of the stylish features of the most ancient stratum of Irish harp music. The associated words are of a quality vastly inferior to that of the melody, and appear to have added at a much later date.

6. The Bantry Girls' Lament
Published in Colm o Lochlainn's "Irish Street Ballads", Dublin 1939. O Lochlainn found the works in H. Halliday Sparling's "Irish Minstrelsy" and married them to a tune culled from Petrie's "Ancient Music of Ireland". Petrie collected it in Co. Derry in the summer of 1837. It is a variant of "The Dawning of the Day".
Here I have overlaid an alto harmony and synthesiser to the lead vocal and harp. Nollaig sings the tenor line and plays the fiddle and Mairead sings soprano harmony. Our brother Greig sings bass.

7. The Gander in The Pratie Hole and The Queen of The Rushes
Two popular piping tunes. The insistent 'D' drone which accompanies the first of the pair is intended to suggest the drone of the Uilleann pipes.

8. Carolan's Farewell To Music
From the Forde MSS in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. When Carolan felt himself near to death he repaired to the house of his first known patron and loyal friend Mrs. MacDermot Roe, at Alderford. On being received by her at the front door, he declared:
"Thainic me annso tar eis a ndeachas brid, chum bas d 'fhaghail is an mbaile fa dheire, mar a bhfuaras an chead fhoghlium agus an chead ghearran". (I have come here after all I have gone through to die at home at last, where I got my first schooling and my first horse).
We are told (in the Mundey-O'Reilly MS) that
"she received him with tears, and after a minute's rest and taking a drop of the usual cordial, he called for the harp and played "Farewell to Music". It is interesting that Carolan, who throughout most of his life produced music which was so greatly influenced by the Italian baroque style fashionable at that time, should for his valedictory work leave us with a piece which, in its peculiarly Irish style of composition, harks back to the music of the harpers of an earlier age. I have accordingly arranged it in as spare a manner as possible.

9. The Fisherman's Hornpipe and The Cuckoo's Nest
Two popular hornpipes

10. The Boys Of Malin and The Old Oak Tree
Learned from the fiddle playing of the late John Docherty of Donegal

11. Planxity Sudley (by Turlough O' Carolan)
Published in John Mulholland's "Collection of Ancient Irish Airs", Belfast 1810. Turlough O'Carolan composed this tune as a dowry for his daughter Siobhan on the occasion of her marriage to Captain Sudley a member of the 'King's Army '. There is a veiled acidity about the associated celebratory verses which suggests that Siobhan's motives in marrying were not of the loftiest order. She evidently wished to assure herself of being kept in a style to which she was not accustomed: 
"S Siobhan gheal a ' speribhean
Nar chuir speis i girnatain..."
"Fair Siobhan is the beauty
Who took no interest in hardship.."
and again:
"Is deas a chuir tu carta..."
"well did you play your card..."

Carolan's diapproval may possibly be attributed to the fact that his future son-in law was not only a member of what Carolan would certainly have regarded as an 'Army of Occupation', but a mere commoner to boot. A scion of a dispossessed old Irish noble family, however impoverished, would, without doubt, have been a more acceptable husband for his daughter. On this track Nollaig once again plays fiddle and I have added synthesiser.

My thanks to Grainne Yeats for letting me loose in her library and putting a firm damper on flights of fancy, to say nothing of her unfailing kindness, advice and encouragement; and to Breandan Breatnach for putting his encyclopaedic knowledge of the provenance and nomenclature of the dance music at my disposal.
Thanks also to Roisin Ni She, Allan Boyd, Sheila Murray and Chris Newman.
Maire Ni Chathasaigh
October 1985



Some reviews of "The New Strung Harp" from when it was first released in 1985-
"One of the loveliest album for many a  year..." Folk on Tap
"An intensely passionate and intelligent record... A milestone in Irish harp music " Cork Evening Echo
"So intricate are her techniques, so subtle her use of tonal lights and shades, so inventive her arrangements that your attention is not so much caught as captivated" Folk Roots
"The album of harp music that unquestionably deserves to be hailed as a classic exercise in music-making" The Scotsman

Other albums by Mairi Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman on Old Bridge Music-
The Living Wood (1988, re-released by Old Bridge Music 1995)
Out of Court (1991)-OBMCDO3/OBMMCO3
The Carolan Albums (1994)-OBMCDO6/OBMMCO6
Live in the Highlands (1995)-OBMCDO8/OBMMCO8

Produced by Robin Morton
Recorded at Temple Records Studio, Midlothian, Scotland,
and Homestead Studio
Engineer Shaun Wallace  tracks 2,8& 13
Sleeve design John Haxby, Edinburgh
Cover painting Colm Murphy
Photography Chris Newman
The harps used on the recording were made by Kunzo Aoyama of Japan and Jay Witcher of Maine, USA


UK: Temple Records, Shillinghill, Temple Midlothian EH23 4SH, Scotland
© 1985 Temple Records
® 1985 Temple Records

Warning: copyright subsists  in all Temple Recordings. Any unauthorised broadcasting. public performance, copying or re-recording of  Temple Records in any manner whatsoever will constitute an infringement of such copyright.
Licences for the use of records for public performance may be obtained from PPL Ltd, Ganton House, 14-22 Ganton St.. London WIV ILB.

Made in Austria

Album Information

Instruments:   Most tracks solo harp
Some tracks voice & harp accompanied see Sleeve Notes for details
Genre: Irish Traditional
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0149
Label: Temple Records
Year: 1985
Origin: Manufactured in Austria