CD A0150: The Harper's Land

The Harper's Land by Ann Heymann & Alison Kinnaird

CD Cover: The Harper's Land by Ann Heymann & Alison KinnairdAlison 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   

Track Listing & Audio Samples

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 A Chlarsair
(The Harpers Dismissal)
Solo Alison Kinnaird
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

CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes

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
Alison found the melody line of this tune in James Oswald’s ‘Caledonian Pocket Companion’ (1745-59). It occurs in the volume containing a large proportion of harp tunes, and has much in common with some other harp music so it may well originally have been a harp tune. It had no title apart from the vocable description of the first bar. (One might suggest that harp music was orally transmitted like the canntaireachd of the pipes. There is certainly no evidence of its written transmission.) We decided to give it the title ‘The Harper’s Land’ which was the name of the part of his estate which the chief of a clan would give his harper, often rent free, in return for his services.
Alison and Ann share the theme and then each take the lead in two of the variations, returning to the theme.

2. ELLEN’S DREAMS (Solo — Alison Kinnaird)
In the old days one of the duties of the clan harpers was to play the household to sleep at night. Alison’s husband, Robin Morton, composed this tune for their daughter, Ellen, when she was small. It didn’t have the desired effect on her, but it is a lovely melody with a rather Irish feeling to it; not surprising as Robin is Irish.

3.  LADY IVEAGH (Solo — Ann Heymann)
Ann plays this air from Bunting’s collection. He says of it — “An air remarkable for its haughty and majestic style, suited most probably to the rank and character of the Lady to whom it was addressed. The Lady Iveagh, whose name was preserved in this characteristic melody, was Sarah, daughter of Hugh O’Neill, the great Earl of Tyrone. She was married to Art Roe Magennis, who was created Viscount Iveagh by patent of July 18th, 1623”. In this index to the 1840 volume, Bunting attributes the tune to Thomas O’Connellan, a 17th century harper from County Sligo, while in the introduction to the same book he attributes it to Thomas’s brother William O’Connellan.

4. THE BRAIDWOOD WAITS (Solo—Alison Kinnaird)
Alison wrote this tune as a present for Robin, whose birthday falls on Christmas Eve. ‘Waits’ were travelling musicians. Chambers says in his ‘Book of Days’, ‘A remnant of this custom, still popularly called ‘waits’, yet exists in the magistrates of the City of Glasgow annually granting a kind of certificate or diploma to a few musicians, generally blind men of respectable character, who perambulate the streets of the city during the night or morning for about three weeks or a month previous to New Year’s Day, in most cases performing on violins the slow soothing airs peculiar to a portion of the old Scottish melodies; and in the solemn silence of repose the effect is very fine’. 
Braidwood is the name of the small group of houses on the edge of the village of Temple, near Edinburgh, where Alison and Robin live.

5. RORY DALL MORISON’S JIG/FAR-FUADACH A’CHLARSAIR (The Harper’s Dismissal) (Solo—Alison Kinnaird)
Two tunes from Angus Fraser’s manuscript. The first, a 6/8 jig, is named after the most famous Highland harper, the Blind Harper of Dunvegan. The ‘Banishment’ refers to Rory Dall’s departure from Dunvegan after the death of his patron, lain Breac, in 1698. It is a variant of his song ‘Oran Mor MhicLeoid’.

      a) Carraic na h-Uaine (Solo — Ann Heymann)
      b) The Market House (Duet)
      c) John Dungan’s Return (Duet)
      d) The Canon’s Cup (Duet)
These tunes were written for the people of Granard,
Co. Longford, Ireland, who in 1981 hosted a commemorative bi-centennial harp festival. The original festival of 1781 was the first of several attempts to preserve and promote the music of the Irish harp, which was rapidly approaching extinction.
‘Carraic na h-Uaine’ is named for a legendary landmark in the Granard area, and it exhibits the powerful nature of the ancient harp with its resounding bass.
‘The MarketHouse’, built some time before 1691, was the scene of the old festivals, which were initiated and funded by John Dungan, a Granard native living in Copenhagen. While he failed to appear at the first festivals, ‘John Dungan’s Return’ to Granard in 1785 marked his final involvement with these noble ventures. Petty bickering at an individual, personal level marred this, the largest of the festivals and successfully doused Dungan’s enthusiasm, for he returned to Denmark and ceased sponsorship.
‘The Canon’s Cup’ refers to a perpetual trophy and prize for the 1981 bi-centenary festival sponsored by the Very Reverend Francis Canon. Ann won the competition at the 1981 and 1982 festivals so the cup has a special meaning for her.

7.   BAS ALASTRUIM (The Death of Alasdair)/ McALLISTRUIM’S MARCH (Duet)
The subject of both these tunes is Alasdair Mac Cholla Chiotaich (Alasdair MacDonnell) who led the Highland royalist forces in both Ireland and Scotland in the 1640s. He was chief of staff to Montrose in Scotland, but after Montrose’s defeat he returned to Ireland and was eventually killed — it is said by treachery — at the battle of Cnoc na nDos in County Cork in 1647.
      The first tune was given to Alison by Colonel Eoghan O’Neill from an unpublished family manuscript dated 1780. Versions of it also appear in other collections and are usually played on the Ulllean pipes, though it has an unusual structure for a pipe tune. It seems it was a harper who brought the news of Alasdair’s death to Scotland. We do not know his name, but he landed in Portpatrick from Ireland and told the sad tale to the poet Iain Loin, who had himself been both guide and bard to Alasdair at the battle of Inverlochy in 1645.
      Ann has been playing the March for some time and we arranged it as a duet. It appears in Edward Bunting’s collection, also O’Neill’s (1850) and in Pat Mitchell’s ‘Dance Music of Willy Clancy’ 1976. According to Gratton Flood it was played on the war pipes by Alasdair’s troops at their leader’s funeral.

8.    MISS HAMILTON (Solo — Ann Heymann)
This is the only known composition of Cornelius Lyons from County Kerry who was harper to the Earl of Antrim at the beginning of the 18th Century. It is found in O’Neill’s and Bunting’s collections. Of Miss Hamilton, Bunting says’ ... the probability was that she was one of the Killeleagh family’. Although this melody is the only surviving composition of Lyons, there are several examples of his variations on popular tunes (Conor Macrevey, Eileena Roon, The Coolin) that were much admired by contemporary and later harpers. On this track Ann first establishes the melody then follows with her own variation, inspired by the tune’s close affinity to the style of Carolan (1670-1738) who was a good friend of Lyons.

9.  CUMH EASBIG EARRAGHAAL (Bishop of Argyle’s Lament) (Solo — Alison Kinnaird)
There are versions of this tune in various collections including Daniel Dow (c1775), the Angus Fraser manuscripts and Walter McFarlans (c1742). Alison’s arrangement is of the theme and two of the variations from Dow’s collection. (The spelling of the title is also Dow’s). It is interesting that this tune is probably the one named as ‘Cumha ‘n Easbuig’ in a poem written by Silis na Ceapaich between 1721-27. The poem is a lament for Lachlan Dali, one of the harpers who used to visit her home, and describes some of the tunes he used to play.
Though many of the Irish harpers composed variations on their music, these usually show the influence of classical musicians, particularly those from Italy, whose music became popular in the late 17th and 18th centuries. In Scotland, however, there is what seems to be an older tradition of elaborating on the melody. This is eloquently demonstrated in the ceol mor of the bagpipes and is also found in Highland harp music. The variations depend on decoration and rhythmic changes of the basic theme, and the form and treatment of the music springs from different roots than those of continental classical music.

10. BALTIORUM/CHARLIE’S FANCY (Solo – Ann Heymann)
“Baal tigh abhoran” a song of praise or worship of Baal, the Fire-God. The pagan festivals eventually Were wisely turned into account as Christian holidays and in this instance the Baal-tinne, or fire lighted to welcome the Samhain or summer solstice, continued as the celebration of St. John’s Eve. The melody, Conran tells us in his National Music of Ireland, 1850, may be still heard from the groups assembled around those bonfires. The tune is also found in “O’Neill’s Irish Folk Music” and Bunting’s 1840 volume. According to the index, he collected it from T. Conlan in 1831.
Ann learned the reel from her husband, Charlie, who had heard it played at many sessions and just seemed to learn it in the process. They don’t know anything about it but have heard it called ‘Paddy Taylor’s Reel” but don’t really know if there is any connection with the great flute player.

A slow air and a 6/8 march with the same name. The air is in the group of harp tunes in John Bowies fiddle collection (1789). The march is in the Angus Fraser manuscript. Alison arranged and put these two tunes together.
The Battle of Sheriffmuir took place in 1715 between the government forces under the Earl of Argyll and the Jacobite army under the Earl of Mar. No decisive victory for either side resulted, which may explain why two tunes of such different character were named after it, since it could be taken as either a defeat or a victory.

Many people have remarked on the way in which the sound of the wire-strung harp resembles that of bells so this set the seed in Ann’s head. In 1886 the Bard of the Lee - John Fitzgerald - wrote a poem called “What Cork Bells Are Saying”. Ann read this and that nourished the seed. Then she heard the slip jig “The Dusty Miller” in County Cork. The idea of using the same first five notes as this pentatonic melody slowly developed into this interesting and very effective track. Next time you are in a city (especially Cork City) on a Sunday morning listen closely and you will possibly hear “The Dusty Miller” coming through loud and clear.

13. CLARSACH NA CLOICHE (The Harp of the Stones) (Solo — Alison Kinnaird)
Alison was commissioned by Ross& Cromarty District Council to compose a piece of music to be played to H.R.H. Prince Charles when he visited the National Mod in Dingwall in 1991. On this occasion it was performed by Gail Ross, a talented young local harper. It is a theme with two variations, and the title reflects the fact that the earliest triangular framed harps anywhere in the world are carved on Pictish stones in Ross-shire.

14. AIRS BY FINGAL (Solo — Ann Heymann)
Ann’s suite of three tunes are again taken from John Bowie’s collection of harp tunes. They are each simply entitled “Air by Fingal”, which would suggest that they were thought to be of some antiquity, even in the 18th century, when Bowie wrote them down. He acquired them from a gentleman of the Highlands, who had learned them from “Rorie Daul, a celebrated harper in Queen Ann’s reign” – probably Rory Dali Morison is meant since he died c. 1714.

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
Recorded at Temple Record Studio, Scotland
Sleeve Design - Jim Hutcheson and Graham Ogilve
Photograph on front sleeve by Victor Albrow


Album Information

Instruments:      Solo gut harp, solo wire harp & duets
Genre: Scottish / Irish Traditional
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0150
Label: Temple Records
Year: 1992
Origin: EU

Ann Heymann Artist Information & Contact Details

Photograph of Ann HeymannANN 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
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Artist Web Site

Alison Kinnaird Artist Information & Contact Details

Photograph of Alison KinnairdALISON 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

Also from Ann Heymann

Available from Creighton's Collection:
Compact Discs
Click for further details Click for further details Click for further details    
Queen of Harps The Harper's Land Harps. Pipes & Fiddles      

Also from Alison Kinnaird

Available from Creighton's Collection:
Sheet Music & Books
Tree of Strings The Small Harp Tutor The Harp Key North-East Collection The Lothian Collection  
Tree of Strings The Small Harp The Harp Key The North-East Collection The Lothian Collection  
Compact Discs
Click for further details Click for further details Click for further details Click for further details Click for further details Click for further details
The Harp Key The Silver String The Scottish Harp The Harper's Land The Quiet Tradition Harps. Pipes & Fiddles