SM004: Traditional Beginnings

Traditional Beginnings
Cynthia Cathcart


Cover Image: Traditional Beginnings Cynthia CathcartTraditional Beginnings for The Harp 2010 Revised edition
Selected and arranged by Cynthia Cathcart

An easy and progressive collection of recognizable melodies arranged for wire strung and small harps.

"This is a useful and accessible introduction to the wire-strung harp, by a fine exponent of the instrument."
Alison Kinnaird

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View Cynthia Cathcart Profile & index of music

New 2014 EU Edition printed and distributed by Creighton's Collection


Traditional Beginnings for The Harp
Selected and arranged by Cynthia Cathcart

This book grew out of a real need. Cynthia teaches the wire strung harp, and was frustrated at the lack of repertoire books available. Sometimes she was obliged to scribble out arrangements for her students on manuscript paper during their lessons.

It had not occurred to her that this might also be a problem for other players until she performed at the Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games in the summer of 2000, where she met harp teacher Therese Honey. She expressed the same frustration to Cynthia and said, "you are one person who can do something about it!". Cynthia took the challenge.

The resulting book is an easy and progressive collection of recognizable melodies arranged for wire strung and small harps. These are tunes that Cynthia learned during her childhood in the Eastern United States. While no promise can be made that all the tunes will be familiar to harpers in Texas, Scotland, Canada, or even to someone who grew up in the next town over, hopefully many of them will be recognizable. It is hoped that harpers can spend time learning to play the tunes rather than spend priceless hours learning how the tunes go.

Basic wire harp techniques are introduced. Gapped scales are introduced and discussed throughout the book. For harps with 15 or more strings. (The pieces were arranged on an Ardival Kilcoy clarsach, a 19-string brass wire lap harp.)

Lyrics and histories are included, and there is a section with practice drills. A bibliography completes the book.

Tunes in the book

Traditional Beginnings for The Harp

Blow the Man Down

On Top of Old Smoky

Oh! Susanna

Frères Jacques

Bah, Bah, Black Sheep
  also known as Twinkle, Twinkle/ABCDEFG Song

Au Clair de la Lune

Scarborough Fair

The Skye Boat Song

The Blue Bell of Scotland

Red River Valley

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Good Morning to You
  also known as Happy Birthday to You

All Through the Night

The Riddle Song

Pussy Cat, Whar Hae Ye Been?

The Bard of Armagh
  also known as The Streets of Laredo

The Minstrel Boy

The Water is Wide
  also known as O Waly, Waly

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Cockles and Mussels
  also known as Molly Malone

Skip to My Lou

Sweet Afton
  also known as Away in a Manger

Brahm’s Lullaby

A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day
  also known as Over the River and Through the Woods

Going Home (2 versions)

Score Information

Title: Traditional Beginnings
Composer/Arranger: Cynthia Cathcart
Instrumentation: Wire Strung / Lever Harps
Level: Beginner
Format: Wire bound
Size: USA Letter
Pages: 74
ISMN: 979-0-57046-115-8
Our Ref: SM004
Publisher: Highland Circle Publishing, USA
EU Printer & Distributor: Creighton's Collection
Edition/Year: European Edition 2014
Origin: UK

Sample page from the score

Sample page



Cynthia Cathcart has written a harp instruction book that the harping world has needed for a long time. Designed to assist wire-strung harpers without teachers, the book is well thought out and very informative.

This book not only provides ample instruction for the wire-strung harper, but is an eye-opener for the nylon-strung harper. Cathcart provides an expansive, yet detailed, overview of damping technique, much of which can be incorporated into the nylon player's bag of tricks. This book will broaden your horizons.

Not only is the book excellent for damping instruction, it will serve as an excellent music book for beginning nylon students who are having difficulty working with both hands together. The simple and familiar melodies are all played with both hands, which will provide supplementary material for students who need a little extra time to work out the kinks of coordinating hands. With this diverse collection of music, teachers can give these students a chance to work on new music every lesson. Nylon students should just ignore the damping instructions, but follow the fingering as written.

Finally, it is a nice collection of tunes, and accompaniment chords are included. Use the book as a repertoire book, both solo and in ensemble.

"Traditional Beginnings for the Harp" will prove a valuable resource for all harpers, whether they play nylon, wire, or gut.

-- Jo Morrison