SM0668: Folio 47 The 40th Edinburgh International Harp Festival & The Clarsach Society 90th Anniversary Folio

The Clarsach Society Folios
The 40th Edinburgh International Harp Festival
& The Clarsach Society 90th Anniversary Folio
Dedicated to Kate Gray 1944 - 2019
Mixed Ability Level

Cover ImageTunes in the Book:
KATE GRAY - Isobel Mieras
FAREWELL TO NIGG - Duncan Johnstone, arr. Cheyenne Brown
MARRY ME NOW - Trad. arr. Sìleas
TRANSITION - Jennifer Port
AN T-IARLA DIÙRACH (THE EARL OF JURA) - Trad. arr Charlotte Petersen
WHO’S FOR BUBBLY? - Corrina Hewat
BRENDA’S ABBEY - Maeve Gilchrist
THE COFFEE CUP - Màiri Macleod
JANE’S AIR - Ailie Robertson
CAERLAVEROCK - Wendy Stewart
WALTZ FOR PARIS - Fiona Rutherford
MOVING CLOUDS - Eira Lynn Jones
HAGGISICITY - Park Stickney
(UNTITLED JIG) DUET Highland Vocal Airs - Patrick McDonald arr. Bill Taylor
THE HILLS OF LORNE - Charlie Hunter, arr. Ingrid Henderson
DR MACMAHON, BISHOP OF CLOGHER - Turlough O’Carolan, arr. Elinor Evans
WITH HER DOG AND HER GUN - Trad. (Petrie Collection) arr. Laoise Kelly
SCARCE O’ TATTIES - Heather Yule

Folio also includes:
Introduction by Mary Scott
Foreword by John Hoare, Pilgrim Harps
Dedication to Kate Gray by Isobel Mieras, MBE
Composers’ Notes & Composer's Connetions

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Score Information

Clarsach Society Folio 47
Title: The 40th Edinburgh International Harp Festival
& The Clarsach Society 90th Anniversary Folio
Contents: 22 tunes (see above for titles)
Composer/Arranger: Collection (see above)
Instrumentation: Lever Harp
Solos with some duets & trios,
Level: Mixed Ability
Format: Wire bound
Size: A4
ISBN: 9790708115175
Our Ref: SM0668
Publisher: Clarsach Society
Printer/Distributor: Creighton's Collection
Edition/Year: First Edition April 2021
Origin: UK

Sample page from the book

Sample page

Introduction, Foreword & Dedication to Kate Gray


This commemorative collection of music for clarsach was collated in 2021 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of The Clarsach Society and the 40th year of its flagship event, the Edinburgh International Harp Festival (EIHF).

The Society’s founding principle is to advance the clarsach and its music and to preserve its place in the national life of Scotland and in the wider world harp community.

All the tunes in this Folio were written or arranged by loyal friends of the EIHF. Their charismatic performances and dynamic teaching have inspired harpers of all ages and abilities at the annual festivals. Many thanks to each one of them for gifting their music to help mark the special anniversaries.

The Folio is dedicated to Kate Gray who was Convenor of The Clarsach Society for 11 years until 2012. Kate worked tirelessly to steer The Society through a period of change and modernisation. She enthusiastically attended the EIHF each year until her untimely death in December 2019.

Honorary Secretary of The Clarsach Society &
Co-ordinator of the Edinburgh International Harp Festival

Photo: John HoareFOREWORD

Forty years ago, I couldn’t have predicted how the small harp festival started by Pilgrim Harps would grow and develop to become a major influence on harp playing around the world.

As a young company, Pilgrim Harps needed to exhibit to the then very small clarsach community. Encouraged by Isobel Mieras,Alison Kinnaird and The Clarsach Society, in 1980 we brought harps to the Edinburgh Folk Festival and set up a Fringe event in the library at Teviot House.

The response was incredible. There was so much interest in harp playing that the following year we included basic harp tuition as well as a concert. The Edinburgh Harp Festival was born. As it grew beyond what we could organise from Surrey, andsponsorship was secured from the Arts Council on condition that the Festival became a charity, we handed over organisation to The Clarsach Society.

Much of the extraordinary success and innovation the EIHF today represents is due to Scottish players – many of whom are represented in this folio – who have built upon their own musical tradition by welcoming players and incorporating musical styles from around the world.

Congratulations to The Clarsach Society for continuing and developing the Festival from its small beginnings to become a truly international event. To my delight, they have kept the founding principle of including every type of harp and every genre of harp playing – including jazz, Paraguayan and many, many others.

At Pilgrim Harps we are enormously grateful to The Clarsach Society for introducing us, all those years ago, to so many players through its network of branches. Long may The Society, and the EIHF, continue.

JOHN HOARE, January 2021
Director/Founder Member, Pilgrim Harps
& Co-founder of the Edinburgh International Harp Festival


Photo: Kate GrayDEDICATION: KATE GRAY, 1944-2019

It was with great sadness that Kate Gray’s many friends and colleagues in The Clarsach Society learned of her death just after Christmas 2019.

Kate served as a member of the Executive Council over a long period and as Convenor for 11 eventful years until 2012. With skill and patience, she guided us through changing times as we adapted to new regulations set up by OSCR and she also oversaw the lengthy process of bringing the administration of The Clarsach Society and the Edinburgh International Harp Festival together in one office. Her work was recognised and acknowledged when The Society awarded her Honorary Life Membership.

Kate was the second Convenor of the Bristol and West of England Branch, succeeding Violet Hooper who was its founder. As such, her enthusiasm for the clarsach and its music inspired and introduced many to its delights.

A pharmacist by profession, Kate’s interests ranged far and wide and she will be missed as a skilled teacher for the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. She and her husband Alex travelled the world teaching dancing and making countless friends in the process. She had a beautiful voice and loved to sing Scottish and Gaelic songs, accompanying herself on clarsach. She was an excellent cook and loved hosting friends and family. Clarsach teachers who came to teach at local events were given a warm welcome and fed well. A Branch event buffet would not have been complete without her signature contribution – a plate of home-made millionaire’s shortbread. Above all, Kate was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother.

She and her husband, Alex, were in the process of moving to Scotland and Edinburgh Branch members had anticipated enjoying her company and making music with her.

We are grateful for her wonderful contribution to The Society and its development, for her encouragement and inspiration, unfailing patience, quiet kindness to many and, most of all, her friendship.

President of The Clarsach Society & Joint Artistic Adviser
of the Edinburgh International Harp Festival





Composers' Notes


01 FLOWER OF LOVE - James Gray
This slow air brings together three of the great loves of Kate’s life: clarsach playing, strathspey dancing and her family. When our son James was a teenager, Kate helped him develop his Scottish Country Dance playing skills by encouraging him to play at her dance class. It was around this time that James wrote this tune, and both Kate and I loved it on the first hearing. Kate adapted it to play on her clarsach and she played it at home, at ceilidhs and shared it with other clarsach players. The arrangement below is similar to the one that Kate played. The tune inspired me to devise a new dance*, which Kate loved to teach and dance.
ALEX GRAY, 20 Jan 2021
*Miss Becky Flower, published in Tweeddale Collection of Scottish Country Dances Vol 2

02 KATE GRAY - Isobel Mieras
It was planned to dedicate one of our concerts at EIHF 2020 to Kate Gray. That was the cancelled Festival which went online and so the live concert never took place. This piece was written to be played by Na Clàrsairean and the Festival Orchestra to open that performance.

03 FAREWELL TO NIGG - Duncan Johnstone, arr. Cheyenne Brown
I learned Farewell to Nigg over 15 years ago when I played it together with cellist Seylan Baxter in our duo. Seylan’s cello teacher at the RSAMD was Duncan Johnston’s son, Neil. More recently the tune has taken on a new relevance as I have moved to Evanton, not far from Nigg. I love the significance of Nigg for the harp in Scotland, as it is the location of one of the finest Pictish harp carvings.

04 MARRY ME NOW - Trad. arr. Sìleas
Mary Macmaster and Patsy Seddon met in 1981 on the Celtic Studies course at Edinburgh University. They shared a love of music and the clarsach and began to play together learning from and inspiring each other. Marry Me Now is the first piece they arranged and played as a duo, enjoying the rhythmic possibilities inherent in Scottish music, including syncopation. After graduating in 1985, they set off on a professional partnership adopting the name Sìleas and released their first recording, Delighted With Harps, in 1986, featuring this piece.

05 TRANSITION - Jennifer Port
To be played in full, twice. The first time with rubato, the second time at a quick tempo. The chords can be played as a single note, octave or tenth, depending on your hand size. In the slow version, feel free to embellish the left hand with extra notes as you wish; however in the faster version the bass follows the chords as written and there is little time for anything else! The name of the tune refers to the transition between slow and fast.

06 AN T-IARLA DIÙRACH - Trad. arr. Charlotte Petersen
The arrangement was inspired by the singing of Mary Ann Kennedy and was recorded for our collaborative CD Strings Attached, on which it is described as “A hopeless lover separated by class, where the young girl is betrayed by the earl”.

07 WHO’S FOR BUBBLY? - Corrina Hewat
I was due to teach at the Harps North West weekend, and having arrived the night before, I could hear sounds coming from the floor above, so went to investigate. As the door opened, I heard the dulcet tones of Elaine Bruce, one of the participants and an amazingly lovely woman, hollering to the gathered party “Who’s for bubbly?” as she hoicked up a pair of tights which had been hanging outside the window, dangling a bottle of Prosecco in each leg. The rooms didn’t have fridges. It was a survival tactic I have used many times since then.

08 BRENDA’S ABBEY - Maeve Gilchrist
I wrote this tune for my dear friend Brenda Shannon. Brenda used to run a wonderful house-concert series in a building that we called the Abbey. Brenda is a true artist in every sense of the word and her space reflected that in its flawless design, construction and ambience. We had many special evenings of music, wine and conversation in the Abbey and this tune is dedicated to that space and the musical memory which is surely embedded in its walls for evermore.

09 LOOKING AT A RAINBOW THROUGH A DIRTY WINDOW - Calum Stewart, arr. Rachel Hair
I’ve been teaching this beautiful tune written by my dear friend and musician, Calum Stewart, for many years now and it’s now played by harpists around the world – from Scotland, Europe, Russia, the USA even to Japan and New Zealand! It’s a tune of hope: the dirty window represents the not-so-great things that are happening in the world or your life, but if you look through the dirty window, you’ll see a rainbow – meaning there is always something positive to hope for. The tune took on particular meaning when I taught it as part of the Virtual EIHF. During the dark days of the early lockdown, rainbows were a symbol of support to our beloved NHS and people placed drawings of them in their windows to provide hope to all. The arrangement I’ve provided is designed to be accessible to all, so expand on the chords as you see fit. You can hear another version of it on my album, SPARKS.

10 THE COFFEE CUP - Màiri Macleod
Written in 2011 to celebrate the late John Macleod’s 60th birthday (my father and also Gaelic Adviser to The Clarsach Society until 2018). I wanted to pay homage to the little things which kept him going on his crazy daily schedule, like the tiny, faded pyrex cup he used to use to drink a quick cup of coffee before leaving the house. We often, as a family, made fun of it so I thought it deserved a tune of its own! The tune became part of a special ploy to surprise him, on the radio, with special thanks to Mòrag Dhòmhnallach on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal for playing it on her Mire ri Mòr programme on the 28th April 2011. He missed it being played live, as he was busy in meetings in Inverness (as usual!) but thanks to BBC iPlayer he listened to it once he returned to Edinburgh (with his coffee, in the pyrex cup!).

I live beside the beautiful River Dee and I wrote this, one still morning, when the sun was shining on the water and creating dreamy reflections.

12 JANE’S AIR - Ailie Robertson
Jane’s Air was written in memory of Jane Forbes, the mother of a dear friend. She was born in 1916 in Kirkcaldy and was a linen weaver from when she left school, aged 14, until her death in 1984. She endured many hardships and financial struggles during her life, so whilst the Brontean pun of the title was originally unintentional, once we realised it, it seemed very fitting.

13 CAERLAVEROCK - Wendy Stewart
Gie me ae spark o’ nature’s fire, that’s all the learning I desire. Robert Burns
Since moving to Dumfries and Galloway over twenty years ago, I have explored this beautiful corner of Scotland from west to east and from hills and forest to its long coastline. On that coast sits Caerlaverock nature reserve - home to natterjack toads, the rare tadpole shrimp and, in the winter, thousands of geese and swans. My composition is the theme from a longer piece submitted (unsuccessfully!) to a competition called In Tune with Nature, promoted by Fèis Rois and Scottish Natural Heritage in summer 2020. The opening section reflects the trickling of waters, the flowing of river and tide and how both shape the wetland. Later sections have sung and spoken words, including phrases from local lad Robert Burns. Like him, I believe that being immersed in these natural surroundings and connecting with that ancient resonance strengthens our lives and helps give us hope for the future.

14 WALTZ FOR PARIS - Fiona Rutherford
My composition Waltz for Paris is inspired by the bright lights of a Paris night. It can be played as a solo or with an optional Harp 2 part. Please add your own dynamics and playful rubato to bring the music to life.

15 MOVING CLOUDS - Eira Lynn Jones
Moving Clouds is from The Sunken Forest Suite: a set of tunes, with optional narration, inspired by the Welsh legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod. During a fierce storm a fertile area of land, known as the Lowland Hundred, was flooded, with many lives and villages lost. Myth has it that bells can sometimes be heard beneath the sea. In recent years, our changing climate has resulted in the uncovering of a sunken forest. This movement depicts the calm after the storm.

16 HAGGISICITY - Park Stickney
Haggisicity is a rhythm changes composition, meaning that the piece’s basic chord structure is the same as that of the Gershwin tune, I Got Rhythm. The A section is to be played as is, while the B section is an open improv on the form. I’ve proposed one solution for this improv, but strongly encourage you to make your own, as only you know what best fits your fingers and musical needs!

17 (UNTITLED JIG) DUET - Highland Vocal Airs (Patrick McDonald) - arr. Bill Taylor
My (Untitled Jig) Duet comes from one of the earliest printed collections of Scottish traditional music – Patrick McDonald’s A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs, published in 1784. This book is like a musical map of Scotland, with songs, airs and dance tunes from the North Highlands, Perthshire, the Western Isles and Argyllshire. McDonald presents many beautiful Gaelic song melodies, for which only the titles give us a hint of their stories. Many tunes, sadly, are given without titles, and this wonderful jig is amongst them.

18 THE HILLS OF LORNE - Charlie Hunter, arr. Ingrid Henderson
The Hills of Lorne was composed by Charlie Hunter, a radio operator on the west-coast MacBrayne steamers, who wrote it for the Oban and Lorne Strathspey and Reel Society.

19 DR MACMAHON, BISHOP OF CLOGHER - Turlough O’Carolan, arr. Elinor Evans
Dr MacMahon, Bishop of Clogher is number 89 in Turlough O’Carolan’s tune book. The Catholic MacMahon family was once-prominent in South Ulster and boasted of several members who became Bishops of Clogher. I arranged this tune during the Coronavirus lockdown as part of the O’Carolan Challenge.

20 WITH HER DOG AND HER GUN - Trad. (Petrie Collection), arr. Laoise Kelly
With Her Dog and Her Gun was collected in County Mayo in the first half of the 19th century and was published in the Petrie Collection in 1855. The tune’s title intrigued me at first, especially as it was collected in my area, and I was delighted to discover the melody was so sweet. It feels like a song air, but it also lends itself to the fingering of the harp. After extensive research in the Irish Traditional Music Archive, I could not find any more information about the tune.

21 SCARCE O’ TATTIES - Heather Yule
This tune always makes me think about my father, Jack Yule. He adores tatties and is very proud of the crop that he grows every year in his garden. For him the idea of ever being ‘scarce o’ tatties’ is a terrible thought! He started designing and making harps in 1981, selling his first one in 1983. Therefore, it seems fitting to contribute this arrangement; because without my father becoming a harp maker, I doubt if I ever would have attended the Edinburgh International Harp Festival, and certainly would not have become a player and teacher of the clarsach.

For 19 years, starting in 2001, the Edinburgh International Harp Festival was held in the Spring at Merchiston Castle School when the beautiful cherry trees are in bloom.

Composers' Connetions

Photo: Ailie RobertsonAilie Robertson
The Edinburgh International Harp Festival has been part of my life for over 25 years now, first as a student, and then a performer and tutor. I fondly remember taking classes with Robin Huw Bowen, Carol McLaughlin, Harvey Griffin and many others, and it has been a very important part of my harp journey.
Photo: Bill TaylorBill Taylor
I have attended the Edinburgh International Harp Festival every year since I moved to Scotland in the early 1990s, and I have fond memories of the Festival at both the Pleasance and at Merchiston Castle School. In 2000, I founded the Wire Branch of The Clarsach Society, and to many members of The Society I am considered a wire-strung player. And yet I have always performed and taught on a variety of harps with gut, horsehair and metal strings.
Photo: Charlotte PetersenCharlotte Petersen
EIHF has been part of my life since I started playing and continues to be a source of inspiration and joy. One of my first teaching experiences was assisting my lovely friend and fellow RSAMD graduate, Judith Peacock, with her beginners’ classes, and my first ever harp concert was going to see Savourna Stevenson, who was my first teacher. I have met new friends and forged lasting friendships over the years and now have a fantastic network of supportive harp chums.

Photo: Cheyenne BrownCheyenne Brown
I first went to the Edinburgh International Harp Festival probably in 2003, when I was a student at the RSAMD. It was full of famous harp players and I was star-struck. I remember sessions in the toilets and crowded dormitory sleeping accommodations. Suffice to say I loved it. I’ve been involved with the Festival ever since, attending or teaching or lurking in the Harpmakers’ Exhibition. Too much lurking in the Harpmakers’ Exhibition eventually led to my marrying Graham Muir from Ardival Harps, and now we have a wonderful daughter, Elliana. The Festival is such a wonderful place to meet all your harp friends, make new connections, add to your CD and sheet music collection, pick out and compare harps, and get inspired.

Photo: Corrina HewatCorrina Hewat
I first was aware of The Clarsach Society when I was a beginner clarsach player up in the Highlands of Scotland. There were sporadic concerts and workshops to get involved in – and they hired instruments! This was a breakthrough for me, as we were in no position to buy. The Edinburgh Harp Festival (as it was then) was very exciting as I got to travel down to Edinburgh, to Teviot House, not for the first Festival but the second. I then tried to go every year, to be surrounded by players, music, instruments and opportunity! I loved it. I loved the buildings, the people, the bustle and mayhem of harps being carried to and from class, to lunch, to session and repeat. I remember trying to cross the road outside the Pleasance with a group of wee harpers trying to get to a blues workshop, in a gale force wind with harps. Cars had no choice but to stop. And I met many players who have remained good friends and colleagues. I was honoured to be one of the eight players in Eddie McGuire’s Pieces of Eight, written to celebrate the Festival’s 20th anniversary, which made being asked to write the 30th anniversary music, The Song of the Oak and the Ivy, even more special for me. I treasure my time with EIHF and always will.

Photo: Eira Lynn JonesEira Lynn Jones
I have had a strong link to the Festival over a period of 20 years, sparked by teaching many Scottish clarsach players at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester: Catriona McKay, Mary Ann Kennedy, Helen MacLeod, Esther Swift and Màiri and Calum Macleod, to name a few! I am very proud that they are now regular tutors and performers. My own courses have often been fully booked and have led to regular workshops for The Clarsach Society branches. The year doesn’t feel complete without a visit to the Festival, brilliantly organised by The Society. A wonderful chance to connect with harpers from across the globe. Harpy Anniversary everyone!

Photo: Elinor EvansElinor Evans
I have been to every Edinburgh International Harp Festival since I was 11. Like many, I started attending one class and perhaps a concert or two. The Festival inspired my love of the clarsach and where else could you meet with well-known artists such as Anne Marie O’ Farrell, Cormac de Barra, Park Stickney and Catriona McKay to name but a few and play alongside them in sessions regardless of your stage or age. As my experience grew, I became more involved and moved from attending courses to teaching courses, hoping to foster a love of this instrument in the next generation! In 2012, I was lucky enough to win the Young Composer Award which led to me studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. This year has been strange meeting on-line and I’m looking forward to the time when we can meet again face to face. To sum it up in one sentence: we meet as strangers and leave as friends.
Photo: Fiona RutherfordFiona Rutherford
I started the harp as a beginner at the 18th Edinburgh Harp Festival (as it was then) and was absolutely full of excitement at the vast range and quality of harp music I found myself amongst! I am very grateful to The Clarsach Society as being able to hire an instrument in the beginning stage made learning a reality for me. I had to wait six months to get to the top of the harp hire list, and the harp has been so important to me ever since. It’s very inspiring to see how versatile an instrument it can be, and I really feel the Festival supports this and has something to offer all harp players.
Photo: Heather YuleHeather Yule
My association with the Edinburgh International Harp Festival goes back a very long way. I have grown up, from teenager to adult and harp pupil to harp teacher, with this Festival. To me it is a vital part of the rhythm of the year, as important as the changing seasons. It has been such a rich source of learning, friendship, excitement and discovery. Every year I am amazed and delighted at the endless possibilities of this instrument. My first memory of the Festival is attending some concerts at the 2nd Edinburgh Harp Festival (as it was called then) in 1983. My father, John Yule, started exhibiting his harps the following year. That same year, in between helping at his stand, I took my very first harp lessons with Savourna Stevenson. At that time the Harpmakers’ Exhibition, the classes, and workshops all co-existed in the Teviot Library of Edinburgh University. It was a wonderful, chaotic scene. I still have vivid snap shots in my head of all the incredible and inspirational teachers and performers who were there in those early days, and who I was just beginning to know and appreciate. A few years later my parents both joined the Festival organising committee. I joined the committee in about 1990, when Jeannie Wheater was the Convenor. I then disappeared to study abroad, rejoining the committee on my return and serving for a further thirteen years, or thereabouts. There are many, many aspects of this Festival that I believe are unique and outstanding and it always makes me proud to have played a tiny part in its development. But it is essential to give well deserved credit and thanks to all the people within The Clarsach Society who help make it a success and such a joyful experience, and who freely give their time, expertise and energy year after year.
Photo: Ingrid HendersonIngrid Henderson
My connection with The Clarsach Society goes way back to the mid-eighties, and my formative years when I was lucky enough to be able to rent a harp, even from as far away as my hometown of Mallaig. This proved invaluable to my musical development and I doubt that I would be playing today had that not been possible. Over the years, I have been delighted to teach and perform at the Festival in Edinburgh and to become part of that wonderful international community of harpers and musical souls. My more recent connection to The Society has been an ongoing teaching commitment to the strengthening Argyll Branch – hence the choice of tune from that area.
Photo: Irene WattIrene Watt
I first joined The Clarsach Society about 20 years ago and have been involved with EIHF ever since. I was one of the original ‘bad girls’ of the Festival, a name given to a few of the regulars because we were known for our sense of fun, late nights and keeping the sessions and the party going into the wee small hours. I became a well-known personality at the Festival for teaching and leading many of the after-concert jamming sessions. When the North East Scotland Branch started, I became Music Director and in 2017 was also elected Convenor of the Branch. In 2020, I was elected Vice Convenor of The Society and continue to promote the playing of the clarsach through teaching, arranging music, providing workshops (on Zoom since lockdown) and leading the Harps Accord Ensemble.
Photo: Isobel MierasIsobel Mieras
I first joined The Clarsach Society in 1957 when I met my wonderful, inspiring teacher Jean Campbell, who advised me to hire a clarsach. Instruments were scarce in those days and I was lucky enough to be provided with a beautiful Briggs harp. The Edinburgh Branch of The Society supported young players by offering performance opportunities, something which The Society and EIHF continue to do today. From serving on the Branch committee, I moved on to the Executive Council, serving as Honorary Secretary and then Convenor, during which time it was a great joy to witness the world of the clarsach flourish and develop into the thriving and exciting times we now enjoy, largely thanks to The Society’s hire scheme. The Edinburgh Branch and subsequently the main body of The Society took on the running of EIHF in 1984 and, since then, I have been part of the many teams of wonderful, dedicated volunteers and administrators ensuring our Festival continues to flourish.
Photo: James GrayJames Gray
Born into a family actively involved in the local Scottish Country Dance scene, I grew up surrounded by a love of Scottish music and culture. My first piano lessons were with my grandmother, who played for my parents’ dance classes, and I later took up the accordion. I danced from birth (I had no choice!) and was director of the first Royal Scottish Country Dance Society spring fling. I aspire to provide music that is great for both the ears and the feet.
Photo: Jennifer PortJennifer Port
I began learning to play the clarsach while attending Golspie Primary School in 1991. Soon after, I joined the Highland Branch of The Clarsach Society. Fast forward 21 years and I was elected as Convenor of The Clarsach Society and held that role between 2012 and 2020. Alongside my involvement in The Clarsach Society, I have been a regular attendee, tutor, competitor and adjudicator at EIHF and the Royal National Mòd.
Photo: Laoise KellyLaoise Kelly
I was thrilled to have been among the first international guests to be invited to perform and tutor at the wonderful Edinburgh International Harp Festival in 2002. I have great memories of this and subsequent performances, at what is the most important harp Festival in the world. I met many great friends there and EIHF became a huge influence on how we set up our own harp festival on Achill Island in Ireland. Wishing you all every success for the future and heartiest congratulations on all you have achieved to cultivate the expanding harp world. Le grá ó Laoise Kelly.
Photo: Maeve GilchristMaeve Gilchrist
As a nine-year-old over-excited harpist, the Edinburgh International Harp Festival was my lens into the diverse and colourful world of the harp. Jazz harp, Japanese koto, electric harp and some of the best folk-harping across the Pan-Celtic world. It allowed me a place to try things, meet like-minded young harpers and dream about what kind of player I’d like to become. The kindness of the EIHF instructors; travel and performance opportunities granted through my time with Na Clàrsairean; the harp that I rented and insisted on playing backwards for a month before being told otherwise (!): none of this would have happened without The Clarsach Society. I’m so grateful and will try and channel the organisation’s passion and generosity wherever the harp continues to take me!
Photo: Mairi MacleodMàiri Macleod
My family and I have a long-standing connection to both Society and Festival. I first attended the Festival back in its Pleasance days in 1992, when I was 5, and I haven’t missed a Festival since! Once I started getting lessons in school and I got my own harp from Pilgrim at the 1997 Festival, I also started attending Na Clàrsairean and we became family members of the Edinburgh Branch. My parents became involved in the committees, we went on tour with Na Clàrsairean to Geneva in 2002 and I represented The Society at the Pan Celtic Festival in 2005 and at the World Harp Congress that summer. The Society is also connected to the Royal National Mòd, which I had competed at since 1994. My late father, John Macleod, was the President of An Comunn Gàidhealach for 10 years, which meant he held an honorary post within The Society, as well as being the Gaelic Adviser (a post I have now taken on). In 2010, I was the second ever winner of The Society’s newly-established Young Composer Award, since renamed in memory of my father. Many of my teachers throughout my career are also associated with The Society and the Festival so it was only natural that when I became a professional harpist, I would start teaching for Society branch workshops and at the Festival. I have now settled in the Isle of Lewis, where my father was from, and have become an integral part of their branch, being active on the committee, teaching locally and leading their ensemble.
Photo: Park StickneyPark Stickney
The Edinburgh International Harp Festival has always had a special place in my heart. (The proof? Two of my current favorite t-shirts are identical EIHF shirts, which I often seem to wear in rotation.) I have many deep connections to both Edinburgh and the Festival (including my dog Leo, born in Dalkeith, next door to Patsy Seddon’s house), and am thrilled to be able to participate in this celebratory birthday book.
Photo: Sileas. Patsy Seddon & Mary MacmasteSìleas
Patsy: I am a life member of The Clarsach Society, having joined in 1971, and have been involved with various committees, including the EIHF in the early days and more recently as joint Artistic Adviser.
Mary: A more recent Clarsach Society member, I am in charge of stage management at the Festival. Between us we have contributed to and attended every Festival since the very first!
Photo: Rachel HairRachel Hair
Growing up in the Highlands of Scotland, I hired a harp from The Clarsach Society and the EIHF was always that amazing event that I used to read about in the annual report. “One day”, I used to dream, “maybe, one day I can go to the Harp Festival!”. I finally managed to get there in my latter years of High School and still remember sitting in Corrina Hewat’s Scottish course being inspired, not only by her, but by my fellow students, who included Maeve Gilchrist and Rachel Newton! Now, some 20 years later, I am part of the amazing volunteer organising committee and have also enjoyed teaching and performing at it. I simply love being part of such an amazing team and treasure the fact we are able to champion our small harp to the world through it. Long may it and The Society continue!
Photo: Wendy StewartWendy Stewart
I was a tutor at the very first Harp Festival in Teviot Row and have taught in almost all subsequent years, delighting in the camaraderie of the group courses, the spontaneity of the sessions and the yearly meeting of harping friends. I have collaborated with many artists in concerts at the Festival – from African kora to Highland bagpipes – and am very grateful that both my early experiences of performing at Edinburgh Branch Society events as a youngster and my wonderful teacher Jean Campbell gave me such a good grounding. That nurturing start has sustained my craft for over 50 years and continues to influence my way of teaching and supporting players of all abilities.