I am searching for a sniff of the most ancient strands of the indigenous traditions, from Scotland, Ireland and neighbouring countries.
I have been rifling through old books and manuscripts, and listening to archive recordings of old tradition-bearers. Sometimes I find a tune that I think is really old; sometimes I find an exemplar of the ancient style and idiom. I try to put these pieces together to create vibrantly ancient interpretations of the old melodies.
The core of my repertory concentrates on the historical music of the Gaelic harp in Ireland and Scotland. I play pieces from the medieval period to the baroque, with excursions into related traditions and styles like Welsh harp music.
I enjoy tailoring my repertory for many different kinds of performance, selecting pieces that reference a particular location or theme.
A particular interest of mine is ceol mor, the old indigenous art music shared by the bagpipes, the fiddle and the Gaelic harp. I am also interested in the development of baroque style in Irish and Scottish music in the years around 1700.
Below is a list of repertory which I have performed. Sometimes the provenance of a piece is complicated: it may have been composed in medieval times and preserved in a seventeenth century manuscript; or it may have been composed by an Irish harper working in Scotland, and been taken back to Ireland in printed books, to be taken up by session musicians; or it may have been first recorded from traditional singers in the 1960s, with only the vague guess of it being “very old”.
Medieval secular music
- Kaniad y Gwyn Bibydd, (song of the white piper), 13 variations from Robert ap Huw’s manuscript of medieval Welsh harp music, copied c. 1620.
- Gosteg yr Halen, (a fanfare for the salt). This ceremonial pieece from Robert ap Huw’s book was said to have been played as the salt cellar was ceremoniously brought to the Round Table for King Arthur and his knights. Video
- Lamento di Tristano, a lament for Tristan of Cornwall, from an Italian manuscript of c. 1400. Video
- Hei tuti teti, reputedly the battle march of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots (ruled 1306-1329).
- Lament for Isobel Countess of Buchan, my own composition on the medieval measure Alban Hyfaidd
- Drømde mig en drøm, from the Codex Runicus (c.1300, Southern Sweden / Northern Denmark). video
- Branle l’Officiel, a dance tune published in France in 1589.
- Estampie real, two Royal dances from a French manuscript c.1300
- Graysteil A medieval ballad tune, preserved in the Straloch lute book, c.1629
- Ex Te Lux Oritur, composed in 1281 to celebrate the wedding of Princess Margaret of Scotland and King Eric II of Norway. this is on my CD
- The Battle of Strathcarron, fought in Strathclyde in 642, from Llyfr Aneirin (Y Gododdin manuscript) video
- The Battle of Harlaw was fought in Aberdeenshire in 1411 - maybe the tune is that old... this is on my CD. More on the Harlaw 600th anniversary
- Cath nan Eun, the battle of the birds, another tune with connections to the battle of Harlaw in 1411. video
- Piobaireachd Dhomhnuill Dhuibh, Black Donald Balloch's March to the Battle of Inverlochy, 1427. In the piping tradition this is not considered particularly old but I am listening to the Gaelic singers for my version, and I wonder if it also has medieval roots... video
- Cogadh no Sith, war or peace, a grand formal pibroch with traditional associations back to the medieval Lords of the Isles, reverse-engineered with a set of medieval harp variations. video
- Burns March, composed in the 13th century for the Burns, or Byrnes, near Newry, as collected from some of the last of the old Irish harpers in the 1790s. this is on my CD
- ...plus a variety of medieval bardic poetry accompaniment! video
Medieval sacred music
- Vir Perfecte, a two-part polyphonic responsory for the feast of St Andrew, adapted from the 13th century St Andrews Cathedral Music Book
this is on my CD
- Vir Iste, another St Andrews responsory this is on my CD
- Kyrie Virginitatus Amator, a polyphonic chant from the St Andrews Music Book. this is on my CD
- In Rama Sonat Gemitus, a satirical political chant from the St Andrews Music Book.
- Salve Splendor chant in praise of St Columba, from the Inchcolm Antiphoner, c. 1340. this is on my CD
- Pater Columba also from Inchcolm Priory, on an island in the Firth of Forth. this is on my CD
- Virgo Sancta Brigida, 15th century chant for St Bride.
- Ibunt Sancti, an early medieval plainchant tune with Irish connections. video
- Caniad San Silin, 12 variations of this ‘song to Saint Silin’ from the Robert ap Huw manuscript of medieval Welsh harp music. video
- Kaingk Dafydd Broffwyd
Song for David the Prophet, a medieval Welsh harp tune, written in
tablature in the manuscript of Robert ap Huw, c. 1623. video
- Bone Iesu Dulcis Cunctis, a 15th century French funeral responsory, now better known as an advent hymn. video
- Nobilis Hominis Hymn for St Magnus of Orkney, from a 13th century Upsala manuscript. this is on my CD
Rennaisance Gaelic instrumental music
- Caoineadh Rioghail, ‘The Royal Lament’ composed by Iain Garbh Cholla (The 7th MacLean chief, c.1600-1680) on the execution of Charles I in 1649. this is on my 2nd CD
- Port Rorie Dall, from a Glasgow printed book of c.1800
- Cumh Peathar Ruari, Rory’s sister’s lament, attributed to Ruaidhri Dall Ó Catháin. video. this is on my 2nd CD
- ’s Eagal Leam a mBas: ‘Terror of Death’ by Rory Dall. this is on my 2nd CD
- Lude’s Supper, composed for the Robertsons of Lude, Perthshire, by Ruaidhri Dall Ó Catháin. this is on my CD
- Irish Port, an enigmatic tune from from the Wemyss lute book, c.1640.
- Cumh Ioarla Wigton (Lament for the Earl of Wigtown), a grand 17th century Scottish lament with formal and complex ceol mor style variations.
- Port Preist, a late 16th or early 17th century clàrsach tune from central Scotland, elsewhere attributed to Ruaidhri Dall Ó Catháin. video
- Port Ballangowne also called Port Rorie Dall, and presumably attributed to Rory Dall O’Kane or Ó Cathain. From early 17th century lute settings
- Port Jean Lindsay, another port from the Straloch manuscript
- Féachain Gléis (tuning test), a formal introductory piece, which is a companion to...
- Cumh Caoine an Albannaich, ‘Scott’s Lamentation’, or lament for the Baron of Loughmore, composed by John Scott in 1599, as collected by Edward Bunting from the playing of Denis O’Hampsey in the 1790s. this is on my 2nd CD
- Da Mihi Manum (Tabhair Dom Do Lámh - Give me your hand) by Rúaidhrí Dall Ó Catháin (c. 1570 - 1650). Composed for Lady Eglinton in South-West Scotland. I play the oldest extant setting, from the Wemyss lute book, c.1640
this is on my CD
- Cath Eachroma The Battle of Aughrim, 1691. A frenetic set of martial variations.
- Easbuig Earra-ghàidheal
‘The Bishop of Argyll’ from Angus Fraser’s fiddle manuscript, mid 19th century, and another version of the same tune, Cumh Easbig Earraghaal
‘Bishop of Argyle’s Lament’, from Daniel Dow, ‘A Collection of Ancient Scots Music’ 1776. A formal ceol mor variation set. this is on my 2nd CD
Cumh Easpuic Earraghaoidheal Lament for the Bishop of Argyll, from the MacFarlane Young fiddle ms, c. 1740. Similar to, but different from the above. this is on my CD
- Untitled pìobaireachd (Chehotrao hodro) from the Campbell Canntaireachd manuscript, c. 1814, learned from the playing of Barnaby Brown.
- Port Lennox, from the repertory of John Robertson of Lude, as played by him on the Queen Mary harp and the Lamont harp. this is on my CD
- Port Athol, from the repertory of John Robertson of Lude, as played by him on the Queen Mary harp and the Lamont harp. this is on my CD
- Port Gordon, from the repertory of John Robertson of Lude, as played by him on the Queen Mary harp and the Lamont harp. this is on my CD
- Ye Clarges Lamentation
From the oldest Irish music book, printed by Neale in Dublin in 1724. this is on my 2nd CD
- King James March to Ireland,
supposedly originating as a tune by Myles O’Reilly from Cavan (b.1636), brought to Scotland by Thomas Connellan in the 1690s. The tune commemorates the Jacobite/Williamite wars in Ireland.
Allan Ramsay later used the tune for his song Lochaber no More. Also Lochaber &
The Wild Geese, or Ireland’s
Lamentation as collected in the 1790s by Edward Bunting from Patrick Quin, taken from Bunting’s field notebooks.
video. this is on my 2nd CD
- The Lady of the Desert composed by Cornelius Lyons (c. 1680 - c. 1750), with elaborate baroque variations, based on the old Irish love-song
The Coolin or An Chúilfhionn
- The Fairy Queen by Turlough Carolan (1670 - 1738)
- Loftus Jones by Carolan. video
- Planxty Connor by Carolan, as played by Thady Eliott during Christmas Day Mass at Navan.
- Captain Sudley a song composed by Carolan for his daughter Siobhán’s wedding.
- Síle Bheag Ní Chonalláin
A song by Thomas Connellan (c. 1640 - post 1717)
- Killiekrankie by Connellan, from the Pádraig Ó Néill manuscripts.
- Táim i mo Chodladh, I am asleep and don’t waken me, from the repertory of Denis O’Hampsey.
- Aileen Aroon, an old Irish song air popular in 18th century Scotland. video
- A Chailini, an bhfaca sibh Seoirse or Conchubhar Mhac Coiréibhe, (Girls have you seen George, or Conor Macareavey), a traditional air with variations by Cornelius Lyons. video
- Mrs Power, by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). More commonly known as Carolan’s Concerto. video
- Seabhac na hÉirne,
a song by Carolan in praise of Katherine O’More, also known as "The
Hawk of Ballyshannon". The tune that Carolan used was not composed by him, but is "Port Atholl" by Ruaidhrí
Dall Ó Catháin (c. 1570 - 1650)
- Elevation by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), bass and treble from the 18th century printed collection.
- Carolan's Farewell to Music, atmospheric and grand, I can't decide if this is a genuine composition in old Gaelic harp style, or a 19th century confection.
- Miss Hamilton, a sweet little tune credited to Cornelius Lyons (c. 1680 - c. 1750). Also the extra variation and jig from the 18th century Scottish source where it is called "The blossom of the raspberry".
- A Stáraí a ghoid mo chlú-sa uaim (you rogue who stole my heart away), also called the Golden Star, or The Jointure, by Thomas Connellan (c. 1640 - post 1717). this is on my 2nd CD. video
Traditional and curious
- The Lament for the Union, composed after the union between England and Scotland in 1707. this is on my CD-single.
- Why should I be so sad on my wedding day? A strange little Scots song air, half happy and half sad. this is on my CD-single.
- The Highland Battle from James Oswald’s "Caledonian Pocket Companion", a description in music of a battle, with spoken subtitles.
- Da Day Dawis a Shetland fiddle tune. video
- Cro Chinn t-Sàile, A Gaelic song about returning home to Kintail.
- Rory Dalls Port, attributed to one of the two Rory Dalls, but may actually have been composed by James Oswald. The tune was later used by Robert Burns for "Ae Fond Kiss". this is on my CD
- The Battle of Sheriff Moor, an 18th century Gaelic song of defeat in battle, from the repertory of John Robertson of Lude, as played by him on the Queen Mary harp and the Lamont harp. this is on my CD
- Oran do Iain Breac MacLeod, a Song to Iain MacLeod of Dunvegan by Ruaidhri Dall Mac Mhuirich aka Rory Dall Morrison (c.1656 - c.1714). video. this is on my 2nd CD
- A’ Ghlas Mheur or the Finger lock, a piobaireachd attributed to Raghnall MacAilein Òig aka Ronald MacDonald of Morar (1662 - 1741) this is on my 2nd CD also this is on my 3rd CD ‘Tarbh’
- An Tarbh Breac Dearg or the red speckled bull, a piobaireachd attributed to Raghnall Mac Ailein Òig aka Ranald MacDonald of Morar (1662 - 1741) this is on my 3rd CD ‘Tarbh’ Video
- Maol Donn or MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart, a piobaireachd attributed to Raghnall Mac Ailein Òig aka Ranald MacDonald of Morar (1662 - 1741) this is on my 3rd CD ‘Tarbh’ Video
- A’ Bhòilich or the vaunting, a piobaireachd attributed to Raghnall Mac Ailein Òig aka Ranald MacDonald of Morar (1662 - 1741) this is on my 3rd CD ‘Tarbh’
- Beinn Eadarrainn or the headless ghost, a piece of ceol mor of my own composition, based on song airs associated with Raghnall Mac Ailein Òig aka Ranald MacDonald of Morar (1662 - 1741) this is on my 3rd CD ‘Tarbh’
- Cumha Raonuill Mhic Ailein Òig the lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar. Video.
- Spaidsearachd Bharraigh, MacNeil of Barra’s March - I played this very strident and martial pibroch in Kisimul Castle for the chief of the MacNeils.
- Grant of Sheuglie’s contest betwixt his Violin, Pipe and Harp A traditional song air, which was aparrently used for this lost song by Alexander Grant of Shewglie (c. 1675 - 1746). Video
- Brian Boru’s March
- Harrow’s March, a pìobaireachd tune from the Campbell Canntaireachd manuscript.
- The Irish Cry, & Jigg to the Irish Cry An example of keening or funeral music, incongurously set with a jigg variation in Burk Thumoth’s “12 Scotch and 12 Irish Airs” of c.1742
- Sir Patrick Spens a traditional Scots ballad
Fenian lays and related music
Please contact me for more information or ideas.