Bowed-harp workshop

Yesterday I was in Edinburgh to present my “bowed lyre workshop” at the Northern Streams festival.

I was very pleased when a man came up to me after Friday night’s concert and said “how come it is advertised as a ‘bowed lyre’, because it is not a lyre at all?” This gave a great starting point for the workshop, as I had brought with me the replica Trössingen lyre as well as the fiddle as comparisons. Though it was a shame that he, and a number of other concert attendees, were not able to return the following afternoon for the workshop.

simon_workshop03For a lot of the session we chatted about the nature of the old instruments, looking at pictures of museum instruments from the different traditions, discussing their family relationships both within the different bowed-harp traditions and outside to fiddle, crwth and lyre. I ended up thinking that ‘bowed-harp’ is a better name for this thing than ‘bowed lyre’, though perhaps I will change my mind later on…

There were only two instrumentalists present for the workshop, so we did spend a little time trying a couple of the tunes on the fiddle – turning up one string to give a drone a 4th below, and playing the melody on the other string, and ignoring the other two. We did a fair bit of singing – we managed to get through all of the songs I had prepared, including a last minute request for the Magnushymn which I thought was very brave of people to try! Especially trying to play the upper voice on the retuned fiddle while singing the lower voice at the same time, in Latin, reading from the manuscript facsimile!

simon_workshop05The only downside was the problem with the audio equipment which meant I could not play the archive recordings through the big speakers. Next time I will be more prepared on the technical side of things (i.e. not leave the connecting cable at home!)

I also attended Ebba Jacobsson’s workshop on Swedish songs which was very enjoyable and hamely as well as introducing me to some fascinating West Swedish sounds.

The entire Northern Streams festival was really well planned and organised, with a super selection of different events and styles of music. I thought the combinations of different acts in the concert was very effective. The venue, in the Grassmarket Centre, was very beautiful, with a really special acoustic in the auditorium and a bright and airy cafe space.

Thanks to Karen Loomis for taking these lovely photos of the workshop session!

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