I am very proud to be able to publish Sylvia Crawford’s new book, An Introduction to Old Irish Harp Playing Techniques.
Sylvia has been working on the playing techniques for a couple of years now. She gave an important and ground-breaking presentation early in this work, at Scoil na gCláirseach 2019. Her presentation there was meant to be filmed by ITMA, but unfortunately the camera card became corrupted and so the footage was lost; the only event of the 2019 Scoil that was not filmed.
For me, Sylvia’s insights and the way she has combined the fingering techniques with the first tunes, has opened up an entirely new world of playing the harp. Those of you who have followed my Youtube series over the past year or so will have seen me starting to apply these principles since last Autumn.
In so many ways it is all “obvious”: of course the table of fingerings that Bunting published are how we should be playing; he even describes impressionistically their use, in his pen portrait of Denis O’Hampsey. And the way that Sylvia describes her process in the introduction allows us to follow in her learning curve: the search for a way to play without looking at the strings; the search for ways to express the subtle nuances of rythym and timing characteristic of Irish traditional music; the ways to conceptualise the music as a single unaccompanied melody line; the ways of shaping and enhancing the rich resonance of the harp; all of these seemed to me to be “just right”.
I know that I have become a lot more confident and at ease in my playing since taking on board these principles. I still have a lot of work to do to apply everything in the book, but that is only because Sylvia has crammed so much into the 104 pages.
I strongly recommend this new book to anyone working on the old Irish harp music. I hope you will find it as transformative and enlightening as I have!