Concerts on the West Coast

At the end of this week I am performing a couple of concerts in the West Highlands, presenting my new programme of Old Gaelic Laments as premiered (in slightly trimmed form) in Dundee yesterday.

On Thursday night, I will be at Dunollie, just outside of Oban. The seat of Clan MacDougall, Dunollie has been the scene of recent restoration and my event is to be an exclusive evening in the 1745 house. Fore more info about the house and the recent restoriation work there, please see

On Friday I’ll be further north, in Acharacle on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the Highlands and I’ll be performing in the community hall.

Both events start at 7.30pm. Full details are on my forthcoming events page.

Dundee Wighton concert

On Saturday, October 22nd, the Friends of Wighton’s monthly cappuccino concert will be performed by historical harp specialist, Simon Chadwick.

In the bright and atmospheric surrounds of Dundee Central Library’s Wighton Heritage Centre, the event starts at 10.30am with complimentary coffee and newspapers. Then from 11 to 12 Simon will perform a selection of rare and beautiful old harp tunes, using a very special replica of the famous medieval Scottish Queen Mary harp.

Simon is the regular tutor of the Friends of Wighton harp class, held every Saturday afternoon in the Wighton Centre. He has done a large amount of research with the collection of old Scottish music books housed in the centre, and his music brings back to life Scottish music from centuries past.

The Wighton Collection of Scottish music books was brought together by collector Andrew Wighton, a Dundee merchant, in the early 19th century. After his death, it was given to the city and is now housed in display cabinets in the specially built study and performance centre at the top of the Wellgate library.

Saturday 22nd October, 10.30 for 11 am
Friends of Wighton Cappuccino Concert
Old Gaelic Laments
in the Wighton Centre, Dundee Central Library, DD1 1DB
Admission £5
Followed at 2.00pm by Simon’s regular harp class. All welcome, admission £5 (£2.50 under 25s)

More details:
07792 336804

Old Gaelic Laments: concerts in October

Historical harp specialist Simon Chadwick is performing a series of concerts of old Gaelic laments around Scotland in October.

Performed on a unique and beautiful decorated replica of a medieval West Highland clarsach, the concerts will uncover unusual and little known treasures of old Scottish music.

The concerts focus on laments, composed by the old Gaelic harpers to commemorate famous people or to express sorrow and longing. From grand, formal memorial pieces for bishops and noblemen, to complex and subtle bagpipe-style variation sets, to personal expressions of loss, the music ranges across the emotions including anger, grief and love.

The clarsach used for Simon’s concerts is an important art object in its own right. Commissioned in 2006, it is the most accurate and detailed replica yet made, of the “Queen Mary harp”, a medieval West Highland clarsach now considered a national treasure and preserved and displayed in Edinburgh in the National Museum of Scotland. The replica harp copies every last detail of the medieval original, including the fantastically intricate designs of mythical beasts, interlace and plants, which are carved, inked and painted onto the wooden parts of the harp.

Simon Chadwick is based in the medieval university town of St Andrews, and specialises in the medieval and Renaissance harp music of Scotland and Ireland. His music is based on years of studying the old music, techniques and idioms preserved in old books and manuscripts.

As well as performing concerts with the replica harp, Simon teaches regular classes in Dundee and Edinburgh, and is Assistant Director of the main international summer school for historical Gaelic harp music, held every August in Kilkenny, Ireland. Previous concerts presented by Simon include gallery recitals in the National Museum of Scotland beside the original Queen Mary harp and a regular series of medieval concerts for Historic Scotland, in the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral and Arbroath Abbey.

Simon has written two method books for historical harp music, and has also released a CD featuring the Queen Mary harp and music connected to it, “Clarsach na Banrighe”. He is currently working on his next CD which is focussed on the old Gaelic laments.

For more information including photos, bio, and sample tracks, please visit

Saturday 22nd October, 10.30am – Wighton Centre, Dundee
Thursday 27th October, 7.30pm – Dunollie Castle, near Oban
Friday 28th October, 7.30pm – Shielbridge Hall, Acharacle

Heroic music at the Cathedral

On Tuesday is the last in my summer series of cathedral concerts for this year. I’ll be repeating a programme from last year, of music connected to the heroic legends of Britain and Ireland. The centrepiece of the concert will be a performance of one of the medieval Gaelic lays – the story of Caoilte and the giant with five heads, which I have learned from a 1965 field recording of Kate MacDonald. There are a large number of such recordings of these medieval heroic songs being performed, and I have catalogued a number of them on my website at As well as lays from the Fenian cycle, as this one is, there are also lays dealing with characters from the Ulster cycle, the Historical cycle, and also from the Arthurian cycle.

All of these lays that survived down to the mid 20th century (I believe only one, Am Bron Binn, is still current in living tradition) survive only as unaccompanied solo song. This is of course very valuable for the study of early Gaelic music because we get a medieval text, a reciting melody, and a performance style. But for a harp concert I wanted to find instrumental music on a similar theme, and not just play instrumental adaptions of the vocal reciting melodies.

So for Tuesday’s concert I cast my net as wide as I can to try and find an interesting selection of genuinely instrumental music which somehow connects to this heroic theme. Come along to the cathedral at 12.45 and see what you think!

Cathedral recital

The next Cathedral recital is tomorrow, Tuesday 5th July, at 12.45pm

Medieval battle music in the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral.

The programme will be centred around the grand formal ceremonial tune, ‘The Battle of Harlaw’, celebrating the bloody fighting in Aberdeenshire six hundred years ago this month, in July 1411. Other highlights of the programme will be ‘Hei Tuti Teti’, reputedly Robert the Bruce’s march, and later used by Robert Burns for his song ‘Scots Wha Hae’. I will also recite some verses from the Gododdin, “Scotland’s oldest poem”, which describes the defeat of the men of Edinburgh in a battle in around 600AD – over one thousand four hundred years ago.

This event is part of my summer series of medieval harp concerts in the cathedral. Performed in the Priors House, a medieval vaulted chamber set within the ruins of the Cathedral in St Andrews, this series brings to life different aspects of ancient and historical Scottish music.

The last concert, in June, focussed on medieval church music and included pieces from the ‘St Andrews Music Book’ – a medieval manuscript compiled and written in St Andrews in the 13th century, which is now preserved in a library in Germany. For August, I will play grand Gaelic laments, weeping for the fallen and commemorating great chieftains and warriors. But this next recital on 5th July will draw together tunes from very disparate sources to paint a picture of the ceremonial and martial music of court and castle in medieval Scotland.

The harp I use is a unique replica of the clarsach of Mary Queen of Scots. The 500-year-old original is preserved in a glass case in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I commissioned my replica from Irish harp maker Davy Patton in 2006-7. With its amazing soundbox carved out of a single huge willow log, and its intricate carved and painted decoration, the replica harp is a precious medieval art object that fits very well into the ancient ambience of the cathedral.

Admission is free. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling the Cathedral visitor centre on 01334 472563.

Blind and partially sighted

Today I presented a lunchtime talk for the Museum of the University of St Andrews, in their medieval gallery. The talk was to present and describe and demonstrate the replica Queen Mary harp. The medieval gallery of the museum holds some very interesting early treasures of the university, including its three exquisite silver-gilt 15th century maces. However these were not in their display case today, as they are being paraded up and down the streets of St Andrews during the Graduation processions.

Before the talk proper, there was a special session for blind and partially sighted people. The museum staff had prepared a special “audio description” of the harp, and embossed line drawings of it, and the blind and partially sighted attendees also had lots of opportunity to touch and feel the carving and decoration on the harp.

For the talk itself I concentrated on the ceremonial music of the old harp traditions. I tried to tie the discussion in with the objects on display; “Gosteg yr Halen” from the Robert ap Huw manuscript went with a 16th century silver salt cellar; I read a translation from George Buchanan’s history of Scotland, a first edition of which is on display in the gallery; and we compared both the decoration on the harp as well as the structure of the music with a carved Pictish cross slab that stands in the museum.

Finally, to tie in with the 600th anniversary of the founding of the University, in 1411, I played a piece of music for another 600th anniversary: “the Battle of Harlaw”, which commemorates and describes this famous and bloody battle which was fought in Aberdeenshire in July 1411.

Cathedral music in St Andrews

I am kicking off my summer series of medieval harp concerts in St Andrews Cathedral, with a programme of medieval church music from the 12th century.

The concert is on Tuesday 7th June, at 12.45pm, in the Priors House, a medieval vaulted chamber in the cathedral grounds in St Andrews.

Celebrating 850 years since building work commenced on the cathedral in 1161, this concert features a programme of sacred music from that time, from St Andrews, Inchcolm and further afield. As well as playing the Scottish monastic plainchant on my beautiful decorated replica of the Queen Mary harp, I will demonstrate other unusual medieval Scottish instruments during the half-hour concert.

The St Andrews Cathedral concert series will continue on the first Tuesday of each month through to September, with a different theme each month. To follow June’s sacred airs, July will bring ferocious medieval battle music, while August’s recital will present formal elegies and laments.

Further information is available at
This event is organised by Historic Scotland. Admission is free, but ticketed; tickets can be obtained from the Cathedral visitor centre, tel 01334 472563.