For last Thursday’s poetry event in the Netherbow, Henry Marsh asked me, did I have any Carver in my repertory? I had to admit I did not. One of his poems, about Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay, mentions Carver:

That endless fleeting night, elusive
as the scent of flowers, she’d touched
on moments of serenity, drifted in Carver’s
silver labyrinth – O good Jesus…
O sweet Jesus…

(The Guidman’s Daughter, p.92)

While I had no intention of even looking at Carver’s notorious 19 part mass, I did find a section of his 5 part mass, Fera Pessima, described by D. James Ross (Musick Fyne, p. 46) as being reminiscent of piobaireachd. While I can disagree with the comparison, I found this an acceptable fragment for reducing onto the harp, and so I played it after Henry read the Fotheringhay poem at the Storytelling Centre.

Here’s a recording I made of it today, while it is still up and running:

Early Music VSI

This small slim paperback of 130 pages is part of Oxford University Press’s “Very Short Introduction” series. I have been collecting these for many years, and I have found them to be highly variable. Some are just a little dull; some are rather biased, postmodern, or narrow; but some are just brilliant. This newly published work by Thomas Forest Kelly, published this month, is one of the brilliant ones. I would highly recommend it and to that end I have already listed it for sale in my Emporium:

It is a superb pocket size introduction to the idea of “early music”. The first chapter considers the basic ideas, investigating peoples constant urge to look to the past for their art. Three subsequent chapters comprise the heart of the book, dealing respectively with the history of mainstream Western music in the medieval, Renaissance and baroque periods. These three chapters so easily and concisely explain the styles and types of music in each different historical time, that they are highly recommended as the best overview and introduction to this difficult subject. This is followed by one chapter discussing performance practice and ideas of authenticity, and a final chapter (which reads more like an appendix) listing notable individuals and organisations involved with early music during the 20th century in Europe and America.

I have long been searching for an accessible overview history of western music, and this one finally fits the bill. Coincidentally, Cambridge University Press have recently published a “Companion to Medieval Music” which is not very short, and naturally not concerned with Renaissance or baroque music.

Both of these titles will be included in July’s Emporium update – but you get a sneak preview here first!

Provand’s Lordship concert in Glasgow

On Sunday, 12th September, at 2pm, Provand’s Lordship in Glasgow will host a concert of medieval and Renaissance Scottish harp music.

The concert is a unique opportunity to discover the music of the old Highland castles and great houses from hundreds of years ago. The early Gaelic harp, with metal wire strings sounded using long fingernails, was an important part of Scottish music and culture for centuries, until it died out in the 18th century.

Provand’s Lordship is Glasgow’s oldest house, built in 1471, one of only four medieval buildings to survive in the city. This is just the kind of domestic setting in which this music would have originally been heard hundreds of years ago. The house is now displayed as a museum, with period interiors and a medieval garden.

The recital will be performed by historical harp specialist, Simon Chadwick, using a beautiful replica of the medieval clarsach of Mary, Queen of Scots. The 500-year-old original, preserved in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, is too rare and fragile to string and play, so Simon commissioned his replica from a sculptor in Ireland. Decorated with woodburning, carving and paint, and strung with wires of brass, silver and gold, the replica harp is a stunning medieval art object.

The programme will feature historical Scottish harp music, brought back to life from books and manuscripts. As well as stirring battle marches, and salutes for the great Highland families, Simon’s speciality is the grand Gaelic laments, which would be composed by a harper on the death of his patron.

Simon has been studying the old Scottish and Irish harp traditions for over 10 years, and bases his work on the oldest sources of music and playing techniques, preserved in manuscripts and antique printed books. He teaches his discoveries to students in St Andrews, Dundee, and Edinburgh, as well as further afield using the internet. He has just returned from Ireland where last month he helped run the annual summer school for early Gaelic harp, and he has also just this week completed his fourth season of performances in the Cathedral ruins in St Andrews. His CD, “Clàrsach na Bànrighe”, features Scottish music from the 13th to the 18th century, performed on the replica Queen Mary harp.

Event details:
Sunday, 12th September
Concert starts 2pm, and runs for 30-40 mins
Admission free
Provand’s Lordship, 3 Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0RB