Ancestral Greetings at Samhain

The ancestor altar, Samhain 2010.

It’s Samhain (Halloween) night, and I’m playing harp in the front room in between visits from trick or treaters, who are thick on the ground this year.  We’ve had nearly 30 visitors to our door, which may be a new record for this house.

I’m working on a piobaireachd with Simon, my teacher, and at the moment it is going well, but he hasn’t yet introduced the more dizzying variation sets that will likely reveal my dyslexia in all of its strange permutations.  There is no complaint from me, however.  I am happy.

This week I placed the photos of my beloved dead on the Samhain altar in my dining room, and just this morning after my harp lesson I cut a late bouquet of flowers in the garden.  The echinacea, pineapple sage in bright red, and black and blue salvia are still strongly blossoming, and so is that elegant old rose, Glamis Castle.  The dried Indian corn is from a small crop I grew in a garden at the old house over a decade ago.

Back to my laments, which tonight, are a fitting offering for the ancestors.



3 Responses

  1. Hi Sue
    A lovely and concise description. I wasn’t up to playing last night due to a long hangover from the night before (a huge masquerade party at the house of the founder of the Chinese medicine school- even the local samba band showed up in diner jackets with medieval masks). We’re too far away for kids so we lit the jack o’lantern, watched Sherlock on TV, and ate pear and walnut pizza.

    I’ve been experimenting using plethiad y pedwarbys as a crunluath ornament.

  2. Hello, Peter.

    Sounds like a wild Saturday night! Are you a Jeremy Brett as Sherlock fan?

    My grip on the ap Huw ornaments is very modest, and will have to evolve over a long period of time. They’re such fun to learn and toss into a piece, however–quite exciting. Which pieces of music are you working on these days?
    Thanks for posting,


    • Hello again

      Yes, a very wild night… I am a Jeremy Brett fan but I meant the new Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock set in 21st C London.

      I’m still on a continental kick and have a few that I poke at like Mille Regretz which is stroke-inducing hard to damp but worth it, (not worth a stroke that is).

      My pibroch lab rat is the MacLeods’ Salute which I still haven’t memorized, well, I’ve memorized the ground and crunluath but not the other variations. I think it hasn’t gelled in my mind yet and I haven’t settled on a way to play it although I’m happy with the ground but it contrasts greatly with the rest. Years ago I figured out Ann Heymann’s Lament for the Harp from Queen of Harps but it sounds old fashioned and less developed now.

      I’m starting to look at Kaniad Ystafell. The ms script still stymies me. I don’t mind that it’s in tablature, it’s the handwriting that I have a hard time getting past but it’s slowly getting clearer. I’ve memorized Gosteg Dafydd Athro but it’s going to take time to play it smoothly, and I’ve dropped Kaniad San Silin for now. Pavanna Detta La Lacrimosa is a lute tune that I’ve taken a stab at a few times, written in scordtura tuning and not as vein exploding as Mille Regretz. I’ve also reworked O Columba Insignis Signifer from the Inchcolm antiphoner by getting rid of lots of 5ths and making it much simpler. My favourite tune to play these days is Carolan’s Mrs. Keel. I’m very happy with the accompaniment and damping; I’ll have to force myself to record it. I discovered that a tune from Renaissance of the Celtic Harp is called “The Quiet Land of Erin”, you can find it at


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