Become a Patron of the Arts for Siobhán Armstrong

Hello, friends.  Siobhan Armstrong, an Irish harper, and the director of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, needs your help.  Siobhan is fundraising for a CD project that will feature the music of 16th Century Ireland.  On the forthcoming CD, she’ll play various harps, including her Kortier Trinity replica, and  will be accompanied by a range of musicians, including, as she explains on the video, a number of “up and coming” young Irish musicians and singers.  What a great project to support!

Please join me in immediately supporting this crowdsourced campaign, which will end on July 26, 2014.  Here’s the link to the secure FundIt site (http://fundit.ie/project/cd-music-of-16th-century-ireland).  Give a little if you can, and give a lot if it’s possible to do so.  Now, go watch the video, be inspired, and support this magnificent instrument’s revival.

PS:  I neglected to post information on the blog about a campaign that Simon Chadwick ran a few months back to support a concert series in St. Andrews, Scotland.   These projects are worthy of support, and you’ll feel the splendid surge of happiness that comes with providing 21st century patronage for players of the marvelous early Gaelic harp.

Wishing you a summer of good music and adventures,

-Sue

 

 

Samhain 2012

The ancestor altar is built, and so many familiar, beloved faces smile back at me from the altar space in the dining room.  This afternoon I sang to the ancestors as I prepared dinner, and

Samhain ancestor altar, 2012.

lit some candles in their honor.  Last night we attended Mistral’s Dark Harvest Ballads for either the 3rd or 4th time in the past several years.  We can’t quite remember how long we’ve been attending the band’s Samhain fundraiser. This year’s theme, “Fathom the Deep,” was a fundraiser for both a local food bank and for the Newport Fishermen’s Wives charity.

I grew up in northeastern Massachusetts, in a seaport community, and recall the history of shipwrecks on the Atlantic coast.  Not far from home was the famous Gloucester fisherman’s statue in honor of the hundreds lost at sea.  It is inscribed with the quotation from Psalms, “They that go down to the sea in ships.”  Last night’s music was a delicious and haunting assortment of bleak songs about the sea, from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald to Ship in Distress, and a version of the Twa Sisters.  I delight in Martin Carthy’s version of Ship in Distress, a haunting tale of near-starvation aboard a foundering ship, with shipmates who draw lots to choose a victim among them to die to feed the rest of the crew.  While I miss the old, spookier, crowded and dark location of the event at Hipbone Studio, there was more space and comfort in the new location.  Ian Clemons and Elizabeth Christina are two favorite musicians in Mistral, and Ian’s daughters performed a splendid shadow puppet production of the Greyling, a song about a selkie sung by Elizabeth Christina.  It was a good evening.

Trinity replica on the porch, Samhain 2012.

Last weekend we visited a farm on Sauvie Island and picked pumpkins for our annual display on the porch.  Here’s a photo of the new Trinity replica on a day when we still had sun last weekend.  Perhaps this photograph has become another annual tradition at Samhain.  Better yet, the Trinity sounds even better and richer this year than it did last year at this time.  Best of all, I am enjoying better health this Samhain, and I thank my patron gods and ancestors for that.

Wishing you all the ancestral blessings of Samhain,

–Sue

Poetry, Harping, and Brigid

It’s Imbolc, or Brigid, the first day of Spring on the Celtic calendar.  Crocuses are in flower in the garden, and the sun visited for the entire day.

Crocuses in bloom on Imbolc, 2011.

In honor of Brigid, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing, and in observance of the 6th annual Brigid poetry festival by some people I know, let’s listen to Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe, a late 13th century Irish poet who rails against the limitations set on poetry in medieval Ireland:

Had lays not preserved their deeds,/though they were noble men,/a cloak would long since have fallen/on Niall, Cormac and Conn.

The line of kings of Cashel and Cruachan,/The house of Three Hostels’ scions,/Tuathal of Tara and Dath Í:/Poets are the roots of those pedigrees.

Were there no poetry sung/To sweet-strung harp or timpan,/none would know of noble passed,/nor his repute nor manly prowess.

(The Celtic Poets, pp. 341-2, trans. Patrick K. Ford)

The concept of “manly prowess” raises modern eyebrows, but let’s remember the antiquity of this piece, and its intended argument.

On Imbolc 2011, I feel very wealthy indeed.  Today I spent some time reading Seamus Heaney’s new volume of poems, Human Chain, and enjoyed my warm house filled with shelves of good books.  My ancient cat is snuggled up next to me, probably in the last few months of her long twenty years of life, but still enjoying simple pleasures like a pool of warm sunlight on the rug in the late afternoon.  Just yesterday, I received a morning email from David Kortier, whom I commissioned over a year ago to build a replica Trinity College harp for me.  He sent photos of its progress, along with photos of a friend’s beautiful Sirr harp.  That was a thrill!

In spite of chronic shyness about my playing, I decided to post a not-a-video music clip on YouTube.  The music is Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament, a piobaireachd that Ann Heymann introduced in a pibroch workshop at Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny in the summer of 2009.  This past fall I played some variations of it at a fundraiser concert, with fairly good results.

Happy Brigid to you.  I hope that it is filled with poetry, inspiration, and music.

–Sue


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