My main area of interest and specialism is in old Irish harp playing techniques and fingerings. In recent years I have been working to interpret and understand the table of fingerings published by Edward Bunting in his 1840 book. Based on this, I have been working towards reconstructing and developing a system of fingerings and principles for playing the old Irish harp. My first book, An Introduction to Old Irish Harp Playing Techniques (published in 2021), is a reconstructed method of playing the old Irish harp, based on marrying two core pieces of written evidence that we have about the lost oral tradition – the playing techniques, as used by all the harpers that Bunting met, and the First Tunes, as collected from the harper Patrick Quin.
I have been continuing to work to develop my new insights and apply these principles and playing techniques to the wider old Irish harp repertory. My aim is to develop a sound, idiom and way of playing that are consistent with wider Irish traditional music style and approach, using playing techniques that are characteristic of oral music traditions – named motifs, recurring patterns, tactile fingering, non-visual approach etc. My own background in Irish traditional music along with my interpretations of Bunting's field transcriptions, jotted down from live performances of harpers in the old tradition, are helping me in this process. I am currently preparing a second book, arrangements of old Irish harp airs, using reconstructed playing techniques and fingering based on Bunting's tables.
These one-to-one private classes are an opportunity for you to familiarise yourself with this new approach or explore it further; you can chose to have a hands-on practical session, a discussion, or a combination. Here are some suggestions of topics we could cover:
- an introduction to old Irish harp playing techniques, through learning the First Tunes
- discuss Bunting's table of fingerings, with examples
- discuss old Irish harp fingering principles in general
- explore playing in a non-visual way: learn strategies for moving around the harp without needing to look at the strings
OR, if you already have the basics of this approach, we could:
- work on a new tune
- look back at a tune from one of my group sessions (current or previous)
- discuss the process of reconstructing a tune from one of Bunting's field transcriptions, using this approach
- discuss the process of reconstructing a tune from the living tradition, using this approach
- discuss pentatonic scales and modes, and underlying pentatonic structure
I’d be very happy to share any of these thoughts with you and to introduce you to my new approach. If you would like to arrange a private lesson with me, please get in touch in advance so I can prepare content and materials specific to your session.