Tag Archives: harp

Artist Profiles: Alan Stivell

Alan Stivell

Alan Stivell is an innovator of the Breton-Celtic harp. For more than three decades, he has been at the forefront of a cultural and musical revival that honors the centuries-old Celtic traditions of the French province of Brittany, called Breizh by its native inhabitants, while mesmerizing audiences around the globe with his charismatic virtuosity and wide ranging repertoire .

Alan Stivell was born Alan Cochevelou. His family, the Cochevelous, came from Gourin in central west Brittany. Like many of other Breton families, the Cochevelous left Brittany. Thus Alan Cochevelou was born in Riom on January 6, 1944. Shortly after, the family settled in Paris. Alan’s father, George Cochevelou, was an artist and translator. He made paintings, furniture and musical instruments. His dream was to reintroduce the Celtic harp from Brittany. It had disappeared at the end of the Middle Ages. The first Celtic harp prototype featured nylon cords and was decorated with Celtic motifs. Young Alan Cochevelou fell in love with the instrument. He took lessons from Denise Mégevand, a traditional harp player.

Alan Stivell

There was no Breton repertory for the harp so Alan made new arrangements of traditional Breton, Irish, Welsh and Scottish folk tunes. He played his first concert at the age of 9. Alan joined a traditional Breton group called Scouts Bleimor. A few years later, in 1959, Alan Cochevelou recorded his first single, titled Musique Gaëlique. Alan was so passionate about Celtic music that he learned how to play bombards and bagpipes. In 1961 he became the lead Penn-Soner of Bagad Bleimor with which he won many awards.

In 1966, Alan Cochevelou became Alan Stivell. He recovered an ancient form of his family name before it was adapted to French.

Alan Stivell’s first major recordings, Renaissance of the Celtic Harp and Live At The Olympia, both released in 1972, gained him worldwide notice, and subsequent years found him gaining a large following for albums that fused Celtic music with folk, rock, pop, electronic and world music.

Stivell released several ground-breaking albums including Again (1994), which features collaborations with Kate Bush; the captivating Brian Boru (1995); 1 Earth – 1 Douar (1998) with John Cale, Youssou N’Dour, Khaled, Simple Minds vocalist Jim Kerr and Paddy Maloney; and Back to Breizh (2000), a work that reaffirmed his Breton roots and passion for tilting tradition toward the future.

To celebrate his 50th year as a performer on the Celtic harp, Alan Stivell recorded Beyond Words, an all-instrumental album.

Stivell states that the music on Beyond Words “is simply a journey through my life and dreams. I want to highlight, first and foremost, my passion for Celtic and neo-Celtic harps, these legendary instruments which came into my life as by magic..”

Discography

Telenn Geltiek – Harpe celtique (Fontana, 1964)
Reflets – Reflections (Fontana, 1970)
Renaissance of the Celtic Harp (Fontana, 1971)
À l’Olympia – Olympia Concert (Fontana, 1972)
Chemins de Terre – From Celtic Roots (Fontana, 1973)
E Langonned (Fontana, 1974)
E Dulenn – Live in Dublin (Fontana, 1975)
Trema’n inis – Vers l’Île (Fontana, 1976)
Raok Dilestra – Before Landing (Keltia III, 1977)
Un dewezh ‘barzh ‘gêr – A Homecoming (Keltia III, 1978)
International Tour: Tro ar Bed (1979)
Symphonie Celtique: Tir Na N-Og – Celtic Symphony (1979)
Terre des vivants: Bed an dud vew (1981)
Legend – Mojenn (1983)
Harps of the New Age – Telenn a’ Skuilh-dour (1985)
The Mist of Avalon (Dreyfus, 1991)
Again (1993)
Brian Boru (Dreyfus, 1995)
1 Douar – 1 Earth (Dreyfus, 1998)
Back to Breizh (Dreyfus, 1999)
Au-delà des mots – Beyond Words (Dreyfus, 2002)
Explore (2006)
Emerald (2009)
AMzer – Seasons (World Village, 2015)

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Spellbinding Meeting of the Celtic and African Harps

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita – Soar (bendigedig, 2018)

Two exceptional musician representing distinct traditions and harps celebrate the magnificent osprey bird on their album titled Soar.

Welsh musician Catrin Finch plays the Welsh harp and contributes the Celtic and western classical traditions. Senegalese kora player contributes the musical influences of West Africa and his world music collaborations. The result is a superb set of musical pieces where the two forms of harps engage in a beautiful genre-defying dialog.

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Artist Profiles: Edmar Castañeda

Edmar Castañeda

Colombian musical prodigy Edmar Castañeda was born March 31, 1978 in Bogotá, Colombia. He began playing the difficult and exotic Colombian harp at the early age of 13.

Although he only completed his formal music education in 2003, he has achieved critical acclaim. He has appeared as an invited guest with Paquito D’Rivera at NJPAC, NY’s Beacon Theatre, Lincoln Center and the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. He has also performed with Lila Downs, Romero Lubambo, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentin, Richard Bona and John Benitez.

In 2017, Japanese pianist Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda performed live at the 2017 Montreal International Jazz Festival. The concert was recorded and Live in Montreal was released in late in 2017. “We both clearly remember the first few minutes of playing together in soundcheck,” Hiromi recalled. “It was really magical and effortless. It felt like all the musical notes that we created were happy to be together. It was like dancing.”

Discography:

Cuarto de colores (2005)
Entre Cuerdas (Arpa y Voz Records, 2009)
Double Portion (Arpa y Voz Records, 2012)
Live At The Jazz Standard (Vivid Japan, 2015)
Live In Montreal, with Hiromi (Telarc International, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: William Jackson

William Jackson, of Glasgow has been at the forefront of Scottish traditional music for more than three decades. One of the leading harpers and multi-instrumentalists in Scotland, William has also gained an international reputation as a composer. William was a founding member and primary composer of Ossian, one of Scotland’s best-loved traditional bands and an influence on a generation of musicians. In addition to harp he also plays tin whistle and bouzouki.

As a composer William has steadily combined Celtic influences with classical instrumentation in a style uniquely his own. He has an impressive list of commissioned works and subsequent recordings. He has released many CDs featuring his own compositions as well as traditional pieces, and composed and performed music for film and television.

Discography:

Contraband (1974)
Ossian (1977)
St. Kilda Wedding with Ossian (1978)
Seal Song, with Ossian (198)
Dove Across the Water, with Ossian (1981)
Borders, with Ossian (1983)
The Wellpark Suite (1985)
Light on a Distant Shore, with Ossian (1986)
Heart Music (1987)
St Mungo: A Celtic Suite For Glasgow (1990)
Celtic Tranquility (1992)
The Best of Ossian, with Ossian (1993)
Inchcolm (1995)
The Ancient Harp of Scotland (1998)
A Scottish Island (1998)
Celtic Experience vol. 1: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (1997)
The Carrying Stream, with Ossian (1997)
Celtic Experience vol. 2: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (1998)
Celtic Experience vol. 3: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (1999)
Celtic Experience: Haunting Themes From Scotland and Ireland (2) (box set of the Celtic Experience albums)
The Celtic Suites (1999)
Land of Light (1999)
Notes From A Hebridean Island (2001)
Duan Albanach (2003)
The New Harp (2008)
Music from Ireland and Scotland with Grainne Hambly (2009)

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Artist profiles: Siân James

Siân James

Siân James is the most important folk singer in Wales. Coming from a small village in heart of Wales Siân James was brought up in a Welsh speaking family steeped in the traditions of music and poetry. She sings and accompanies herself on her harp and is passionate about the unique and gentle nature of Welsh songs. Siân feels that it is time for Welsh musicians to get the same audience and recognition as the musicians from the other Celtic nations and regions.

Siân performed and competed in eisteddfodau from the age of three started to play the piano at six and the harp at eleven. She gave solo concerts starting at age eighteen and during her university years performed with a folk rock band Bwchadanas which continued to be popular in Wales for over ten years.

The first of Siân’s albums Cysgodion Karma (1990) is a mixture of traditional and original songs. It was followed by Distaw in 1993 showcasing more of her songwriting ability. Gweini Tymorwas released in 1996 and the culmination of twenty years of Siân’s interest in traditional music. The fourth CD Di-gwsg is made up of original music in Celtic style with a slightly more contemporary sound. Birdman her fifth album was commissioned as a soundtrack for a BBC miniseries of the same name. Album number six was released in 2000.

Siân has toured in other Celtic countries playing festivals in Brittany Ireland and Scotland and further afield for festivals and concerts in Spain, Italy, Japan and the United States. When Wales opened their new National Assembly, Siân was one of the musicians invited to celebrate the occasion at Voices of a Nation concert.

In 1996 she sang on the film score for The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain and the CD of the soundtrack was released by Miramax. Siân has considerable experience as an actress on Welsh language television and in 1998 she was given a six part series where she performed with her own band and presented guests such as Capercaille, The Saw Doctors, Frances Black and Alan Stivell.

Discography:

Cysgodion Karma [Karma Shadows] (Sain, 1990)
Distaw [Silent] (Sain, 1993)
Gweini Tymor [Serving a Term] (Sain, 1996)
Di-Gwsg [Sleepless] (Sain, 2153)
Birdman (BBC Records, 2000)
Pur [Pure] (Bos Records, 2000)
Y Ferch o Bedlam [The Girl from Bedlam] (Bos, 2005)
Cymun [Communion] (Recordiau Bos, 2012)

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Artist profiles: Savourna Stevenson

Savourna Stevenson

Savourna Stevenson has been a leading figure in the renaissance of the Celtic harp in Scotland. An outstanding virtuoso and inspiring performer, she has pushed the boundaries of the harp. In her music she identifies strongly with her Scottish roots while breaking through stylistic barriers between world music, traditional, jazz and classical. Her prolific output shows versatility writing for theatre (Royal Lyceum Edinburgh Dundee Repertory Manchester Library Theatre) for film TV and dance.

Savourna has several CDs.Touch Me Like the Sun includes her acclaimed harp quintet (premiered at Celtic Connections Millenium Festival) and licensed for use in the popular American TV series Sex and the City. As a songwriter, she has collaborated with lyric writers including Liz Lochhead and Michael Marra writing songs for artists including Eddi Reader and June Tabor.

Stevenson is also becoming a rising star in the Scottish contemporary classical music world since the resounding success of her symphonic premiere Misterstourworm & The Kelpie’s Gift for Children’s Classic Concerts in 2003. This exciting orchestral tale for children based on Scottish myth and legend was the result of a Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award in 2001 which not only honored her inspired project but acknowledged her already outstanding contribution to Scottish music.

Her CD Persian Knight Celtic Dawn unites many facets of Savourna’s remarkable career in collaboration with Iranian percussion ensemble The Chemiranis. It features her striking new settings of texts by the Lebanese-born poet and artist Kahil Gibran author of The Prophet and a leading figure in New York’s 1920s avant-garde.

Discography:

Tweed Journey (1989)
Tusitala Teller of Tales (1996)
Cutting the Chord (1996)
Calman the Dove (2000)
Celtic Harp (2000)
Touch Me Like the Sun (2000)
Persian Knight Celtic Dawn (2006)

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Artist Profiles: Robin Huw Bowen

Robin Huw Bowen

Robin Huw Bowen was born in a Welsh family settled in Liverpool, England. He is passionate about the Welsh triple harp and its music. Of the few harpists worldwide who can play the triple harp, he is the only professional now specializing solely in this particular field. He is recognized internationally as the leading exponent of the Welsh national instrument.

As a teenager, Robin was fascinated by the music of the renowned Celtic harpist Alan Stivell. In 1979 he received a degree in Welsh Language and Literature from the University College of Aberystwyth Mid-Wales.

He began his pursuit of the Welsh triple harp in 1980 while employed at the National Library of Wales Aberystwyth. He seized every opportunity to research into the music and techniques of the old Welsh harpers by studying many of their old manuscripts and publications. He was also able to extend his research beyond dusty archives gleaning tunes and techniques from several elderly harpists. By 1986 he had mastered the instrument well enough to pursue his musical career full-time.

He has performed extensively around the globe as a member of the Welsh folk group Mabsant and since 1989 as a solo performer. Between 199 and 1996 he also performed and recorded with Cusan Tan.
While not touring Robin is able to continue his research into the Welsh harp tradition. In 199 he set up his own press Gwasg Teires to typeset and publish books of traditional Welsh music. His publications include collections of Welsh dance tunes and harp music.

Robin Huw Bowen

His first solo album was Cyfarch YDefyn (Honor the Harp) released on Sain Records. In 1991 he released on his own label Teires his highly acclaimed second solo album Telyn BerseinioIfyNgwIdd (The Sweet Harp of My Land). This album was released in the United States on Flying Fish Records and is the first recording from Wales that was readily available to Americans. His album Hunting the Hedgehog features music of the Welsh gypsies and Harp Music of Wales his third solo CD was released on Saydisc in 1995.

Although Robin’s repertoire closely reflects that of the Welsh harp in its heyday (mid-17th to the end of the 19th Century) his playing and interpretation of the music emphasize his awareness that he belongs to an unbroken tradition. His music is far from being a mere museum relic from a past culture. His pioneering research and passionate promotion of his country’s national instrument have earned him great respect and generated a renewed interest in both the Welsh triple harp and its music wherever he performs.

Discography:

Trwy’r Weiar – Through the Wire, with Mabsant (1987)
Telyn Berseiniol Fy Ngwlad – Sweet Harp of My Land (1991)
Cusan Tân – Kiss of Fire, with Cusan Tân (1992)
Hela’r Draenog – Hunting the Hedgehog (1994)
Cerddoriaeth Telyn Cymru – Harp Music Of Wales (1995)
Esgair – The Ridge, with Cusan Tân (1996)
Hen Aelwyd – Old Hearth (1999)
Crasdant, with Crasdant (1999)
Nos Sadwrn Bach – Not Yet Saturday, with Crasdant (2001)
Yn y Gwaed – In the Blood, with Rhes Ganol (2004)
Dwndwr – The Great Noise, with Crasdant (2005)
Y Ffordd i Aberystwyth – The Road to Aberystwyth (2007)
Harp Music of Wales – Cerddoriaeth Telyn Cymru (2011)
Iaith Enaid (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Roberto Perera

Roberto Perera

Roberto Perera was born in 1952 in Montevideo, Uruguay. His romance with the Paraguayan harp can be traced all the way back to 1964 when the 12-year-old aspiring musician enrolled at the Conservatory of Modern Music in his hometown of Montevideo the capital city of Uruguay.

His multicultural beginnings not doubt played a part in his decision to embrace the 36-string Paraguayan harp and transform the native Indoamerican instrument to incorporate the influences of Latin, pop, jazz, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music styles. “The Paraguayan harp was considered an instrument merely to play folk music,” says Perera.

His complex technique includes precisely bending the strings to create sharps and flats, while gliding across the harp in a seemingly effortless fashion, giving little indication of the tremendous skill and discipline that’s required.

Roberto Perera’s professional career did not begin until 1973. After completing his course of musical studies, Perera moved to the United States in search of wider musical opportunities.
Perera’s point of entry was New York City, where he worked before moving south to Florida. Miami had a burgeoning Latin music scene at the time and Roberto quickly gained status as one of the hot musicians around town.

By the time his self-produced debut Erotica was released by Epic Records in 1990 (re-released by Heads Up in 1997) Perera had already earned a reputation as a pioneer of the electro-acoustic harp.

Perera began his association with Heads Up International in 1991 with the release of Passion, Illusions & Fantasies an album which received overwhelming critical acclaim throughout the Americas and Europe.

The following year Perera released Christmas Fantasies. On his three subsequent releases for Heads Up: Seduction (1994) Harp & Soul (1996) and In the Mood (2000) Perera continued to explore the lush musical landscapes.

My goal has always been to approach the harp in an unorthodox manner – to stylistically play ideas not normally associated with the instrument,” Perera says. “About the time I started playing harp the Beatles were very popular. I listened to a lot of Brazilian music pop from the U.S. tango and folk music. What I really liked was the folk music from Paraguay and soon started mixing using the techniques of folk music to play Beatles tunes.”

Discography:

Erotica (Epic Records 1990/re-released by Heads Up International in 1997)
Passion, Illusions & Fantasies (OXCD 313 1991)
Dreams and Desires (OXCD 318 1992)
Seduction (Heads Up International, 1994)
Christmas Fantasies (Heads Up International, 1993)
Harp & Soul (Heads Up International, 1996)
In the Mood (Heads Up International, 2000)
Sensual (Heads Up International, 2002)
Magical (Heads Up International, 2010)

DVD

Creation (Heads Up Records, 2007)

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Artist Profiles: Rachel Hair

Rachel Hair

Rachel Hair is one of one of Scotland’s finest players of the clarsach, the Scottish harp. Originally from the Highland village of Ullapool, Rachel was introduced to the clarsach through the work of the Feis movement. She has since graduated with a first class honors degree in Music from the University of Strathclyde where she was also awarded the Alexander Stone Prize for Outstanding Performance in her solo clarsach recital.

Rachel has been going from strength to strength as a professional musician and has steadily begun to gain recognition as a performer and a composer. Over the past year she has played several times throughout Europe India toured twice throughout the USA as well as playing regularly throughout Scotland and the UK. She has also performed on the infamous BBC Hogmanay Live show with top musicians Eddi Reader, Phil Cunningham, Karen Matheson, Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and Aly Bain as a soloist at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the much coveted Edinburgh International Harp Festival.

Rachel is a member of the harp trio Starlit 3 (Rachel Hair, Jennifer Port and Rachel Newton) whose exciting new approach to traditional music on the Scottish harp has gained critical recognition. Their debut album came out in early 2006.

Her debut solo album, Hubcaps and Potholes, was released in 2006. In 2009, Rachel released her second album, The Lucky Smile, with a trio format, featuring jazz musicians Paul Tracey on guitar and Andy Sharkey on bass.

No More Wings, released in 2012 include original compositions together with traditional and contemporary pieces from Scotland, Ireland, Brittany (France), Asturias (Spain) and Sweden.

Discography:

Hubcaps and Potholes (March Hair Records, 2006)
The Lucky Smile (2009)
No More Wings (2012)
Tri (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Maggie MacInnes

Maggie MacInnes

Maggie MacInnes sings and plays the clarsach. She was born in Glasgow and now lives in Ayrshire. She comes from a long line of Gaelic singers from the small island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and learns most of her songs from her mother the highly acclaimed traditional singer Flora MacNeil, M.B.E.

Maggie has been involved in various groups over the years such as Ossian Fuaim and Eclipse First and has traveled widely with her music touring in many parts of Europe U.S.A. and Canada. She also appears frequently on Radio and Television and has made various recordings over the years.

Autumn 1998 saw the release of Maggie’s first solo CD Eilean Mara on Dunkeld Records which was co-produced by Dougie MacLean and received great critical acclaim. In 2001 Maggie released her second solo CD which is called Spiorad Beatha – The Spirit of Life and features some of Scotland’s finest musicians such as Charlie McKerron (of Capercaillie) Brian McAlpine (formerly of Iron Horse) Sean O’Rourke (formerly of JSD Band) Marie Fielding Paul Jennings and Keith Easdale along with her mother Flora on backing vocals.

Maggie followed up the release of the record by performing at various festivals at home in Ireland and in Italy as well as being invited to Russia for the 1st International Festival of Celtic Music and Dance of Moscow where she was accompanied by the flute and saxophone player Sean O’Rourke and the percussion player Frank MacGuire.

In 2002 Maggie performed at the Celtic Connections Festival and The Edinburgh International Harp Festival and she was one of those chosen to take part in a two week tour of Scotland with Scottish Women which involved Scots and Gaelic singers coming together to showcase some of the finest songs from the two traditions with a backing band of some of the finest Scottish musicians under the musical direction of Brian McNeill Head of Scottish Music in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Maggie also produced and directed a new show/concert called Burns and the Gaels which looked at the links between the works of Robert Burns and Gaelic music and poetry. This event combined music poetry and song and featured Maggie along with Sheena Wellington Rod Paterson Ishbel MacAskill and Finlay MacDonald amongst others. Burns and the Gaels and Scottish Women were both performed at Celtic Connections Festival in January 2003.

Maggie was chosen by the voting public as Best Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2004 Scots Trad Music Awards.

Discography

Cairistìona (1984)
Eilean Mara – Island in the Sea (1998)
Spiorad Beatha – The Spirit of Life (2001)
Peaceful Ground – Talamh Sìtheil (2004)
Òran Na Mnà – A Woman’s Song (2006)
Leaving Mingulay – A Fàgail Mhiughalaigh (2009)
The Seedboat – Bàta an t-Sìl (2010)

www.maggiemacinnes.com

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