This year I had booked on to a course at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival – I took the lever harp along to Susan Syverson’s “Swedish Stew” and learned that Swedish tunes actually go pretty well on the harp. I also played in the “Scratch” concert on the last afternoon – about 103 harps plus a few other instruments. A lot of fun, playing easier parts of course – I’m very much a beginner on the clarsach!

lots of harps
The Swedish fiddlers rather outnumbered by the harps at the Scratch Concert rehearsal

I also got along to a couple of concerts and several sessions – though I took the nyckelharpa to the sessions, and it was great to play with the Swedish group there, as well as with the harps. Great fun as always.

We had our home Yule Session yesterday – we played about 40 tunes using various combinations of fiddle (4), guitar (2), cello, ukelele, lever clarsach (2), piano, whistle (2 at least), three-row nyckelharpa, erhu, kontrabas nyckelharpa, 80 bass accordion … I think that’s it. It was a tremendous amount of fun! Many thanks to everyone who attended, musicians and those who fed and watered them ? and took photos.

harp and harpa
The nyckelharpa resting beside the lever harp

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Harps of Gold all tinselled up and ready for the concert in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh this afternoon. Great fun, I think we sounded pretty good.

tinselled harps on stage

Speaking of dress – guess who wanted a photo of me considerably more dressed up than usual Note especially the MacLeod tie, since her father’s one now lives in Canada.


Here’s a link to us all onstage, until it breaks:

That's Harps of Gold over for another year, what a brilliant concert it was! ? Sure the whole audience is feeling super…

Posted by Edinburgh Branch of the Clarsach Society on Sunday, 10 December 2017


First rehearsal for the Clarsach Society Edinburgh Branch “Harps of Gold” Christmas concert. One of only about four men there in a group of about 70 or 80 harpers! Sitting at the back in the “naughty boys” row, playing the easier parts – but it’s good fun to have the lever harp back in action again. I have some plans to make some tweaks to it in the New Year ….

Harps of Gold rehearsal
There are a lot of members of the Edinburgh Branch of the Clarsach Society

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I have been refurbishing my clarsach (lever harp), built (by me – of course ) in 1984. The neck and pillar are oak from my granny’s old wardrobe. Originally it had semitone hooks, but I mostly replaced these with levers a few years ago; I have been adding a few more, and replacing some damaged strings. This is in preparation for playing with the Edinburgh branch of the Clarsach Society in a few weeks’ time – I’ve never done it before so it should be fun. I’ll sit with the beginners at the back!

31 string lever harp

Here’s a close-up of the soundboard decoration, which is pokerwork done with a fine tipped soldering iron:

soundboard pokerwork

My harps are described on the archive site on John’s harp page.


A first go at recording the pibroch Karen Marshalsay taught us on the EIHF course. Lots of practising needed yet but friends and family can hear the sound of the harp!

Karen Marshalsay you were right – these tunes are hard to get out of the brain. I think I’ve got pibrochitis. I was on the bus into town for a session at the Antiquary (fiddle of course ) and The Battle of the Bridge of Perth played in my head all the way from Morningside to Lothian Road. Every variation. And the final ground.

Thank you Karen Marshalsay for the great introduction to pibroch on the wire strung harp at the The Clarsach Society & Edinburgh International Harp Festival. I always found pibroch fascinating and it was great to have the structure explained and demonstrated so well. A really enjoyable course – I’m going to have to work on that Crumluach (which incidentally came up with only one Google result when I checked the spelling!).

Just had a great first day at The Clarsach Society & Edinburgh International Harp Festival (Facebook won’t let me shorten this to the Harp Festival bit!), taking a course on Pibroch on the wire strung harp with Karen Marshalsay. Also went to the concert this evening – great stuff from a long list of well known and very talented performers. Then joined the session afterwards (with my fiddle of course, not the harp) and had some fun before heading off home. Great tunes!