SUMMER SCHOOL OF EARLY IRISH HARP
Assistant director, Scoil na gCláirseach
lives in St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland. He has been working
on the music and traditions of the early Irish harp (or early
clàrsach as he calls it in Scotland) since 1998.
Simon learned music as a child, taking trombone and piano lessons at
school. His harp studies were from the outset devoted to the historical Gaelic traditions, leading him to follow Ann Heymann in making
use of the distinguishing features of early Gaelic performance
practice, most notably the fingernail techniques, left shoulder playing
orientation and the use of unison comhluighe stringing.
Simon studied both physics and archaeology at university and applies
this training to the early Gaelic harp, hence his expertise about the
physical instrument, and his interest in its design, ergonomics and
stringing. He was key to the HHSI commissioning its series of student
harps from David Kortier, and continues to work on the specifications
and design of each new model. He designs the string regime for each
one, based on years of experiments with brass, silver and gold strings.
Simon is also regularly consulted by other early Irish harp makers from
various countries seeking advice and technical information on both
modern reconstructions and the extant historical instruments.
For many years he has played a basic but accurate copy of the 15th
Century Queen Mary harp; in 2007 he replaced it with a new
fully-decorated replica commissioned from Davy Patton in Co. Roscommon. He has released a solo CD, recorded on this new instrument: Clàrsach na Bànrighe.
He also plays a replica of the Downhill harp of 1702 - one of the HHSI
Based in Oxford until early 2006, he has long worked to promote the
instrument and its tradition on the internet. Formerly the editor of
www.clarsach.net, the website of the Wire Branch of the Clarsach
Society, in Scotland, he now runs his own informational resource
project earlygaelicharp.info. He runs an Emporium selling new and
secondhand copies of early Irish harp related books, CDs and
Simon became involved with the HHSI as soon as it was founded in 2002,
recognising its unique and vital role in leading the modern revival of
the early Irish harp. He is involved with all aspects of the Society's
work, taking on many administrative roles including organising events,
liasing with students and the general public, as well as maintaining
the websites of the HHSI and Scoil na gCláirseach.
Visit Simon's website for photos, his CD, music downloads and more information.