Bill Taylor has dedicated himself to the ancient harp music of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He is one of very few players investigating these repertoires on original instruments and has reclaimed a wealth of native musical heritage, long neglected by these countries’ musical institutions.
He is the foremost interpreter of the Robert ap Huw manuscript, which contains the earliest harp music from anywhere in Europe. Among his many discoveries is the proximity of the fingernail-damping technique specified in this Welsh tablature - undecipherable to scholars for 350 years - to the Gaelic harp technique described by Edward Bunting in 1840.
He hasn't always been a harpist. Bill trained as a librarian and served as an art librarian at the University of Rochester, New York, and at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It was in Washington that he began his career in early music, playing with ensembles such as the Folger Consort, Hesperus and the Newberry Consort.
As a teacher of early, medieval and Gaelic harps, he regularly leads workshops in Europe and the USA. He is a teacher-in-residence for Ardival Harps in Scotland and has taught and performed at music festivals in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Inverness, Warwick and York (UK); Termonfeckin (Ireland); Burg Heimbach, Mosenberg, Schloß Burg and Violau (Germany); Venice; Prague; and Amherst (USA).
He writes a regular Gaelic harp column for the magazine Sounding Strings and is currently President of the International Historical Harp Society. Bill recently founded the Wire Branch of the Clarsach Society, launching the schools initiative A' Chlársach Aoibhneach on the Isle of Skye and publishing the website www.clarsach.net.
As well as giving solo recitals, Bill plays historical Scottish music with singer and early wind player James Ross in The Art of Musick and plays medieval and Renaissance music with Belgian recorder player Geert Van Gele. For several years he played with lutar Rob MacKillop in The Rowallan Consort, recording two CDs of early Scottish music. He is also a member of the Highland early vocal and instrumental ensembles Musick Fyne and Coronach. In Wales he performs with the trio Lyrae Cambrenses.
Numerous radio and television broadcasts have featured his work with early Irish, Scottish and Welsh harp traditions, including live BBC Radio 3 broadcasts with the Taverner Consort. He has worked closely with the Glasgow-based choir Cappella Nova and Canty, accompanying the singing of Scottish medieval plainsong; music associated with St Kentigern; and music by Hildegard of Bingen.
He has recorded for ASV, CMF, Dorian, Greentrax, Maggie’s Music, Rhiannon, Rota and Temple. His solo CD of early Welsh harp music was released by Dorian in 1999.