Simon Chadwick is based in the medieval town of St Andrews, on the east coast of Scotland, where he researches, teaches and performs the ancient native music traditions of Scotland, Ireland and neighbouring countries.
Simon trained as an archaeologist, and has long been fascinated with ancient things. When he first discovered the medieval harps in the museums in Ireland and Scotland, he took it as a challenge, to figure out how they worked, how they were played, and what the old music traditions were that they belonged to. He was lucky to stumble upon Ann Heymann’s previous work, and follows her lead in an uncompromised adherence to the oldest strands of the traditions.
Apart from University study in physics and archaeology, the other big influences on Simon’s work have been his childhood musicking. Instead of the usual music school and conservatory route, however, Simon learned the rather unusual arts of trumpet playing and bell ringing. These provide insights that lead his work in very different directions to the musical mainstream. With subtle drones, and complex musical architecture, his music lives mainly in a world of oral tradition and memorisation rather than written scores, and of solo unaccompanied presentation rather than ensemble performance. Simon is especially interested in the relationship between vocal and instrumental music, and particularly in the solo unaccompanied singing traditions of Britain and Ireland.
Simon continues to perform on bells, and occasionally incorporates into his recitals other unusual ancient instruments from his collection, particularly bowed lyre and fiddle, but the old Gaelic harp remains his main discipline. In 2007, he commissioned a replica of the medieval Queen Mary Harp held in the National Museum of Scotland from sculptor, Davy Patton. This beautifully decorated instrument with its precious metal strings forms the inspiration for Simon’s investigation of the Gaelic harp traditions. All of Simon’s CDs have been recorded using this harp.
As well as performing concerts and recitals, Simon gives talks and presentations to interested audiences, from addressing local history societies to presenting academic lectures to university undergraduates. He documents his researches on his information website, earlygaelicharp.info, and he has also published a pair of tutor books outlining the historical tradition, a book on advanced playing techniques, and an often-cited article in the scholarly journal Early Music.
Simon has been a key figure in the Historical Harp Society of Ireland since its inception, and he is Assistant Director of its annual summer school, Scoil na gCláirseach. He is also Vice Captain of the St Salvators Society in St Andrews, and Secretary of the Friends of Wighton in Dundee.
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 CDs & books, music downloads and more information.