Wire Branch News

The Wire Branch continues to offer its monthly workshops, but with all the participants now joining online via Zoom. Actually, we had been using Zoom for over a year now for members outside Edinburgh, and it’s funny how it has become such a prominent platform for video conferencing across the world during our time of lockdown. Unfortunately, Zoom let us down rather badly during our most recent workshop, on Sunday 17th May. None of the buttons seemed to work for anyone in the group, and we had to abandon things after trying for about an hour to properly start the meeting. An online search revealed that Zoom had gone down in the early hours of Sunday morning. I hope their engineers are able to repair the fault soon, to allow us to continue making our conference calls.

We are approaching the tail-end of our online course on playing medieval Welsh harp music from the manuscript of Robert ap Huw. We have been learning two pieces from the original harp tablature during six 90-minute sessions. The group has done very well, and after completing the first tune, Kaniad Llywelyn ab Ieuan ap y Gof, we are right on schedule to finish the second one as well, Kaniad y Wefl. All that remains is to find a venue to give the student concert!

Unfortunately, due to the lockdown restrictions, it appears that we will not be able to hold our summer workshop on the Isle of Bute. We had hoped to meet there for a three-day workshop in early August, playing a variety of medieval tunes. At the moment we are planning to offer that as an online workshop.

We have several projects planned for the future, including holding a competition for a new wire-strung composition.

Please write to wirebranch@gmail.com for more information regarding any activities of the Wire Branch.


Far from cancelling all its activities, the Wire Branch continues to offer a full programme during the spring and summer.

Several years ago we began to invite branch members to join our monthly Edinburgh workshops online. This allowed members outside Edinburgh to participate in Bill Taylor’s instruction, and we attracted regular interest from those in Japan, England and the USA.

Over the months, it was interesting to see that the online students began to outnumber the players actually in our Edinburgh sitting room. We started by using Skype, but it was difficult to hold meetings with groups, and the transmission was not always reliable. With advice from one of our branch members, we began to use Zoom, a platform for video conferencing which is now frequently in the news as a means of social and professional contact. There is an annual charge, which gives us the ability to hold sessions of any length, to accept up to 99(!) participants per session, and to both record the sessions and to store them in the cloud. Participants all appear in boxes on the screen, and everyone agrees to be ‘muted’. If anyone has a question, they simply raise their hand; they ask the question, which everyone hears; then Bill answers the question and the session moves forward.

The Wire Branch had planned five workshops playing historical and traditional music with Bill, originally to be held in Edinburgh between January and June. These were planned for Sunday afternoons from 2-5pm, to have taken place at our new venue on Haddington Place. However, with the coronavirus making it impossible to either travel or congregate, the workshops will be offered entirely online. The workshops welcome all players of wire-strung and gut-strung harps interested in learning about playing with damping techniques. Players at all levels and with all sizes of harps are most welcome.

We also started our first online course in January, giving six monthly lessons playing medieval Welsh harp music from the manuscript of Robert ap Huw. Bill is leading lessons in playing two pieces from the original tablature — Kaniad Llywelyn ab Ieuan ap y Gof and Kaniad y Wefl. The course involves six 90-minute sessions, which are broadcast on Saturday mornings between January and June using Zoom. The sessions are all recorded, allowing students the chance to catch up if they miss a session.

Following the success of our 2019 summer harp retreat on the Isle of Bute, the Wire Branch hopes once again to sponsor a summer harp workshop, to be held from 6th-8th August 2020. We are monitoring the situation and we may need to adjust this event if necessary, by shifting it to an online workshop. Last summer, Wire Branch member Marianne McGhee kindly invited us to hold a workshop in her recently renovated island home, where we spent three charming days examining music from the Robert ap Huw manuscript. This summer we plan to look at a variety of medieval sources, including the Cantigas de Santa Maria from Spain, Troubadour and Trovère songs, English songs, French dance tunes, and of course a smattering of more medieval Welsh harp music.

Please write to wirebranch@gmail.com for more information regarding any activities of the Wire Branch.