Edinburgh Branch News

It’s probably the same in all Branches – it’s more of a challenge to report on what we’ve been up to when our regular rehearsals have been postponed. However, we’re pleased to share with you news about new music we’ve been receiving on a regular basis. Clearly Isobel Mieras, Rosemary McKerchar and Margaret Collin are determined to make sure we are gainfully employed during Lockdown and they have been producing new arrangements for us – and, of course, we don’t need to be reminded that when na Clarsairean resumes – who knows when? – we will be note proficient and able to impress all three when we perform these for them in due course! No sooner had Lockdown been announced than Isobel composed the “Social distance dance” and the following notes accompanied the music – “to be danced at least 2 metres apart or preferably in separate rooms by no more than 2 people”. Great fun! Many of you will already have received Isobel’s music for “Cherry trees at Merchiston” which was a poignant reminder of the not-to-be “real” Harp Festival but which was replaced by the Virtual EIHF which was an amazing experience and for which huge thanks are due to the EIHF Committee and, in particular, to Rachel Hair who choreographed the whole event with great professionalism and warmth.

Since then Rosemary has sent us arrangements of “Over the rainbow” and “Blow the wind southerly” – all beautiful music which is a joy to be learning and practising. In addition we’ve been delighted to have Anne Macdearmid’s arrangement of “The Streets of London” which Rosemary generously typeset for us, based on Anne’s original version.

The lovely arrangements of the Gaelic songs “Oran Chaluim Sgaire agus Caolas Sheilte” by Margaret are our most recent pieces and as we work on these – in isolation – we can visualise the stories behind them. Calum Sgaire of Bosta, Bernera, was sailing on a schooner ‘Express’ carrying fish to the Baltic. He was in love with Margaret MacLeod of Breaclete. They planned to marry but Margaret’s parents thought that Calum was unsuitable and married her off to another. Caolas Shlèite (The Sound of Sleat) is the body of water that runs between Skye and the mainland.
To help us on our way we have also been provided with mp3 recordings of the music and this has been so helpful. Many of these pieces we would have been performing at our Edinburgh Festival Fringe concert in August but, alas, this will not be going ahead as planned. However, no doubt we will include these at the first opportunity to do an informal concert somewhere, some time.
There is now a huge amount of all kinds of music being shared in online concerts, sessions and workshops and music teachers throughout the world are turning to online teaching. Here in Edinburgh most clarsach teachers are connecting to give one to one lessons, some teaching between 30 and 40 students a week. They report that it is more demanding and tiring than the “real” thing, that the sound quality can be variable, but it is very worthwhile at all levels. In some cases, to comply with child protection rules, local authorities do not allow direct one to one lessons and teachers send videos of the lesson and students in turn send back videos of their progress.

We all look forward to the day when we can safely meet again and hear the real, actual, beautiful sound of the harp!

Meantime, best wishes to you all from the Edinburgh Branch – keep harping on and stay clear of the virus.