from Folk Harp Journal #133 (Winter 2007), p. 17 & p.72
If you are not familiar with wire harp (cláirseach), you couldn't ask for a better introduction than this new album by Ann Heymann-and if you are, the music and the techniques used by Heymann, many of them rediscovered or even reinvented by her, will blow you away.
A word of advice: Turn the lights low (better yet, off), light some candles, and sit before a blazing hearth to listen to this CD. You'll never have a better opportunity to conjure up the feel of an ancient great hall, where you sit in the presence of a magical harper playing for royalty. This was a time when life was lived at a slower pace, with each movement the more deliberate and precious because life itself was so short.
The selections are varied, representing "a millennium of musical traditions" that ended in the 18th century. Each is a delight, and they range from stately to lively, from hypnotic to poignant. The cover notes offer history, verse, and research in fascinating discussions that give a rich background for each piece.
The stately yet delicate dance in "Shock.a.torum & Masque"-played with viola da gamba, lute, and flute- conjures up images of brocaded guests, their gems flashing in the light of candles, as they dance the night away. "Kaniad San Silin" is an amazing piece, showcasing to perfection the wire harp's ring and showing expert use of ornamentation and harmony. Charlie Heymann's vocals in "Conchubar Mhac Coiréibhe," "Port Robart/Airrgeann Mór," and "Sith co nemh" are by turns moving, stirring, and haunting. "Cumha Ioarla Wigton" is a beautifully ornamented lament with a mesmerizing quality, and "Woe Betyde Thy Wearie Bodie" and "Port Bannangowne/Is eagal leam am bas/Jig" offer lighter, cheerier fare. And "Cumha a' Chléirich"-also called "The Bard's Lament"-showcases traditional techniques in a wonderful rendition.
The additions of lute, vielle, viola da gamba, and flute-as well as percussion and the less conventional addition of a brass candlestick (an accent in "Sith co nemh")-fill out these pieces with just the right touches to evoke the times of composition and the grand history of the wire harp. The scholarship in rediscovering technique, history, and the melodies themselves is impressive, yet never dull-rather bring the instrument and its music to life.
This album is an incredible and wonderful experience from beginning to end. This CD is available from www.harpofgold.net or by mail at Clairseach Productions, PO Box 637, Winthrop Minnesota 55396, or at Simon Chadwick's Early Gaelic Harp Emporium, Scotland, telephone number 1334 474263.