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Early Gaelic Harp EGH3

Simon Chadwick is something of a heavyweight in the world of ancient Gaelic music and he specialises in the Clarsach. Originally an archaeologist, since the late nineties he has researched, taught and performed the early Gaelic repertoire. When I opened this CD, I expected to find performances of well researched and arranged pieces for the harp, but this collection of music credited to the early 18th century harpist Ranald MacDonald (Raghnall Mac Ailein Õig) is so much more than that.

Simon has investigated the bagpipe, fiddle and vocal settings of five of the major pieces by Ranald and reworked them to be played on his replica of the ‘Queen Mary Harp’, made by sculptor Davy Patton, the original of which now resides in the National Museum in Edinburgh. Though made in 2006/7 this instrument has a pure, bell-like tone that sounds older than the music Simon is playing. Simon’s playing is clear, light and precise and does the material full justice. The sleeve notes are informative without being stuffy and feature throughout the excellent artwork of Ealasaid Gilfillan.

This CD will delight fans of the harp and, in equal measure, those with an interest in things musicological. I took great enjoyment from listening to the five pieces while trying to imagine them in their original setting for pipes or fiddle. Not as simple as you might think. This is not easy music. It requires a measure of work on behalf of the listener but the effort will be well rewarded, as will a visit to Simon’s website at

Phil Thomas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.