I’ve always been interested in Scotland. Both of my father’s parents were born there, and the culture and food of Scotland was very much a part of my childhood. (Yes, I do actually like Haggis – although my family does not and Akroyd’s Bakery in the Detroit area is still a go-to for meat pies and bridies!)
In the mid-90s, I discovered the Clarsach (the traditional wire-string harp of Scotland) and have been exceedingly privileged to now own three of them (an Ardival Kilcoy, a Triplet high-headed Irish, and a Musicmaker’s kit harp) I was also extremely fortunate to study early harp music with some leading harpists around the world including Alison Kinnaird, Ann Heymann, Cynthia Cathcart, and Alison Attar (former teacher).
As an active participant in SCA reenactment during the 1990s, my passion for the clarsach was a good fit. As I immersed myself in the early clarsach music of Scotland, I found that pre-16th century extant clarsach music was not easily found. If it existed at all, its remnants could possibly be found in the lute manuscripts or piping or fiddling traditions. The reasons for this are many, including the Clarsach was taught by ear and many Scottish manuscripts disappeared or were destroyed during the protestant reformation.
Fast forward 25 years. I have been out of the reenacting world for about 12 years and no longer live in the Mid-realm. I miss it. I loved being able to ‘get my nerd on’ so to speak discussing early music with my “laurel” Mistress Amelie d’Anjou of the Midrealm, talking about a newly found tidbit of medieval research with some of my many friends, or learning new things, like sprang and naalbinding. While I’ve periodically toyed with the idea of getting involved in the SCA again, nothing ever really fell into place. Until recently.
My son is 8 years old now and the idea of knights and the middle ages thrills him. I have recently met some great people in the local SCA group that share many of the same interests as me. And, as a result I have stared re-exploring Renaissance Scotland. Ironically, with as much information is available on the internet, there is a noticeable gap in any series Scottish re-enactment research, for many of the same reasons as those I faced when doing Scottish music research. Which is why I started this blog.
Now, with a little research under my belt, a dress underway, the Clarsach in my hands, and ideas flowing through my head, I want to share my research, discoveries, and questions for anyone interested. And, get your comments and ideas back!