Scottish Music Exam Harp Grades 1 to 5 book (Publisher: Taigh na Teud)

Scottish Music Exam Harp Grades 1 to 5 bookWhen we in Wales look at the flourishing traditional music scene in Scotland, we ask ourselves how we could possibly emulate the musical strength and confidence of our Celtic cousins. One of the answers is in education, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is to be applauded for its programme which promotes traditional Scottish performance skills and the best of traditional and contemporary repertoire. They have established a specialist performance-based series of assessments which aim to be true to the artistic integrity of Scotland’s musical heritage.

These five volumes are graded 1 – 5, although there is an intention to take these grades up to 8 eventually. Each volume follows a similar format, being divided into three sections – airs, dance tunes, and recent compositions. In each section there are between six and eleven different tunes to choose from. (There are similar volumes for fiddle and accordion).

All the tunes are arranged or composed by a stellar cast of Scotland’s top traditional harpists, including Rachel Hair, Corrina Hewat, Alison Kinnaird, Catriona McKay, Isobel Mieras, Ailie Robertson, Patsy Seddon, Savourna Stevenson and Wendy Stewart. In other words – harping heaven! Each arranger and composer brings their own individual slant on interpreting the tradition. Players will no doubt pick their favourites, but suffice it to say that there is a mouth-watering choice of music to choose from.

There is much discussion among lever harp players about what key to tune the instrument in. If you play traditional music, I don’t really see the point of tuning it in E flat, as not many fiddle players would relish playing a jig in that key. However in this book there is a good sprinkling of tunes in E flat, although I would say that the majority are suited to those who tune their instruments in C, therefore avoiding the necessity of using too many levers. But again, there is plenty of choice to suit all tastes.

Each piece has a helpful metronome mark. I am sure some players would also have liked some guidance as to fingering, although having said that, fingering is often down to personal preference. Likewise there are no dynamic marks. This is after all traditional music and it is up to each performer to give their own interpretation.

Although these books are designed to fit in with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s traditional music assessment programme, they are a treasure house of music which should delight many harp players.

Delyth Jenkins

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