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My actual Seiriol clarsach, now on its way!

It is gently snowing outside, and I’m listening to quiet instrumental Christmas music.  Some of it has harp music, and I am thrilled, but a little intimidated.

Waiting at the International Parcel Hub in the UK is my clarsach, an ancient Scottish form of wire-strung harp.  It was lovingly built for me by hand using traditional methods (no power tools, glue or chemicals) by William MacDonald at MacDonald Harps on the Isle of Skye.  He does not make harps to order anymore, and  he had stopped building this model, but incredibly, he made an exception for me.  We’ve been in communication about it for over a year, and it should arrive sometime this week!

One of it’s distinctives is that the soundbox of the clarsach is hollowed from a single piece of wood.  I have to keep it in a cool room for the first three months as it continues to dry and ‘bind together’ – no glue used, remember.  You don’t want it drying too fast from heat, and warping.

William MacDonald makes his harps out of three kinds of wood, a mirror of the Trinity.  I like that.  He made mine out of two types of Willow, and Alder.  Both of these trees are water-lovers, like me, and with my Reverie harp, I always think of water as I play.

I will need to tune it twice a day for the first while until it matures and can ‘hold’ the tuning better on its own.  I experienced this with the Reverie harp too – it needs tuning far less now than a year ago. Tuning the clarsach is perilous though!  One must be gentle – all the strings can snap if handled improperly!  No pressure!

I am playing Reverie harp at a Christmas Eve service this year, and I hope to be able  to pick out at least something simple on the clarsach by then.  I’ve got a couple names picked out for her, but as with the children, I want to meet  her in the flesh before fully deciding.

I was blessed to meet a wire-strung harp player in September, and I’ll give her a call when the clarsach arrives.  I have an instructional DVD, but there’s nothing like live instruction.  With wire, you must play with your fingernails, not the pads of the finger, so that will be new to me.

Here is a link to the first youtube video I saw of William MacDonald’s daughter playing the Seiriol (Seiriol means ‘bright’) clarsach, the same make as mine.  She is older now and an accomplished musician – there are other videos of her playing, including some of her own compositions as well, and some of her playing with her sister who plays flute.  My youngest son plays flute well, so we may have to work on some of that.

I am SO EXCITED to begin the learning curve of this beautiful new instrument!


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