PAUL DOOLEY - Music from the Robert Ap Huw Manuscript 1

Music from the Robert Ap Huw Manuscript 1

Remember Ann Heymann's album 'Queen of Harps'? That's the only thing I can think of which is similar to this recording. Paul Dooley has taken his Irish wire-strung small harp and applied it to ancient Welsh music of a type we almost never hear today. The results are amazing, entrancing, and uplifting. Prepare to have your eyes and ears opened.

Several people have suggested that the big Scottish piping pieces derived from harp music. The material here would support them: it's big, it's complex, and it requires serious attention from performer and audience alike. Paul has recorded three of the shorter pieces from this 17th-century manuscript, and three of the longer works, giving a feel for the range of music preserved in these seventy pages. At just over two minutes, 'Caniad y Gwyn Bibydd' is the shortest, and that's because it was a joke at the expense of some piper who couldn't match the harp for complexity or staying power. The twenty-one minutes of 'Caniad Llywelyn Delynior' may seem hard to take, until you realise that it was probably intended as a lullaby for Welsh aristocrats - anyone who was still awake after this was clearly going to see the dawn.

Like much early music, the harmonies and progressions on this recording are hypnotic and visceral, bypassing our conventions of musical form and going straight to the hindbrain. It's tempting to drift off, eyes open or closed, and float on the tide of notes which wash back and forth across the strings. There's a spiritual, mystical quality which is quite different from the cheap modern imitations in New Age music.

Definitely worth a listen, and a must for harp afficionados. Paul's website has lots of fascinating info, and you can pick up his exquisite first album 'Rip The Calico'.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 68 of The Living Tradition magazine.