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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Harps, Dulcimers & Hurdy Gurdies

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Harps, Dulcimers & Hurdy Gurdies
Saydisc CDSDL446

This is a fulsome what-it-says-on-the-tin-and-more 79-minute compilation from the treasure-trove of Saydisc releases, with representative tracks from no fewer than 11 different discs together showcasing the unrivalled breadth of music available on that label.

The three categories of instrument mentioned in the disc’s title are comprehensively represented, almost all in solo performance (just five tracks involve accompaniment by one other instrument), and different aspects of their playing and repertoire are explored. In terms of exclusion, the only point worth noting is that the word dulcimer here denotes the hammered (not the Appalachian) dulcimer. Tracks by Jim Couza and Eileen Monger are supplemented by tunes played on the Chinese yan-qin and Arabian q’anoon. Key hurdy gurdy exponent Nigel Eaton contributes three tracks, while the York Waits even treat us to a tune played on two hurdy gurdies (thus justifying use of the plural in the disc’s title!). Harp-wise, Robin Huw Bowen plays the Welsh triple harp, Bonnie Shaljean the pedal harp and Eileen Monger the Irish and Scottish varieties of clarsach. Even the humble Aeolian harp gets an ‘airing’ (pun intended!). Frances Kelly then takes up the final section of the CD, demonstrating the medieval, Gothic, double, triple, single action and double action types of harp in turn.

The music played ranges geographically far and wide too, from Great Britain and Ireland through to France, Italy and the Low Countries, and from North America through to China and the Middle East. Detailed descriptive and helpfully informative booklet notes complete a useful release that will provide some fascinating comparisons and go some way towards illuminating these slightly esoteric corners of music that straddle folk, early music and ethnic boundaries. It’s also a great-value advert-cum-appetiser for the exhaustive Saydisc catalogue.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 122 of The Living Tradition magazine.