Robert ap Huw Course

The Wire Branch is holding an online course starting in January 2022, led by Bill Taylor, looking at music in the Robert ap Huw manuscript. The course will consist of six lessons running from January-April 2022 lasting 90 minutes each, using Zoom.

The music in the Robert ap Huw manuscript contains the earliest harp music from anywhere in Europe. The pieces were composed in the Late Middle Ages, taught aurally for several hundred years, written down in the 16th century and copied by Robert ap Huw himself in the early 17th century. We will learn how to read the tablature, allowing us to interpret both the letters, giving the names of the strings on the harp, and also the signs indicating the figuration. These provide instructions for moving between the strings, using a rigorous damping technique to distinguish between more-important and less-important strings.

We will examine three contrasting pieces: Kaingk Ryffydd ab Adda ab Dafydd (p. 57), Kaniad Kydwgan (pp. 42-43) and Yr Osteg Fawr/Gosteg Ieuan ap y Gof (pp. 20-22).

Kaingk Ryffdd ab Adda is a very short piece, which will serve as an entry point for understanding the tablature. The title gives us the name of the composer, both a poet and a musician: Gruffudd ab Abba ap Dafydd (fl. c. 1340-70). Kaniad Kydwgan [Caniad Cadwgan] is a boisterous piece and is great fun to play. The composer Kydwgan flourished c. 1400-50. Y Gosteg Fawr is attributed to Ieuan ap y Gof, who wrote three pieces in the manuscript, this gosteg and two profiadau. On last year’s course we explored Gosteg yr Halen; this is the piece which follows on from that.

All three pieces are in the tuning known as Bragod gywair, with the strings tuned to the pitches G – A – Bb – C – D – Eb - F. The range of Kaingk Ryffydd ab Adda ab Dafydd requires 15 strings, from C-C. This could either be starting from C below Middle C, or from C below the bass staff. The choice is yours, whether you wish to play a large harp or a small harp. The range of Kaniad Kydwgan requires 18 strings, from C-F. Again, this could either be starting from C below Middle C, or from C below the bass staff. Yr Osteg Fawr requires 20 strings, from F-D. Modifications to the lower parts of each of these three pieces will allow students to use harps with 19 strings, starting from G below Middle C.

Both gut-strung and wire-strung harps are welcome, but be aware that wire-strung harps will need additional damping not indicated within the notation. Try to grow your fingernails to at least 2mm. The course is intended for players of mixed ability. For those who have had no introduction to the manuscript, and for those wishing to have a review of the basics of the tablature, Bill will hold a 60-min pre-course introductory session from 10.30-11.30 am on Friday 14th January 2022.

The course will run as a block of six 90-min. sessions, available to Wire Branch members at £100; the non-member price will be £120. This is can be paid either into the Wire Branch’s Paypal account or directly into the bank account. Non-members may wish to join the Clarsach Society to obtain the member discount. To join, please visit https://www.clarsachsociety.co.uk/join

The session times will be from 10.30am-12 noon UK time on these dates: [Pre-course introduction 14th January 2022, 10.30am-11.30am] 1) 15th January 2022 2) 5th February 2022 3) 26th February 2022 4) 19th March 2022 5) 2nd April 2022 6) 23rd April 2022

All six sessions will be recorded, which can be viewed or downloaded until 23rd May 2022. If you are unable to join us for a live session you can always catch up via the recording.

You can download a free copy of the manuscript from lulu.com. Please print pages 20-22, 42-43 and 57. If possible, please have the manuscript available to view, as we may refer to other pages during the sessions.

For those who have not yet done so, please also download and print a free copy of Bill’s booklet Sources for Fingernail Technique from Wales & Ireland

To reserve a place, or more information, please write to Bill Taylor wirebranch@gmail.com


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