Robert ap Huw Courses 2024

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.

The Wire Branch continues to offer online courses via Zoom with Bill Taylor in playing music from the Robert ap Huw manuscript. As in previous years, these will consist of six sessions on Saturdays. The courses will accommodate two playing levels, welcoming both players who are new to the manuscript, as well as intermediate players, who have had some previous experience learning and playing from the tablature. The six dates will be 13th January, 3rd February, 24th February, 23rd March, 13th April, and 4th May. 

Elementary Players Course: 13.00-14.30 UK time

New players will start from the beginning, with a firm introduction to the history of the manuscript, as well as a comprehensive overview of reading the tablature and playing the figuration. We’ll start with Kaniad y Gwyn Bibydd/The Song of the White Piper (pp. 36-37), which is an excellent introduction to the larger pieces. We’ll contrast that with two of the shorter pieces, Y Ddigan y Droell/Harmony of the Spindle-whorl (pp. 56- 57) and Kaingk Daydd Broffwyd/Cainc of David the Prophet (p. 57). Ideally, a harp with a range from C-g (19 strings) would be best; but adjustments can be made to use smaller harps. 

Intermediate Players Course: 10.30am-12 noon UK time

Intermediate-level players will have had some prior tuition in the tablature, will understand how to read the letters of the strings, and will know how to identify the different figures, according to the particular icons. It is assumed that intermediate players will not need an introduction to the tablature, although questions are certainly welcome. This course will look at the profiadiau or ‘proovings’ – pieces which are generally shorter than the others in the collection, and freer in their creativity. There are eight in total, found between pages 56-65, and we'll start with Profiad Kyffredin on page 56. We will look to play as many as we can during the six sessions. All of the pieces share elements of a common refrain, and all conclude with a final ‘pwngk’, which is said to come at the end of each profiad. Ideally, a harp with a range from C-e (24 strings) would be best; but adjustments can be made to use smaller harps. 

All of the sessions will be recorded as videos, which can be viewed or downloaded until 4th June 2024. If you are unable to join us for a live session you can always catch up via the videos. Students will receive study audio recordings throughout the course to support the material examined during each session. Students are invited, and encouraged, to send recordings to evaluate progress. 

Each course will be available to Wire Branch members at £100; non-members pay £120. Payment can be made via Paypal, bank transfer or cheque. Non-members may wish to join the Wire Branch via the Clarsach Society to obtain the member discount. 

You can download a free copy of the manuscript from lulu.com. Please also download and print a free copy of Bill’s booklet Sources for Fingernail Technique from Wales & Ireland

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


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