Cornwall Harp Centre

Soirbheas - CD

Music for Celtic and Aeolian (wind blown) harps

CD of the year 2006 'Natalie Wheen Show' Classic FM

"An inventive, intuitive player....there is a timeless, spiritual beauty embedded in each of the five themes" Musician Magazine

"Quite beautiful" BBC Radio Wales (Celtic Heartbeat)

"Absolutely Magnificent" John Shaw - BBC Radio Trent.

"Amazing, experimental and traditional at the same time!" Stefano Pogelli - Radio RAI - Italy.

listen to St Govans Bell sample here (260Kb)
listen to Aeolian & Celtic Harp sample here (230kb)

To buy cd online with card click here

Soirbheas, pronounced 'surravis' is a Gaelic word meaning 'Fairwind', 'gentleness' and 'prosperity'

The magical and mysterious sound of the Aeolian or wind blown harp has fascinated people for thousands of years. This CD is a rare blend of Celtic harp music and Aeolian sounds, recorded at various locations throughout Celtic Britain and Ireland, weaving together the sounds of the instruments as well as the spirit of place and time, along with traditional music, improvisations and the sounds of nature.

The CD contains the unique track 5 - 'Whispers' - a musical reflection on the diverse powers of the wind, with Aeolian harp sounds, the hypnotic beat of a wind turbine and a specially written piece for Celtic harp.

Sample of 'Whispers' here (210Kb)

When the wind blows through the strings of a harp, a unique and magical sound is produced. In times past it accounts for the harps status as a magical and mysterious musical instrument even with paranormal powers, Indeed, St Dunstan, once the Archbishop of Canterbury was accused of sorcery because his harp was said to be able to play by itself! In myths and legends there are various references to harps 'speaking' and producing music unaided by human hands. Nowadays Aeolian harps are specially made instruments, manufactured to hang up outside, stand on tripods or fit on window ledges, and many people have experimented with them with great results. Sarah Deere-Jones however, uses conventionally made Celtic harps, which have far more strings on them and therefore much greater versatility. Her knowledge and experience as a harpist and musician, enables her to tune the 'aeolian' harps to special modes and chords, which when given to the wind, produce even more spectacular sounds. It also means she can blend the 'aeolian' sounds with 'human' music within the same keys and pitches, creating perfect compatability.

Sarah and her husband Phil have been recording Aeolian harp sounds for 20 years from the southernmost parts of Brittany to the outer Hebrides in Scotland. There are many technical challenges involved and only in recent years has the technology to create CD quality field recordings of this type been made affordable and truly portable. The wind vibrates the strings and mysteriously picks out certain notes or harmonics, sometimes bringing them to spectacular climaxes with steady throbbing and humming of one particular note. At other times, the wind produces gentle wispy glissandos up and down the harp. No two aeolian recordings are ever the same, and different locations can produce vastly different effects. Sarah believes the 'spirit of place and time ' can be a reason for this, as well as more obvious explanations such as weather conditions! Different places have different atmospheres, in the same way that people describe a house as being 'welcoming' or 'friendly' many locations have their own atmosphere and Sarah believes its possible the aeolian harp may be absorbing this in some way. She has for example had experiences of aeolian harps producing violent 'banshee' like wailing, and discovering afterwards that the site where the recording was made had a violent or tragic history. Whatever the true reasons are, no-one can listen to the aeolian harp without being struck by the mysterious and other-worldy nature of the sound.

Phil is pictured here checking the levels of a recording made on the west coast of Scotland, due to modern day sound interferance, eight out of ten recordings are eventually rejected!

Sarah and Phil travelled to the Celtic areas of Britain to make their recordings of Aeolian harp music, because in most of these areas the harp has an extensive history and tradition, and also because they are simply beautiful and inspiring locations. To emphasise the concept of 'spirit of place' Sarah chose traditional music from the areas where the recordings were made to blend in with the aeolian sounds.

Track 1- St Govan's Bell (Wales) 13 mins

St Govan's head in Pembrokeshire Wales, is a spectacular location. St Govan is said to have created a hermitage here in the 6th century and the remains of the chapel and holy well are still there. Legend has it that the bell from the chapel was stolen by pirates and that angels brought it back to St Govan encased in stone. The Aeolian recording was made right at the bottom of the cliffs in June 2005 on a wonderfully calm day, indeed you can hear choughs and gulls on the cliffs behind during the Celtic harp improvisation called 'Sea Spell'. This goes into the sound of a chiming bell and Sarahs jig for harp 'St Govan's Bell'. This in turn leads to the sound of rolling waves and a beautiful traditional welsh song Ar Lan Y Mor, 'On the Sea Shore'

Track 2- Mists of the Skelligs (Ireland) 14 mins

Skellig Michael is a dramatic steep sided island off the west coast of Ireland and was an ancient monastic site. Aeolian sounds recorded on the nearby shore at Kilrelig with a brisk wind blowing directly from the Skelligs in September 2005 lead into the improvisation on wire-strung harp 'lost souls' which focuses on the sad history of the area with the remains of a famine village as well as a 2nd world war memorial dedicated to 11 lost American airmen.' The Hurlers' is an ancient irish harp tune and 'Bunavalla' a jig by Sarah, and they lead into the lovely 'Derreen Day' a traditional Irish Lullaby.

Track 3- Hebridean Dreams (Scotland) 14 mins

Recorded in September 2004 the Aeolian sounds introduce the traditional reel 'sound of sleat' which is the name of the channel of water overlooked from the village of Kylerhea on the south East corner of the Isle of Skye. The piece for harp and Scottish smallpipes 'Tigh a Rudha' is dedicated to a tiny croft on the edge of the promontory in the village and leads into 'the Sheilings' a reel for harp also by Sarah. Finally the track ends with the beautiful Uist cradle song which is entwined with a hebridean psalm tune called the 'Bays of Harris'..

Track 4- Kernow Summer Storm (Cornwall) 12 mins

Being at the far south west of the UK Cornwall is lashed by the storms coming from the Atlantic and even in the summer these can be dramatic! A rumble of thunder with aeolian sounds recorded in August 2005 introduces the majestic 'Padstow May Day song' on harp before the thundery rain leads into the traditional dance tune 'Porthlystry'. Finally Sarahs popular 'Cornish Lullaby' ends the track.

Track 5- Whispers (wind turbine and celtic harp) 7 mins

The hypnotic beat of a wind turbine combined wirth the wind generated aeolian harp sounds recorded in the same summer breeze in 2005 inspired the initial improvisation and the piece 'whispers' a musical reflection on the diverse power of the wind, for turbine and harp!

Sarah Deere-Jones - Celtic harp/wire-strung harp, and voice

Phil Williams - Uilleann and Scottish smallpipes, cittern and guitar.

Thanks must go to my husband Phil Williams, who has his own life to lead but nevertheless spent hours in patient recording in the wind and rain spanning 20 years, and yet more hours editing at the computer, not to mention his boundless enthusiasm, musical accompaniament, ideas and encouragement all the way! Tim Deere-Jones for location help in Wales, Merv Collins Bell-ringer, Margot and Alasdair MacInnes in Kylerhea for teaching us the 'Bays of Harris'. Robert Archer and Robert Falkenburg for their inspiring fascination and experiments with Aeolian harps, and my musical hero ALAN STIVELL, for years of wonderful music and unwitting guidance towards my own musical aspirations.

To Order Soirbheas CD online click here or contact us for details of ordering