These are some of the instruments used for the performances on our Tapestry series.


Celtic Harp

Celtic Harp

Julia Lane plays the Celtic harp, also known as the folk harp or lever harp. This type of harp, with a triangular frame, probably originated in southeastern Scotland about 1400 years ago. There are carvings of harps on some of the Pictish stones.

The harp was the instrument of kings and chiefs for many centuries. The harper, along with the bard, was responsible for passing on the songs, stories, genealogies, laws, legends, and myths in the pre-literate societies of northern Europe. The harp went into decline due in part to political upheaval that started in the 16th century and later because of the increasing use of chromaticism in the music of the aristocracy. The folk harp had a brief period of renewed interest with the "Celtic Twilight" movement of the late 19th century. The current popularity of the harp in the United States began about 1970 with the first publication of the Folk Harp Journal by Robbie Robinson. Until 1990 or thereabouts the FHJ was published primarily for builders and the knowledge was freely shared amongst the luthiers. Consequently the quality of instruments available in the United States is very high. There are a few companies which employ some dozens of workers and any number of individual luthiers doing very fine work.

Julia's harp is a custom 5-octave instrument built by Fred Gosbee in 1998. The inlay on the pillar is an obvious custom feature. Less noticable is the oversize sound box. This harp holds about 40% more air than most other harps in its range, which contributes to the resonance.

Julia plays with her fingernails, which is an older technique than is usually practiced today. This gives each note a distinct attack and leads to a wonderful clarity of the musical line.

The harp is is featured on several solo tracks on each Tapestry CD. Annie Laurie, Miss Hamilton, My Lagan Love, Bridget Cruise - Air #3 (Tapestry I), Smiling Spring, The Harmony of May, The Lea Rigs/Corn Rigs, The Last Rose of Summer, Migration (Tapestry II), Dumfries House, Roslin Castle (Tapestry III), Ruari Dall's Jig/Sherrifmuir, Daft Robin, King of the Faeries, Maurice O'Conner (Tapestry IV), Ye Banks and Braes, The Bens of Jura (Tapestry V), The Water Kelpie/The Mermaid, Adrift, Three Sea Captains (Tapestry VI)

The harp is also used throughout the series as the primary accompaniment instrument.

 

12-string Guitar

12-string guitar
Fred Gosbee began playing the 12-string guitar in 1973. It is strung with six double courses giving it a fuller sound than a normal six-string guitar - it also takes a bit more effort to play. The first two courses are in tuned as unisons and the remaining courses tuned as octaves. Most 12-strings are tuned below standard pitch because of the tension of all those strings. Fred keeps his guitar tuned down two semitones, usually with the lowest course in "dropped D" (actually "C").

Fred's current 12-string is a custom instrument built for him by Nikos Apollonio, from Rockport, Maine. The neck is a bit wider than the standard 12-string. This is to accommodate the finger-picking style Fred often uses. This guitar has a big, warm bass and clear treble. It also sports a double compensating bridge which allows accurate intonation all the way up the fingerboard.

This guitar can be heard on The Castle of the Faerie Queen (Tapestry III), The Dark Island (Tapestry VI), Lord Lovat's (Tapestry IV), and The Arenal Suite (Tapestry V).

There is some classical guitar on Shenandoa/The Water is Wide, Sullivan's Fancy (Tapestry VI), An Italian Boquet (Tapestry II), and Sweet Phyllis/Phyllis on the New Mown Hay (Tapestry I)

 

Violin/Fiddle

violin
People often ask the difference between a violin and a fiddle. There may be a few very subtle differences in the set up, but basically it's the same instrument - just played differently.

European art music is heavily influenced by the Italian technique - lots of wide vibrato and varying bow pressure to accent notes. Scottish fiddle music has, until recently, been heavily influenced by the Italian school as well.

Irish fiddle music is more influenced by the baroque school - less vibrato, the use of open strings and varying bow speed, rather than pressure, for accents. There are also many ornaments in fiddle playing that differ significantly from art music, as well as a subtle "swing" that can only be approximated in notation.

There is more "violin" than "fiddle" in the series. Tracks which feature the violin are Mrs. Maule of Panmure, Neil Gow's Lament on the Death of His Second Wife (Tapestry I), Gloomy Winter's Now Awa'(Tapestry II), Coilsfield House, Whithorn, Castle Kelly/Drummond Castle (Tapestry III), When the King Came Over the Boyne Water/Lord Lovat's/The Iron Man/Angus Campbell (Tapestry IV), Katahdan, Salisbury Craigs, Si Beag, Si Mhor, Ben Lommand/The Banks of Inverness (Tapestry V).

 

Viola

viola
While the viola is seldom heard in traditional music, we really like the warm alto sound. It also makes a good accompaniment for Julia's soprano voice. Prior to popularity of the string quartette and orchestra, the viola was actually more popular than the violin and was used to accompany vocalists.

Fred's viola is an unattributed "Euro" made in 2000. It has a 17-inch body, making it on the large side (violins are 14-inch). The size of violas varies more than any other instrument in the violin family.

Tracks where the viola is featured include My Love Across the Water (Tapestry VI), Lament for the Reverand Archie Beaton (Tapestry IV), Cumbernauld House (Tapestry III), Grandmother's Waltz (Tapestry I)

 

Pennywhistles

whistles

The whistle is among the most ancient of instruments. A fragment of a bone whistle found recently in Germany has been carbon dated to 20,000 years old.

The pennywhistle, also known as the "tin whistle" became popular when the Clark Company made whistles out of tin which, in 1840, cost one British penny. Both names have become inaccurate. While the Clark company still makes the original tin whistle, most makers are working in brass, wood, plastic - even sterling silver!

Fred has a whole box of whistles in a variety of keys. The whistles used on The Tapestry Series include a brass whistle in D, made by Burke, a Susato low A. Fred has built low whistles from PVC water pipe based on a Gordon Bok design in the keys of low F, low D and low C, all of which were used in the series.

Whistles can be heard on Morag Hendricksen (Tapestry I),The Butterfly, The Sprig of Shillelagh/The Acorn (Tapesrty II), Rivendell (Tapestry III), Two Laments for Owen Roe (Tapestry IV), Craigie Dhu, The Heather Glen, The Heathy Little Hill (Tapestry V), Mackerel Jig,/Out on the Ocean, Muscongus Hornpipe (Tapestry VI)

 

Irish Flute

flute
The Irish flute is a relative newcomer to traditional Irish music. After Theobald Boehm invented the modern orchestra flute in 1847 orchestra players rapidly abandoned their old simple system flutes. These old instruments were available at a good price to the Irish musicians who adapted the instrument to their own music. Many of these flutes had their keys stripped off and the extra holes plugged, resulting in an instrument that fingures like a pennywhistle but is capable of a greater range of dynamics and expression.

In its simplest form the Irish flute is a tube with seven holes. Six of the holes are for the fingers and the seventh is the tone or blow hole. Like the pennywhistle, an unkeyed flute has limited access to notes outside its home key. A flute in D (the most common key) can also be played in the keys of G and A, since the cross-fingering for C-natural and G-sharp are relatively easy. On a good unkeyed flute you can also get B-flat but to get F-natural requires "half-holing" the note. This is OK for slow airs but is impractical for fast tunes. One note that is impossible on a D flute is E-flat.

Simple system flute can be obtained with keys. The most common set-ups are one-key, four-key and six-key. By the time you have six keys, it isn't so simple!

Fred's flute is a keyless flute in D made by Casey Burns in Kingston, Washington It is made from a beautiful African wood called "mopane" [mo-PAN-a]. The flute has exquisite tone over the full two octave range.

The Irish flute is featured on The Heather Breeze (Tapestry II), Bronwen's Dream, Bridget Cruise Air #4 (Tapestry I).

There are also some tracks that utilize the orchestra flute. Southwind (Tapestry II), Carolan's Cottage, Tigh Morag/The Peerie Hoose Ahint the Burn (Tapestry III), The Minstrel Boy (Tapestry IV) are played on orchestra flutes by guest artists.

 

Studio and Seldom Seen Instruments

Miscellaneous Instruments

studioinstruments
Some of the Tapestry recordings feature guest instrumentalists. Cello is heard on many tracks and is featured on Bach's Minuet for Anna Magdelana (Tapestry I), Country Gardens/Harvest Home (Tapestry II), The Minstrel Boy (Tapestry IV).

There are a couple of tracks on Tapestry VI that use English Concertina, There are some French horn solos on Tapestry IV, Tapestry III has one harpsichord track, and there are Scottish smallpipes on one Tapestry IV track. There is Didgeri du on Tapestry V.

Probably the biggest instrument we have used is the Atlantic Ocean. We didn't use all of it, of course, but we did record wave sounds which are used like percussion on Setting Sail from Iona (Tapestry VI) The smallest instrument was an Alaskan ocherina not more than three inches long which was used for the eagle whyistle on Craigie Dhu (Tapestry V)

 


2006-08-06 Castlebay, Inc.
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