Cynthia Cathcart recaptures the original sound of the music of Scotland and Ireland in this collection of melodies played on the wire strung harp. The uniquely bell-like resonance of brass, silver and gold strings carries the listener to a time when legends lived and magic was a part of every day.
Cynthia began her harp career quite by accident, when she inherited a wire strung harp from her stepfather. Kenneth was a performer on the Great Highland Bagpipes, but a heart condition took away the necessary stamina for that instrument. Cynthia‘s mother bought a harp for him at a craft fair, a harp strung with metal strings, on which he played his beloved Scottish tunes. Sadly, he passed away a few years later. The family decided that Cynthia should inherit his harp since she was the musician in the family. The harp arrived at her door in the back of her brother‘s pick–up truck!
After dusting off sad years of neglect that had gathered on the harp, Cynthia began to teach herself how to play. Or, more to the truth, the harp began to teach her with that mystical voice an instrument employs when it finds a musician destined to play it. The fit was natural, as were Cynthia‘s abilities to research and discover the history and music of the wire strung harp.
A concert reviewer once wrote, “When Cynthia began her portion of the program I had the impression of fine china. Very satisfying sound! I really liked the way her pieces flowed from one to the other, and the stories she told, partly in words, partly with her instruments.”
Reviews of the CD; real words by real people...
I'm used to "lovely", yet over-produced harp recordings that are lush, but not necessarily much more than that. Alchemy has a very mysterious, haunting, sometimes dark, often sparsely-produced quality to it that actually allows the harp to stand out. And so much of it is playful and self-affirming as well (self-affirming in that the music sort of lifts you up). As I was listening, it seemed more and more like I was listening to the wire harp as It was probably played long ago, not a commercialized pretty picture, but a whole feeling that I was hearing music for a moment through a window of time.
Your new CD is absolutely beautiful. It shines like a multi-faceted diamond with many different hues, always sparkling, always fascinating. It knocked my socks off! And my 14-year-old highland snare drummer son, who has no taste whatsoever absolutely loved it! The highest compliment you could get! GREAT JOB!!!! I really loved your Brian Boru's March - took that old chestnut to new heights!!
I just finished listening to your new CD and I loved what you did with Brian Boru! The rest of it is great too, but I wanted to tell you about Brian Boru. Great job!
Folks, this CD is no little collection of jigs and reels. There are a fair number of tunes that are purely wire-strung harp, but also some selections with an interesting use of percussion and other instruments. It's good to know that the arrangements are in "From My Music Stand." So, when is the next one coming out? You can't stop with just one. Oooh. Brian Boru is up. Good one, Cynthia.
Thank you for your remarkable CD (and for signing it!). I've been listening to several Celtic harp CD's, but I was not prepared for your sound. It's a bigger and richer sound. I don't know why that is - the strings themselves, the studio you used or just the way you play - but it is a wonderful sound.
I also noticed what I think is a difference in the way you play separate voices. Some of the Celtic harp CDs I liked had a second instrument playing a second voice - another harp or a wire-strung guitar, but you are playing the second voice yourself. That lower voice beautifully defines the range of the music (does this sound like a cellist talking?) and somehow makes the whole sound richer and more powerful - no music-box tinkling sound here....
Your Brian Boru stopped me in my tracks. I recognized the sound of the didjuridu, but certainly hadn't expected it. As I listened, I read through your liner notes, cried, and played the whole piece again. Remarkable.
Comments from people who have commented on Cynthia's MySpace page:
Darling Cynthia, the mist covered mountains...so beautiful..your playing is exquisite..it honestly had my eyes welling up.
It reminds me of the music one would read about in Irish folklore..or about Turlough O'Carolan's visions of fairy land. it's hard to hear harp music that doesn't over-sweeten the prettiness of such a fancy..but your playing is of the earth as much as it is heavenly.
beautiful sound!!! I really like it!
Cynthia Cathcart is one of the world's experts on the Clarsach. Performing and teaching for various audiences, she is a leader in the new wave of interest in the wire-strung harp. She represents Ardival harps of Strathpeffer, Scotland and is their North American Artist in Residence. Professional harper, two time U.S. National Scottish Harp Master Champion, 2002 Oberlin Ohio master Harp Champion, 1998 North American Senior Amateur Scottish Harp Champion, three time winner of the Clan Lamont Trophy and holder of the Jan Pennington-Grey Award, Cynthia Cathcart is a leading authority on the ancient Wire Strung Harp, or Clarsach, of Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music in Piano Performance from Hood College.