Creetown Bound Harp Player Has D&G Tune Published

A harp player who has had a tune she wrote with a Dumfries and Galloway connection published in a prestigious new collection of music plays at Quarrymen’s Arts Centre in Creetown next Friday, 21st April.

Edinburgh-based Karen Marshalsay wrote J.S. Kennedy from Stranraer, a dedication to her nephew John, especially for The Dynamic Scottish Harper’s Companion. The book is aimed at adventurous harp players and was launched at Edinburgh International Harp Festival last weekend.

“It’s great to have your tunes included in collections like these,” says Karen. “The whole point about writing new music in the traditional style is to have it played, whether it be in informal sessions or by other musicians in their concert repertoires. And The Dynamic Scottish Harper’s Companion, being quite high profile, certainly gives your music exposure.”

Karen has had her music played in a variety of settings from folk groups to orchestral performances.

As well as playing the sort of solo concert that brings her to Quarrymen’s, Karen has recently joined the long-established folk group The Whistlebinkies, who were the first ensemble to combine the Celtic harp, fiddle and pipes in regular performances.

She has also worked with Irish music legend Cathal McConnell, of Boys of the Lough, and Gaelic song and piping authority Allan MacDonald, of the Glenuig piping family. In 2019 Karen was invited to arrange and perform her own compositions with the award-winning Russian String Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival.

“Playing with the orchestra was an incredible experience because they were all brilliant musicians,” she says. “The way they worked together so closely was like an expanded string quartet and they enveloped you in this beautifully warm sound. Unfortunately, their leader, Misha Rachlevsky has been ill and with the current international situation not helping Russian musical exports, it’s unlikely they’ll be back here in the foreseeable future. Hearing them playing my music was special, though.”

Karen’s concert at Quarrymen’s will feature J.S. Kennedy from Stranraer alongside music from The Road to Kennacraig, the album she released just before Covid struck.

“I’ll be playing all three harps from the Scottish tradition in the concert,” she says. “There’s the modern, gut-strung clarsach that people who listen to traditional music will be familiar with. I also play the wire-strung harp from the Gaelic tradition and the dark horse of the harp family, the bray harp. This looks like a normal harp, except it’s a bit slimmer, but it has a very distinctive sound that often takes people by surprise.”

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