Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

Can anyone give me some advice about what the adjudicators would classify as ‘slow airs’ for harp please? I have met people with different opinions about this. For e.g., one person told me that for instance, Si Bheag Si Mhor is too ‘rhythmic’ for a slow air.

Any suggestions and links to sheet music or recordings would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

Well, since no one else has chimed in, I will give it a try. I have never been to a fleadh, so I don’t know what judges like, but I can talk a bit about slow airs. In general usage, the word slow means leisurely, and air means tune, but when you put those words together in the world of Irish music, they don’t just mean a tune taken at a leisurely pace.
Slow airs are an instrumental version of sean nos, or old style singing, and generally draw on the tradition of laments. And that tradition avoids a strict meter. Instead, the pace of the song ebbs and flows in service of the lyrics and the story. The most notable liberty with the meter is a slowing of the pace at the end of phrases.
Thus, your friend is giving you good advice about avoiding Shi Beag Shi Mohr. Like many O’Carolan tunes, Shi Beag Shi Mohr is generally played with a strict meter, and would not be considered a slow air. You could play it in the style of an air, but I would think you would be better served by finding a tune that comes out of the slow air tradition.
And I would recommend finding examples of that tune being sung in sean nos style. Your pacing and emphasis should emulate the singer, whose singing is very much dictated by the lyrics. Often, instrumentalists garnish a slow air based on the shape of the melody, and it ends up not quite feeling the way it should.
My own favorite air is called Ned of the Hill, or Eamonn An Chnoic.
I am not real good at finding things on youtube, but I did come across these examples which might be helpful:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAe4XkuOMvk

The first harp version, while this version is quite lovely, is not done in slow air style—instead she turns it into more of a harp tune with a regular meter. I guess my point is, you can pick a slow air, but not play it in a slow air manner.
I would think this second one, while not strictly in the sean nos style, would be a better example of what you want to do, note how the harpist follows the ebb and flow of the singer’s rhythm:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eVMVhUSkGE

And finally, because I am darned if I can find a good example of someone singing Ned of the Hill in sean nos style, here are some other examples from sean nos singers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8paj2hQHIo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tCgQ0-k9Sg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVFgx2RtsFo&list=PL080E9F664C9444AB

I hope this helps, and hope that some folks who know more than I about this topic also pitch in with more advice.

Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

the coolin,the song of the books sometimes known as valencia, cape clear, the slow air the blackbird. here is ned of the hill sung as an air,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvfOF8VFMvE the problem with this sung in english is that it is a translation so it gets disqualified, however as an air it should be ok

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Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

I love to hear Carolan pieces played on harp or guitar even. He most likely composed on the harp and to my ear, at any rate, that’s where they sit best. Maybe Carolan tunes are better classified as suantraí (roughly, music of repose) rather than ‘slow airs’, renditions of songs. But it maybe a technical point that you need to address to a local CCE branch or HQ in Dublin. http://comhaltas.ie/ they run the competitions..

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Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

Cool

Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

Yeah, I agree with hussar, definitely check with the judging folks to see what they are looking for. When you are competing, it doesn’t matter what other people think terms mean, it matters what standards the judges use.

Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

If you plan on playing a song air, please learn it from the singing of a traditional singer, rather than from sheet music or a classical or popular singer. For example, the basic air for this song, Caoineadh na dTri Mhuire (Lament of the Three Marys), is quite simple, and easy to learn by ear. What you bring to the performance is what makes it special — ornamentation, pacing, emotional content, phrasing, harmony. This performance is not as traditional as some, because it includes nstruments, including a harp. Nothing elaborate, quite spare, really, and very effective. If you’re not used to doing your own arrangements, this would be a good one to start with, as the chords the harpist uses are tasteful and intuitive.
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mY7edACmuuA&feature=related


A more traditional performance: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zrSL3YtzP_w


Are you looking for an air for the regular harp competition or the harp-slow airs competition? Or both?

Re: Harp Slow Airs - Fleadh

Try "The Women of Ireland", Carolan’s "Lord Galway’s Lamentation", "Bonnie Portmore", "My Lagan Love". I don’t play for competition, but I do love these tunes (and others) that are not so much slow (though they are) but can be played with as little meter as possible.