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Women harpists?

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  • Jeni
    Can anyone offer any form of evidence that it is plausible that a woman somewhere, sometime in period would play the harp? I know that we have a few harpists
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 30 4:58 AM
      Can anyone offer any form of evidence that it is plausible that a woman
      somewhere, sometime in period would play the harp? I know that we have a
      few harpists on here, so I'm hoping one of you has the answer to this.
      :)

      Now that I think about it, I'm seeing a lot of blind assertions lately
      about female musicianship in general. I don't suppose there's a website
      article out there somewhere that refutes the most common ones?

      Thanks,
      Enn.
    • rowen_g
      ... Hmm... there is a female harper on a 16th c painted ceiling in Crathes castle, in Scotland. I ve seen her myself. There are a lot of other women doing
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 30 9:12 AM
        --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, Jeni <paquerette@a...> wrote:
        > Can anyone offer any form of evidence that it is plausible that a woman
        > somewhere, sometime in period would play the harp? I know that we have a
        > few harpists on here, so I'm hoping one of you has the answer to this.
        > :)
        >


        Hmm... there is a female harper on a 16th c painted ceiling in Crathes
        castle, in Scotland. I've seen her myself. There are a lot of other
        women doing various things on that ceiling, too, so I can't swear
        she's not "allegorical."

        However, (thinking hard) I remember there being something about
        Scottish female harpers & poets in Alison Kinnaird's _Tree of Strings:
        a History of the Harp in Scotland_ and some other sources I was
        delving into recently as well... I'll check my notes at home over the
        weekend (or next week, this weekend being rather crowded.)

        Rowen
      • Heather Rose Jones
        ... From Giraldus Cambrensis The Itinerary Through Wales / The Description of Wales : Those who arrive [at a Welsh house] in the morning are entertained till
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 30 12:14 PM
          At 7:58 AM -0400 7/30/04, Jeni wrote:
          >Can anyone offer any form of evidence that it is plausible that a woman
          >somewhere, sometime in period would play the harp? I know that we have a
          >few harpists on here, so I'm hoping one of you has the answer to this.
          >:)

          From Giraldus Cambrensis "The Itinerary Through Wales / The
          Description of Wales":

          "Those who arrive [at a Welsh house] in the morning are entertained
          till evening with the conversation of young women, and the music of
          the harp for each house has its young women and harps allotted to
          this purpose."

          (I suppose that, technically, the passage does not specify that it is
          the young women playing the harps, but that's the clear implication.)

          Tangwystyl
          --
          ****
          Heather Rose Jones
          heather.jones@...
          ****
        • katherinejsanders
          ... Crathes ... other ... The castle is Crathes and it s a goody! I couldn t find a link to the image which could be allegorical as she is one of the Muses and
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 30 1:06 PM
            > Hmm... there is a female harper on a 16th c painted ceiling in
            Crathes
            > castle, in Scotland. I've seen her myself. There are a lot of
            other
            > women doing various things on that ceiling, too, so I can't swear
            > she's not "allegorical."

            The castle is Crathes and it's a goody!
            I couldn't find a link to the image which could be allegorical as
            she is one of the Muses and Virtues :-(

            This is a section from a page by harp guru Bill Taylor about this
            very painting (and a link to the page it's from)

            "Painted on a seventeenth-century ceiling in Crathes Castle,
            Aberdeenshire, are a number of musicians playing different
            Renaissance instruments: viol, lute, flute, harpsichord, etc.
            Amongst them we find a lady playing a `Flemish' harp, one variety of
            Renaissance bray harp. The narrow soundbox in the original painting
            would produce a rather quiet sound; the bray pins supply an
            additional sonority, which allows the harp's gentle buzzing to cut
            through the texture of instruments in an ensemble. Sadly, the
            Victorian restoration does not include the detailed profiles of the
            tiny L-shaped bray pins. The original painter (or the restorer) was
            not up to the same standards of quality as the 15th century Northern
            European painters – Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Memlinc
            and Jan Van Eyck – whose fine technique accurately depicts details
            of portraiture, clothing, furniture, landscape and instrument
            construction, down to the smallest bray pin."
            http://www.clarsach.net/Bill_Taylor/traditional.htm

            Here's a link to Ardival, who make the sweetest sounding harps
            including one based on the Crathes one (and where i got my wire-
            strung clarsach):-

            http://www.ardival.com/page2.htm

            HTH
            Katherine, who hopes that women harpers ARE period becuase if not,
            you're all just going to have to put up with my big bagpipes ALL THE
            TIME
          • Saerlaith ingen Ruadan
            Not sure how good of a source this is, but Peter Ellis writes in Celtic Women, pg. 116: One very successful lady, who achieved the pinnacle of her profession,
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 30 3:29 PM
              Not sure how good of a source this is, but Peter Ellis writes in Celtic
              Women, pg. 116: "One very successful lady, who achieved the pinnacle of her
              profession, was Ulluach. In the tenth century, she was actually elected to
              the highest office any poet, male or female, could achieve and became the
              chief bard of Ireland."

              I went through the bibliography, but he doesn't link them in any order to
              any chapter, just an alphabetical list of his sources.

              I did find a reference to Uallach here in the Irish Annals:
              http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100005B/text003.html

              "M932.4
              Uallach, daughter of Muimhneachan, chief poetess of Ireland, died."

              So I guess if you can show that bards were harpists, then you can say that
              women were indeed harpists, at least in 10th C. Ireland.



              --Saerlaith ingen Rudan

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: katherinejsanders
              To: Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Friday, July 30, 2004 1:06 PM
              Subject: [Authentic_SCA] Re: Women harpists?



              > Hmm... there is a female harper on a 16th c painted ceiling in
              Crathes
              > castle, in Scotland. I've seen her myself. There are a lot of
              other
              > women doing various things on that ceiling, too, so I can't swear
              > she's not "allegorical."

              The castle is Crathes and it's a goody!
              I couldn't find a link to the image which could be allegorical as
              she is one of the Muses and Virtues :-(

              This is a section from a page by harp guru Bill Taylor about this
              very painting (and a link to the page it's from)

              "Painted on a seventeenth-century ceiling in Crathes Castle,
              Aberdeenshire, are a number of musicians playing different
              Renaissance instruments: viol, lute, flute, harpsichord, etc.
              Amongst them we find a lady playing a `Flemish' harp, one variety of
              Renaissance bray harp. The narrow soundbox in the original painting
              would produce a rather quiet sound; the bray pins supply an
              additional sonority, which allows the harp's gentle buzzing to cut
              through the texture of instruments in an ensemble. Sadly, the
              Victorian restoration does not include the detailed profiles of the
              tiny L-shaped bray pins. The original painter (or the restorer) was
              not up to the same standards of quality as the 15th century Northern
              European painters - Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Memlinc
              and Jan Van Eyck - whose fine technique accurately depicts details
              of portraiture, clothing, furniture, landscape and instrument
              construction, down to the smallest bray pin."
              http://www.clarsach.net/Bill_Taylor/traditional.htm

              Here's a link to Ardival, who make the sweetest sounding harps
              including one based on the Crathes one (and where i got my wire-
              strung clarsach):-

              http://www.ardival.com/page2.htm

              HTH
              Katherine, who hopes that women harpers ARE period becuase if not,
              you're all just going to have to put up with my big bagpipes ALL THE
              TIME



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              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Hasoferet@aol.com
              In a message dated 7/30/2004 4:14:08 PM Pacific Standard Time, ... Vaguely recalling that types of musicians and poets were very finely distinguished in
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 30 10:45 PM
                In a message dated 7/30/2004 4:14:08 PM Pacific Standard Time,
                barknark@... writes:


                > "M932.4
                > Uallach, daughter of Muimhneachan, chief poetess of Ireland, died."
                >
                > So I guess if you can show that bards were harpists, then you can say that
                > women were indeed harpists, at least in 10th C. Ireland.

                Vaguely recalling that types of musicians and poets were very finely
                distinguished in medieval Ireland--there are a lot of technical terms for people like
                that in Irish--and the distinctions had heavy class and status issues. I have
                a hazy idea that some poets kept employees who played the harp for them, but
                don't pay attention to me...I haven't looked at any of this stuff in about a
                decade. Anyway, it sounds like a good start, but you'd need to track those pesky
                details down.

                Raquel

                _________________________________
                Kamatz katan le'olam!


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Wendy
                ... woman ... have a ... this. ... Sorry, I don t have any hard primary evidence handy for harps specifically, but I do have a fair amount of information on
                Message 7 of 8 , Aug 2, 2004
                  --- In Authentic_SCA@yahoogroups.com, Jeni <paquerette@a...> wrote:
                  > Can anyone offer any form of evidence that it is plausible that a
                  woman
                  > somewhere, sometime in period would play the harp? I know that we
                  have a
                  > few harpists on here, so I'm hoping one of you has the answer to
                  this.
                  > :)

                  Sorry, I don't have any hard primary evidence handy for harps
                  specifically, but I do have a fair amount of information on women
                  playing citoles, vielles, lutes, psalteries, and other string
                  instruments from roughly 1120 on: A lot of the available
                  documentation on the troubadours/trouveres implies that they often
                  made use of soft strings to accompany solo voices, and we do have
                  documentation for women performers in that tradition. I don't have
                  any illuminations handy depicting women playing harps in that time
                  period, but I don't think it's a horrifically unjustifiable leap from
                  the images of women playing other string instruments (these are often
                  marginalia or grotesques, so I guess you could argue, if you were
                  being particularly literal-minded, that they might not reflect actual
                  practice).

                  Where I would think you might have a problem justifying a woman
                  playing is with anything larger than a small lap harp -- I could
                  readily imagine the contemporary mindset having, um, issues with
                  women holding large, rigid instruments between their legs. ;)

                  If you Google around a little, you can find any number of manuscript
                  images of women playing vielles and psalteries. Here's one particular
                  link that has been posted here before, and includes a number of women
                  (non-angelic!) musicians:
                  http://www.geocities.com/karen_larsdatter/musicians.htm

                  -Sabine la jongleresse
                • Sharon L. Krossa
                  ... In general, Peter Berresford Ellis is just not a good source. Although Ellis seems to have the trappings of reliable scholarship -- he cites and quotes
                  Message 8 of 8 , Aug 2, 2004
                    At 3:29 PM -0700 7/30/04, Saerlaith ingen Ruadan wrote:
                    >Not sure how good of a source this is, but Peter Ellis writes in Celtic
                    >Women, pg. 116:

                    In general, Peter Berresford Ellis is just not a
                    good source. Although Ellis seems to have the
                    trappings of reliable scholarship -- he cites and
                    quotes primary evidence, he (sometimes) has
                    footnotes/endnotes, etc., -- when you really
                    examine his claims and conclusions they don't
                    stand up to scrutiny: his logic is laughable, he
                    conveniently ignores obvious evidence and facts
                    that don't support his desired conclusions, and
                    just generally he allows his biases and agendas
                    (which include a desire to sell lots of books to
                    an unsuspecting general public) rather than the
                    evidence and sound reason to determine his
                    conclusions. I wouldn't even trust that primary
                    sources say what Ellis claims they say without
                    first checking more reliable sources (preferably
                    the primary sources themselves).

                    If one uses him it all, it should be only for
                    leads to primary sources that might be useful,
                    but those primary sources should then be
                    consulted directly and anything Ellis said
                    essentially ignored. The example quoted is a good
                    example of why:

                    >"One very successful lady, who achieved the pinnacle of her
                    >profession, was Ulluach. In the tenth century, she was actually elected to
                    >the highest office any poet, male or female, could achieve and became the
                    >chief bard of Ireland."
                    >
                    >I went through the bibliography, but he doesn't link them in any order to
                    >any chapter, just an alphabetical list of his sources.
                    >
                    >I did find a reference to Uallach here in the Irish Annals:
                    >http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100005B/text003.html
                    >
                    >"M932.4
                    >Uallach, daughter of Muimhneachan, chief poetess of Ireland, died."

                    Note that the English translation of the Annals
                    of the Four Masters entry doesn't support Ellis's
                    claim. The translation of the annals entry says
                    only that she was "chief poetess of Ireland"; it
                    does not say that she was "chief bard", nor does
                    it indicate whether or not the "chief poetess"
                    was chief of any (male) poets. (That is, it does
                    not tell us whether the chief poetess was the top
                    poet male or female, or only the top female poet.)

                    Looking at the Gaelic text:

                    M932.4
                    Uallach, inghen Muimhnecháin, bainécces Ereann, d'écc.

                    The Gaelic word being translated "chief poetess"
                    is <bainecces> (accents omitted). Looking up the
                    word in the DIL (the OED of Early Gaelic), I
                    find, s.v. ben, <beneices> (accent on the 2nd
                    <e>) with the definition "poetess", _not_ "chief
                    poetess". So a more literal translation of the
                    Gaelic would be

                    "Uallach daughter of Muimhneachan, poetess of Ireland, died."

                    Likewise, in the Annals of Inisfallen at the CELT site I find:

                    I 934.2
                    Quies h-Uallaige ingene Muinecháin, banfile h-Erend.

                    The translation at CELT is:

                    AI934.2
                    Repose of Uallach daughter of Muinechan, poetess of Ireland.

                    Here the term used is <banfile>, which is also
                    glossed as "poetess" in the DIL (s.v. ben) -- no
                    "chief".

                    While it is possible that Ellis had some
                    additional source that actually supports the
                    details of his claim, until I found and checked
                    that source I would not accept his claim.

                    >So I guess if you can show that bards were harpists, then you can say that
                    >women were indeed harpists, at least in 10th C. Ireland.

                    The activities and roles of Gaelic poets/fili are
                    complex, not least because it changed over the
                    centuries. I don't know whether playing a harp
                    was standard for fili of any rank in the 10th
                    century -- I can only suggest researching fili
                    and especially banfili in that century to try to
                    find out (and caution to be careful not to assume
                    their activities then were the same as centuries
                    earlier or centuries later).


                    With regard to female harpers in other times and
                    cultures, I can be more helpful. In

                    Dickinson, William Croft, ed. _Early Records of the Burgh of
                    Aberdeen: 1317, 1398-1407_. Vol. 49, _Publications of The Scottish
                    History Society_. Edinburgh: The Scottish History Society, Third
                    Series, 1957.
                    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000CJX35/medievalscotla02

                    which is a transcription of the burgh records of Aberdeen (a major
                    Lowland burgh/town on the east coast of Scotland, well north of S.
                    Andrews, etc.), on page 87, in an entry from 1399, I find a woman
                    recorded as "Meg of Abernethy, harper". Unfortunately, I have no
                    further information on Meg. (Although Abernethy is a place near
                    Perth, another east coast Lowland town.)

                    But this does show that there were women harpers
                    in the Lowlands of Scotland in the late 14th
                    century. (Note that the above Meg does not appear
                    to have been a Gael -- she would have spoken
                    Scots, a language closely related to English.)
                    Details of what late 14th century Scottish
                    Lowland harpers did -- e.g., what kind of music
                    they played, what kind of harps they played, what
                    kind of lives they led (beyond what generalities
                    I know of late 14th century Scotland), I don't
                    know.

                    Euphrick
                    --
                    Sharon Krossa, skrossa-ml@...
                    Resources for Scottish history, names, clothing, language & more:
                    Medieval Scotland - http://www.MedievalScotland.org/
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