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O’Carolan on the double

My newest book, Double the O’Carolan Tunes (Book 2 of The Double Dozen Series) is coming soon!

While it’s in production, I thought it might be a good time to answer some questions about this new book of arrangements for double-strung harp.


So, what’s in the new book? Anything digital to go with it? 

  • This book, Double The O’Carolan Tunes, is a collection of 13 compositions by Ireland’s most famous harper and composer, Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), arranged for intermediate-level double-strung harp.
  • Performance advice and technique tips in each Performance Note help you sound like a polished pro.
  • Want a head start on learning the music? Online MIDI audio recordings can help you out, especially if you learn best by ear. (Download tracks soon at cynthiashelhart.com/resources.)

You can play music from this book if:

  • You’ve just finished the Make Mine a Double method book. You’re in the right place! The intermediate-level music in Double the O’Carolan Tunes is a great addition to your repertoire, just like the Chapter 5 arrangements in MMAD.
  • You’re an experienced double-strung harp player. This book is for you, too! These custom arrangements bring out the unique qualities of the double—and make it easier for you to sound even better.
  • Each arrangement has 2-3 pages of music, depending on the length of the tune. (Longer tunes, longer arrangements.)

Can I play these arrangements on MY double-strung harp?

  • Absolutely! These arrangements are written for medium-sized (26 x 2 strings) double harps, or you can change them to fit your smaller or larger instrument.
  • Wondering about keys and tuning? I recommend a full set of levers for this book. The key signatures range from 1 flat to 2 sharps.
  • 2 of the Double the O’Carolan Tunes arrangements use pre-set tunings to help avoid lever changes, and only 1 arrangement includes a lever change. However, if you’re missing a couple of levers for a pre-set tuning, no worries. Just manually re-tune those strings.
  • In each arrangement, you’ll see register shifts for both hands, notated with treble and bass clefs, so that notes are written where they sound (with fewer ledger lines).

Where do the tunes come from? Which ones are in the book?

  • These tunes were compiled from historical manuscripts and publications by Irish music scholar Donal O’Sullivan in his book Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper. This is THE book for O’Carolan tunes and information.
  • Most of O’Carolan’s music was written down and published after his lifetime, so O’Sullivan used categories and sequential numbers (instead of composition dates) to organize the tunes. You’ll see these corresponding O’Sullivan numbers on the arrangements. (O’Sullivan did NOT call these tune numbers “opus numbers.” In Western classical music, opus numbers are used to catalog a composer’s works by date.)
  • Here are the arrangements you’ll find in Double the O’Carolan Tunes:
    • George Brabazon (Second Air)
    • Sir Festus Burke
    • Carolan’s Concerto
    • Carolan’s Draught
    • Carolan’s Welcome
    • Planxty Drew
    • Hewlett
    • Colonel John Irwin
    • Charles O’Conor
    • Eleanor Plunkett
    • Fanny Power
    • Sheebeg and Sheemore
    • Captain Sudley

Double the O’Carolan Tunes is available in 2 versions: a PDF digital download, or a print book/PDF download combo package. If you’re a print book person, you’ll love how the coil binding opens flat on your music stand, and the PDF is perfect for tablets! (I love using mine on my 12.9” iPad Pro with the forScore app.)

You can pre-order your copy of either version today for the first shipment (available by November 2021) right here.

Cheers!
-Cindy

PS: If you’d like to preview an arrangement from Double the O’Carolan Tunes, I’ll send you a PDF copy of Carolan’s Welcome. It’s yours when you join my list. Thanks!

PPS: And if you’re wondering how I arrange these tunes for double-strung harp, guess what? I’ve got a new book in the works about this… stay tuned for articles, videos, and more!

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Performance Video: Eleanor Plunkett/Fanny Power/John O’Connor (Turlough O’Carolan, arr. Shelhart)

I’ve been playing this set of tunes by Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), named for three of his patrons, for a long time. Eleanor Plunkett was my very first O’Carolan tune, and it still holds a special place in my heart.

Recorded in April 2021 at St. John’s United Church, Chesterton IN, for the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival.

Learn more at http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/

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Year 30 starts today

Double-Strung Harp Day

Can you believe it? 29 years ago, on September 7, 1992, I picked up my first double-strung harp at the Fox River Valley Folk Festival in Geneva IL. (That’s why I always celebrate September 7 as Double-Strung Harp Day.)

So… not only have I performed, recorded, arranged, composed, & taught double-strung harp for 29 years… today also begins YEAR 30! I’ve got big plans in store, and I’ll start by telling you about a couple of new additions to Harp Central.

New harp: Hi, I’m Dunstan

On May 19, my awesome new Double Morgan Meghan harp arrived from Rees Harps. It’s a 27×2 double-strung harp, which means it has 27 strings in each string row (that’s 54 strings, for those of you keeping score at home). It’s technically a lap harp, but has a big, warm voice. (Videos coming soon!)

The harp body’s made of cherry wood, and the soundboard is poplar with a maple veneer. The most eye-catching part is the custom soundboard, handpainted and handgilded (yes, it’s real gold leaf!) by Rees Harps’ own Garen Rees. Garen and I came up with the design from photos of medieval churches, and this Westminster Abbey holiday ornament (inspired by the Abbey’s triforium windows).

Why Dunstan? May 19, the day my harp arrived, is also the feast day of St. Dunstan of Canterbury (924-988). Among other things, St. Dunstan helped found St. Peter’s Abbey—the beginning of Westminster Abbey—and HE PLAYED THE HARP.

For real. And I’d never heard of this guy before.

So it all adds up: Harp delivery date on the feast day of a harp-playing saint? The Westminster Abbey connections? You know I had to name that harp Dunstan. You’ll see and hear Dunstan in upcoming videos!

New book coming soon

Preview cover for Double the O’Carolan Tunes book

The next book in the Double Dozen arrangement series is… Double the O’Carolan Tunes!

Stay tuned for more information in my next post. And if you want to be the first to know about the new book, make sure to sign up for my mailing list.

Cheers!
-Cindy

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She’s leaving home

The first harpist who made a big impression on me, years before my first harp lesson? And maybe the first modern inspiration for the double-strung harp? This woman.

Harpist Sheila Bromberg, who played on “She’s Leaving Home” on The Beatles’ 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, has died at 92. Among her many achievements, she was the first female musician to appear on a Beatles record.

Recording engineers created the “doubling” effect for the iconic track’s introduction from Bromberg’s first take on the March 17, 1967 session. This video tells the great story of the Abbey Road recording session, and also features a talk show with Bromberg and Sir Ringo Starr—as they met for the first time.

Thanks, Sheila. Safe journeys.

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Success and sources

Thanks to everyone at the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music Festival for a great weekend! I enjoyed teaching two Zoom harp workshops (well done, harpers!) and the live chat during my prerecorded concert set.

As promised to my Fit for a Queen workshop, here are some of my favorite sources for English country dance tunes. Which sources – and which tunes – are *your* favorites? Let me know in the comments!

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It’s festival time!

Finally! Excited to return as the harp headliner at the 2021 Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music – yes, they have harp! This year’s virtual festival is free, with no registration needed.

My concert and both workshops are all on Sunday, June 13, 2021. The harp workshops are for *all* lever harps (key of G tuning); be sure to download handout PDFs before the workshops . I’ll feature the double-strung harp in my concert set.

My Sunday, June 13 GWDF concert and harp workshops (all times US Central):

  • 1:00 PM: Workshop: Flora & Fauna: Outdoor Tunes for Indoor Harpers.
  • 2:30 PM: Main Stage double-strung harp concert set (prerecorded).
  • 4:00 PM: Workshop: Fit for a Queen: English Country Dances for Lever Harp.

GWDF Festival Home Page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/2021
GWDF Facebook and Insta: @gebhardwoodsdulcimerfest

The Festival Home Page is the hub for all GWDF activities, including my concert set and workshop links. You’ll need Zoom technology to participate in the Main Stage, Workshops, and Community Tent.

Zoom Workshops: access via the GWDF Festival Home Page. The Zoom link for each workshop will appear ca. 10 minutes before the hour, and you can join the workshop until 10 minutes after the hour. You’ll also need a camera and microphone on your device for workshops.Download harp workshop PDF handouts, and the workshop schedule, on the GWDF workshops page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/workshops-2021

GWDF performance schedule page: http://www.gebharddulcimer.org/concert-schedule-2021

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Welcome to Double Talk!

Welcome to Double Talk, my new blog on double-strung harp! I can’t wait to share more about double harp – its repertoire, techniques, history, and more, with video, audio, and articles.

Today is a great day to launch the blog, because March 1 is St. David’s Day, the national day of Wales – and the Welsh triple harp is the direct ancestor of the modern double-strung harp. This Google Doodle from 2017 shows a Welsh triple harpist in traditional dress, in a field of daffodils:

And to celebrate today’s launch, here’s a video of my arrangement & performance of a traditional Welsh air, The Queen’s Dream (Breuddwyd Y Frenhines):

Cindy (Cynthia) Shelhart plays The Queen’s Dream on a Dusty Strings FH26 double-strung harp.

If you’d like to play this arrangement yourself, the sheet music PDF is available at https://cynthiashelhart.com/product/the-queens-dream-pdf/ .

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! (Happy St. David’s Day!)