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"Celtic Harp activities in Asturias from the 70’s to the present " by Daniel Garcia de la Cuesta

Due to the harpists forum managed by the owners of the “Maison de la Harpe” , Dinan, Brittany , which are also the organizers of the Celtic Harp Festival which is celebrated in this Breton city, whose leadership by the Breton musician and Harpist Myrdhin and his wife Zil, among other comments on the consideration of the harp as a traditional instrument, I prepared an anthology about the presence of harpists in Galicia and Asturias, in Spain , since the 1970s, data outlined below. Many of these data has been presented in my book “Harpa y la so presencia n'Asturies”, for further information please contact me at:dagarcues@yahoo.es

In Asturias, a member of the extinct folk group “Trasgu”, Herminia Alvarez, was a pioneer in recovering the Celtic harp, by the year 1979. Her harp was built by members of the group with the help of a carpenter. They used as a reference a model of a harp seen in hands of a figure of King David at Oviedo’s Cathedral. The group “Trasgu” published in 1983 an album entitled "The Propeller Island”, featuring this harp played by Herminia.

In 1980 a harp sounded in Asturias in the hands of Alan Stivell, during a concert held in the Main Hall of the trade exhibition center in Gijon. I remember well this festival because I played on it with a folk group named “Güercu”.

Alan Stivell would return to Asturias later, in order to assist to concerts held at the cathedral square in Oviedo.

At the time, was organized the first “Celtic Night” of Corao, in Cangas de Onís, featuring the harp playing of Fernando Largo. He played harp as member of the folk group “Beleño” , in which I participated actively. It seems that the instrument was of the house Aoyama. Fernando can be heard in the recordings of the extinct “Beleño”, and other collaborations.

Although the disc that marked the start of the new folk groups in Asturias, was titled “Celtic harp”, recorded almost live in the Church of St. Isidore in Oviedo featuring Herminia Alvarez, Fernando Largo, the Breton harpist Anne Lle Signore and folk bands like “Beleño” and “Llan de Cubel”.

Between 1982 and 1984, by Christmas, there were two Celtic harp concerts held in Oviedo, in fact, the album Celtic harp, is the second recording of these shows. It was held also a harp exhibition on the Conde Toreno Palace, where different harp models throughout history were shown, from Egyptian to Celtic Harps.

By 1990, a diligently person in Gijón, Enrique García Tiscar with interest in the world of Celtic harp, made his own instrument, playing alone at home.

In 1994 in the local Press Club of New Spain, Oviedo, 1994 it was possible to listen to the harpist Javier González Sainz, who played several medieval and Renaissance melodies. You can listen to the harpist in different recordings that exist in the market. He lived some years in Ireland, now residing in Suanzes, Cantabria. http://www.javiersainz.org / biography.htm

In the same year of 1994, I assisted to Dinan workshops, performed by Breton musician Myrdhin and by the harpist Françoise Lle Village.

Shorlty after I was able to ge a Celtic harp from Border House, 34 strings, which I adquired as a kit from the Early Music Shop, located in England. The assembly of the instrument was made by the asturian artisan Chema Vicente Pastor.

The third album of the folk band LLiberdón, in which I participated actively, and entitled "Tamos fartos”, features myself playing this harp.

In order to encourage the use of the instrument, I collaborated, along with the Musicians Workshop of the Culture Foundation of Gijón, in organizing a course conducted by the harp breton musician Myrdhin in April 1997.

On days 2, 3 and 4 of May 2003 in Gijón we had the chance to attend a course on Celtic harp, directed by Rodrigo Romaní.

We can say that 2003 is certainly the year of harp recovery in Asturias since by the end of July and in the Inter-Celtic Festival of Avilés, we had the opportunity to attend another harp course. In this case the charge of guiding the participants was on behalf of Galician harpist Xabier Gomez.

This harpist, applied lessons in Asturias in 2003-07, the School of Traditional Music Quintana A, de Gijón, settling the presence of the instrument. 8 people attended the classes, including Chana Crespo.

Another very important event held in Asturias during the months of October, November and December in 2003 was an ongoing construction of antique harps, directed by Pedro Llopis Arenys.

On 25 June 2004, was launche in Gijon the book “Harps and their presence in Asturies”, of which I am author, and also another course directed by Xavier Gomez.

I acknowledge the interest of several people for the Celtic harp and about 25 musicians own an instrument in Asturias.

There are young people like Yago Prado, from the folk group Llangres, which play a model of 34 strings of Cambrian House. Mento Hevia, from the folk group “Gueta Na Fonte” also plays the harp.

In Gijón lives another harpist. He owns a Troubadour model from Salvi and a Melusine, form the French House Camac, his name is José Jaime Rubial.

Another person, Javier Dominguez, who lives in the city of LLuarca, acquired in 2000 a type of Celtic harp constructed by Galicians Luis Martinez and Lorraine Reinaldo.

Jose Luis Santaeufemia is another young man settled in Tapia, owns a Korrigan model harp from Camac.

Samuel Set González, from Avilés, acquired in 2002 a Celtic harp from the Border house , model Wye.

In Oviedo, Xuacu Amieva, the renowned asturian Piper, has began to study harp, along with his daughter Paula.

Another person related to the Celtic harp in Asturias is Dorothy Gillet, she has settled in the city of Ribesella and plays in do with John Allan, her husband, who deals with different wind instruments. Dorothy's harp, has 34 strings, built by Peter Brough, craftsman who lives in Devon, southern England.

The Inter-Celtic Festival of Avilés, in 2006, also attended Xavier Gomez.

On the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of June 2007, we were lucky to have the visit of Fred Bougouin-Kramer, who performed a concert and a new course.

Regarding harp builders, in the village of Anlleo, county Navia, lives a man with great passion for building instruments, especially Paraguayan styled, but also built some Celtic ones. His name is Alejandro García Vázquez, his daughter, Digna Garcia, also started in Celtic harp.

I very much appreciate all the help that Alejandro, Jano, I provided, since it needs from their knowledge and work.

Currently I keep on performing with the Celtic harp as a soloist, accompanying recitations and with different musical line-ups, as can be seen in my site.


Liliana said...

Eliseo, this is a very interesting post. It's an excellent data collection. I didn't know there were so many (or should I say so few?) people playing Celtic harp in Asturias.
I can see that you really like laying the harp. It's an instrument that most people never have the chance to listen to live. Unfortunately...

Eliseo Mauas Pinto said...

Thanks, Lily, I appreciate your comments, I love playing, composing, and promoting harp music, the act of playing the harp is like (as an old irish musician friend told me) plucking strings in the air, harp music raises the spirit and captures de esence of tradition itself. Yes, there are few harpists in Galicia and Asturias (in Argentina there is only one besides me!), but hope in the future this will not decay but raise!
Receive my best wishes and blessings as always...


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