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

This review was written by Daniel Garcia de la Cuesta and posted under his kind permission.

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 the 1970s the people who recovered and spread the use of harp in Galicia and Asturias were mainly related to the field of folk, this compiling data is about their work.

I very much appreciate the assistance of Rodrigo Romaní to draw these lines, who passed me forward some data and very familiar details of their experiences through out these years in the world of harp in Galicia, Spain.

Presently , the recovery is still slow, fortunately we may note an increasing number of harpists, though not to many. I think the effort to recover the use of Harps in Brittany is a good example to follow.

If anyone has more information that supplements, or rinse the above, I pray you let me know to correct the data, with the desire to work on this issue in order to spread the correct and complete as possible as it benefits everyone .

Currently, harpist Xabier Gomez, is working on the history of Harps in Galicia and hope that their work can be seen available as soon as possible. I am very grateful to Xavier, with whom I have a friendship, for all his researches in Asturias and some data that I provided for the preparation of this text.

Thanks to the dynamism and influence that led Alan Stivell with his work on the Celtic harp, in the 1970s some companies , such as Japanese Aoyama or French Camac, began to launch their Harps, a fact that facilitated the acquisition of these instruments and makes them more accessible.

I will start now on the topic about Galicia in the '70s onwards, and within folk scene .

As there are other people involved in the world of Celtic harp, you can still do a simple relationship, considering that it is not my intention to define a complete listing, but to refer the data that I gathered and those people who I know.

If anyone has more info I pray you send it. In another section of this blog, come unto some data from historical times.

A first reference in Galicia is Emilio Cao (who has an extensive discography dedicated to harp compositions). His contact with the harp begins around 1976. I keep as a great treasure Emilio Cao’s vinyl album entitled "Fonte do Araño”, published in 1977.

By those days Galician harpist Rodrigo Romani, edited along with Antón Seoane, the album that takes the name “Milladoiro”, famous Galician folk band where Rodrigo played Harp.

According to Rodrigo, Emilio Cao got an Aoyama harp in a music store in Santiago de Compostela.

On this Milladoiro album, what you hear is a zither, made in Germany same as you could find in some rural areas of Galicia. Rodrigo does not explain the appearances of these instruments. In Asturias I acknowledge the existence too, and I think that it is referred to a probable use inchurches and monasteries.

In the year 1978, Emilio, Rodrigo, and Stivell overlapped in the Galician Celtic Festival of Ortigueira.

Rodrigo said that his first recording of harp made the album called "A Galicia de Maeloc" and lectured his first lessons in 1995 in the Public University of Vigo. At that time, held the 1st Harp Gaddering in Vigo, where played Janet Harbison, himself and Dario Rodrigo Duarte, from Paraguay, whom, according to friends, was the first professor of harp, with private lessons, that ever took place in Galicia. Rodrigo said that outside the theater there was a, very young musician , playing the tin whistle for the people who were leaving, his name was Carlos Nuñez.

The following year was held the second and last edition in which were Silas from Scotland, Terra Brava, from Venezuela, and a duo lined up by Quico Comesaña from Berrogüetto, and Rodrigo himself. (www.myspace.com / Berrogüetto)

After his work in “Milladoiro” his career as Harpist continues as a soloist and professor of harp at the conservatory of traditional music in the Public University of Vigo, Pontevedra, and also directing the folk orchestra, Sondeseu, where the presence of Harps is important, featuring a set of 8 harpists.

The Conservatory of Traditional Music of Vigo was founded in 1996. From the first day had the specialty of the Celtic harp. In 2008, the Conservatory changed to E-Trad, the Municipal School of Folk Music and Traditional. The specialty of the Celtic harp is taught in two cycles: basic in 2 years,and professional in 5 years.

Every year the E-Trad welcomes 18 students for the Celtic harp.

E-Trad has developed its own methodology which has its base in the traditional repertoire for bagpipe and folk songs.

In the '80s, the folk group Citania, from La Coruña, had a member who played the Celtic harp, José Alvarez, who according to the data that some friends gave to me, works as a craftsman of stringed instruments. Their first recording dates from 1986.

The Galician musician, Xabier Gómez, entered on that decade the world of the harp, currently he is professor of harp at the Professional Conservatory of Music in Madrid, where he also teaches Celtic harp. Currently has 11 students enrolled. Learning the Celtic harp, which has no official character, is divided into four courses of the elementary level.

The Harpist Irene Varela, participated in the first album of the folk band “Avalon”, from Vigo, entitled "Lúa Meiga”, published in 2000.

I know the other Harpist, with whom I met in a seminary, settled in Santiago, named Nuria de Leon Villoria.

From the classrooms of the Conservatory of Traditional Music of Vigo came out the Galician duo "Sete Saias", with the Harpists Marta Quintana and Clara Torres Novas, with a first album published.

It also came out a quartet of harpists "Lulavai". The quartet is lined up by Josefa Fernandez, Paula Oanes, Elena Paz and Lorena Reinaldo who will soon publish their first album.

At the Conservatory of Vigo also began to study people who are currently in the world of the pedal harp, as Alba Barreiro, who is expanding his studies in Musikene.

I know there are more people who play the Celtic harp in Galicia. If anyone knows more information on this subject will be welcome.

Harp builders in Galicia also deserve a space. In 1984, is established the instruments workshop at the Public Universtiy of Vigo, where Ramón Casal developed the area of construction of Celtic harps, among other instruments. By those days, I took part with the band “Beleño” at the Celtic Festival of Castrelos in Vigo, I remember that an Italian Celtic Harp artisan, Gabriel Sanginetto shared his experiences with the workshop.

During this festival I met the musicians of “The Chieftains” and Carlos Nuñez, by those day a boy, who played the tarrañolas without stopping.

Besides Ramon Casal, other Galician craftsmen worked on the study and construction of Harps, as Manuel Brañas in Ourense, and Luciano Perez, in Lugo, in order to develop a research related to reproduction of harps and other instruments that appear in the Romanesque Cathedral of Ourense and Santiago de Compostela.

I also acknowledge the work of Luis Martinez and Lorena Reinaldo, builders settled in Galicia dedicated to Celtic harps, and had also passed through the Conservatory of Vigo and folk orchestra “Sondeseu”.

As a first reference, and without much verification, it is possible to assure that there are in Galicia around 100 harpists.

From the data gathered both from the Conservatory of Traditional Music, or the current E-Trad every year are ordered by students an average of 5 instruments. The main craftsmen are Lorena, Luis Martínez and house Salvi

Currently are 32 pupils studying harp at E-trade, and there are musicians who engage free-lance playing Galician music at weddings, restaurants, official ceremonies, etc..

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