Simon Chadwick lives in the medieval town of St Andrews, on the east coast of Scotland, where he researches, teaches and performs the ancient native music traditions of Scotland, Ireland and neighbouring countries.
Simon trained as an archaeologist, and has long been fascinated with ancient things. When he first discovered the medieval harps in the museums in Ireland and Scotland, he took it as a challenge, to figure out how they worked, how they were played, and what the old music traditions were that they belonged to. He was lucky to stumble upon Ann Heymann’s previous work, and follows her lead in an uncompromised adherence to the oldest strands of the traditions. Simon documents his researches on his information website, earlygaelicharp.info, and he has also published a tutor book outlining the historical tradition, Progressive Lessons for Early Gaelic Harp, a book on playing technique, Gestures, and an article in the scholarly journal Early Music.
As well as University study in physics and archaeology, the other big influences on Simon’s work have been his childhood musicking. Instead of the usual music school and conservatory route, however, Simon learned the rather unusual arts of trumpet playing and bell ringing. These provide insights that lead his work in very different directions to the musical mainstream. With a focus on drones and musical architecture, his music lives mainly in a world of oral tradition and memorisation rather than written scores, and of solo unaccompanied presentation rather than ensemble performance. Simon is especially interested in the relationship between vocal and instrumental music, and particularly in the solo unaccompanied singing traditions of Britain and Ireland.
Simon continues to perform on bells, and occasionally incorporates into his recitals other unusual ancient instruments from his collection, but the old Gaelic harp remains his main discipline. In 2007, he commissioned a replica of the medieval Queen Mary Harp held in the National Museum of Scotland from sculptor, Davy Patton. This beautifully decorated instrument with its precious metal strings forms the inspiration for Simon’s investigation of the Gaelic harp traditions. All three of Simon’s CDs, Clàrsach na Bànrighe and more recently Old Gaelic Laments and Tarbh, were recorded using this harp.
Simon is Honorary Secretary of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland and Assistant Director of its annual summer school, Scoil na gCláirseach. He is also Secretary of the Friends of Wighton in Dundee. His ambition is to be any good at playing the trumpet.
Simon Chadwick, St Andrews, Fife. Return to Index page