Rachel Hair: All Things Celtic Harp(Interview)

Plus: Somerset Folk Harp Festival, Athas’tour pic and schedules, Celtic vampire novel by Karen Victoria Smith and Delta Rae …so emotional and beautiful!

Scottish harpist Rachel Hair notes down her tips on how to get into this fascinating musical instrument: The Celtic harp!

It was through my discovery of harp music that got me  started in perusing the web for more resources. I think it was my interview with Scott Hoye and his invite to join the Celtic Harp facebook page  made this interview with Rachel Hair possible. The Rachel Hair trio brings something fresh to harp music. There’s unmistakable groove, atmosphere and optimism the first time you listen to any of their tracks. Interviewing Rachel deepened my respect and admiration for her music and her band. She is one of the great contributors to the forum lately while being out joining the Manx music festival. She kept everyone updated with pictures and links. I even got my Maeve Gilchrist through her recommendation. Everyone in the Celtic Harp community is very supportive of each other. Eric, Scott, Rachel, Corrina, Amy and the rest keep the community alive with their ideas and presence.

Rachel is very enthusiastic to share her thoughts with everyone. Especially those who are planning to study the instrument but might have doubts that hold them back.  I like her in-depth way of answering questions. I am sure you will enjoy this and add it to your bookmarks for reference.

How do you describe the Scottish folk scene these days ? What’s the trend in terms of playing, the instruments and also the general band image that the listeners are warming up to?
The Scottish folk scene has gone from strength to strength and over the past 10 years has had a real upsurge of talent and creativity. I think its one of the most creative folk scenes in the world. You have musicians who know their tradition well and can perform it fantastically but are also creating and adding to the tradition. More than ever musicians and bands are writing new music and presenting it in an ever creative and evolving fashion… its not just about playing tune after tune anymore. Bands are getting really into big arrangements and taking the listeners on a journey to what is becoming the new tradition in Scotland.
Theres a lot of cross genre music making too. I live in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, and a hub of creativity amongst musicians of all styles. Folk, jazz, indie, rock and classical musicians are not only mixing with each other socially but are musically creating new sounds together. The results of this are now being on seen on stage and festivals such as Celtic Connections are a great supportive platform of this allowing it to be brought to the public’s attention.

With friends.

Your tunes are always rhythmic and is also filled with arrangements that glow of atmosphere…how do you value atmosphere in songs? Others are more into technique and speed. Do you think it is essential in every Scottish and Irish recording to have a sense of atmosphere or ambience?

I like to create records and shows which take listeners on a journey, giving them opportunities to tap their feet along, dance but then also give them opportunities to reflect and feel the emotion of the music we create. One of the tunes we most enjoy performing as a trio is the haunting melody “Cancro Cru”. We really get emotionally involved in the tune and this is often felt by the audience and commented to us after.
I don’t think its necessarily essential that every recording gives a sense of this atmosphere but I do think its important that musicians and bands try to give an impression of what the atmosphere their live show creates, through their recordings.

You have been active these days especially during festivals. What are the things you learned being musician, in terms of traveling with ease? Tips you can give us? I remember what Scott Hoye said about harpists..it’s not like playing the fiddle where you can toss it and go. Harpists carry this huge instrument.

Preparation is the key! I often fly with my harp. Living on a large island (Britain!) means that any gig I do outside the country means a flight. I always phone up the airline in advance and let them know I’m taking a Celtic harp and ask them to make a mark on booking. I’m always very casual on the phone and make it clear that its not that bigger than a suitcase, weighs less than 20kg (normally less than my suitcase!) and that I fly all the time without difficulty.
It used to be that I could take it for free, but now you just have to accept that you have to pay for it. Most of the large airlines just see it as an extra piece of hold baggage and this can usually be paid for in advance which makes life easy.
Its always important to be sure that the car that will pick you up will have room for you, your suitcase and your harp. To be honest mine is actually quite small in its flight case so this is normally no problem.
I also have a protective fibre class flight case for my harp which is very easy to move around and protects it well. I tend to tape up the clasps on it too for safety too. I also put pieces of polystyrene pipe round my levers inside its cover, to protect them further.

What are your suggestions for both artists and enthusiasts about this type of music and making it grow? We have the technology and tools but what do you think are the things that each of us can do to improve and expand the scene.

I like to use social media to connect with people… through Facebook, twitter and youtube. Its a great way of keeping in touch with your fans and new people are discovering my music through these ways every day. It also gives me the chance to promote other music, that isn’t always mine. Bands and groups that I like that I think deserve to be heard. I like to post videos etc. of them to help their music grow and get to new people. Its definitely a worthwhile thing to get into….facebook, twitter and youtube and free to use so you’ve nothing to loose!

What tell young people who find harps fascinating and want to study it?

Rocking out the Scottish reels
— with Maeve Gilchrist.

Get yourself to one of the harp festivals and try it out for yourself! I’m on the organising committee for the Edinburgh International Harp Festival and it coming along to a festival like it really is a great way to discover harp music. You can join a beginners course and have a go, visit the harp exhibition which has all the top makers in Europe showing of their harps and you can go to some of the concerts. Harp festivals really are a great way of experiencing everything “harp”. You also get the chance to meet harp players young and old, of all levers from beginner-to professional. We’re all a very friendly bunch.

Who are people who influenced your growth as an artist through the years?

When I was at university in Glasgow, studying music, my harp teacher was Corrina Hewat. She was an incredibly encouraging teacher who really pushed me to discover my own style of playing. We don’t really play in the same way and I think that’s a testament to her as a teacher.
A lot of my friends are professional musicians, Jenn and Euan who play in my trio, Jamie Smith who plays in the group Jamie Smiths Mabon and Gaelic singer Joy Dunlop. We’re all very very head strong and passionate at what we do and we’re very good at encouraging each other to keep going and achieve our dreams and success in music.

What’s your biggest goal in life.

Well to be happy, and to be fulfilled both in my personal life and in my musical life. simple!

Rachel Hair – Harp
Jenn Butterworth – Guitar / Vocals
Euan Burton – Double Bass

Follow her band in facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rachelhairharp




Somerset Folk Harp Festival

Everyone got a harpful for 4 days! People who are very enthusiastic about harp music(including yours truly) will keep this festival on the calendar. Some of the big names in the community attended: Chris Caswell presented Guerilla Music Theory. There’s also Breton dancing( this is really fun!) led by harpist Clotilde Trouillaud. For people who wanted to pick up a handy instrument enjoyed the tin whistle workshop. Maeve Gilchrist whom we presented in this site was also there teaching techniques.

Other notable musicians:

Peacocks Feathers: entertained with Irish & Scottish tunes & songs during the lunchtime concert in the Atrium.

Debbie Brewin-Wilson lead the 3-day Basically Beginning workshop.

Nicolas Carter on the first of his 3-day class on Paraguayan harp. He’ll also help out Tracy Gorman in the Paraguayan Dance class at 3:30pm.
There’s Billy Jackson in his workshop on Scottish Harp of the 17th century yesterday. Right now he’s teaching Composing in a Traditional Style. By the way I have one of his albums!
Thanks to Scott Hoye who is up to date. He’s the source of this news.

Today in Pictures: Athas on Tour

Amy thought she ordered the large Bloody Mary-Jeff Ksiazek
Between gigs, the band unwinds.
Follow the band’s tour schedule here: http://www.athasmusic.com/schedule/

Book curiosity:

Dark Dealings by Karen Victoria Smith
Synopsis: At thirteen, Micaela O’Brien was found wandering a pasture in Ireland, the sole survivor of a mid-air explosion. Now, as a successful investment banker, she will discover that Wall Street has fangs and claws. When international power brokers, creatures hiding in plain sight, threaten her and those she loves, will this heiress to a Druid legacy deny her power and let loved ones die again?A thrill ride of money, monsters and murder across the globe.
According to the author
: 2 DAYS left to get Dark Dealings for Kindle on sale for $1.49. 1/2 royalties 2 Kick #Cancer Overboard.BUY,read,review amazon.com/Dark-Dealings-… Read the novel described as Trueblood meets bluebloods with a 4.4/5 rating on Amazon. Price goes up August 1
Tataratat! The Gothic Celtic in me loves it! Twilight fans sorry but I think Karen Victoria Smith does more than Stephanie Meyer. Nothing is better than Vampires and Celts in one book.


Our featured band Delta Rae

Take a look at this official video by Bluegrass fusion band from North Carolina  Delta Rae. I love the concept. It is both funny and creepy. The voice of Brittany Holljes has a powerful quality in a pop sense but with New Age delicacy. There are also male lead vocals occasionally. The music has a knockout rocking quality but with  the atmosphere of Sarah McLachlan. It is a band that will  appeal to fans of music categorized as folk/rock or country with chillout moments. My favorite track from the band is Holding On To Good because it is really explosive and glorious and the sound just floods through you. So beautiful! But wait till you hear Surrounded, a moving and mesmerizing track that builds up into a glorious release- a crashing wave of sound, angelic harmonies and earth ravaging meteor or emotions.


Ian Holljes (vocals/guitar)
Eric Holljes (vocals/keyboard/guitar)
Brittany Holljes (vocals/percussion)
Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals/percussion)
Mike McKee (drums)
Grant Emerson (bass)



Music: http://www.myspace.com/deltaraemusic/music


4 Replies to “Rachel Hair: All Things Celtic Harp(Interview)”

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