Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mark's Trip of a Lifetime to the United Kingdom

Traveling to the Celtic nations is unforgettable. There are many wonderful travel blogs and podcasts that offer insider tips on ensuring your journey is trouble-free (for instance, check out Corey and Liam's Irish Fireside website). But perhaps the best way to travel is to see the sights through the eyes of locals, as our guest blogger, Mark Tomich did. Here's his travel log:

"Ever since I was a boy, I've always been amazed by the Celtic culture. It was never just about the Scottish clans and Loch Ness monster, but the nature, the people's religious connection with it and the whole mystical allure is what amazed me. So when the opportunity finally presented itself, I took it and set out from Australia to the UK to visit my mate in Glasgow.
Street in Glasgow, Scotland

I made a little side trip and used the opportunity to fly all the way out from Australia and visit the British Museum in London, since a major part of Celtic relics like shields, swords and various ornaments found in Britain are kept there.

The Museum is unbelievably big and the day went by in a snap. I've paid my respect to another British tradition by visiting a couple of pubs before going to bed. My mate in Glasgow was eagerly waiting for my arrival the next day.

I woke up and took off quite early, so I was in Glasgow by noon. We immediately drove away from
the city, as my mate Cedrick wanted to relax a bit after a busy week. We went to legendary Loch Lomond for a bit of fishing and hiking. It was truly mesmerizing, even more beautiful than I've envisioned it.
Loch Lomond

After a while we decided to check out the Antonine Wall and hang out a bit around the remains, nowadays covered with turf. I especially enjoyed the mild island climate. Although I was born and raised in Australia, I was never too keen on hot weather.

We then headed back to Glasgow for a substantial supper and what was supposed to be a nice, low-key evening at the pub. Of course, I was unaware that there is no such thing as a quiet evening in the pub with a bunch of Scottish lads! I know that us Aussies are famous for our accent and slang, but I assure you that it is nothing compared to the way these rowdy Glaswegians speak. I mean, in what other English-speaking country would you be called a glaikit (a fool) just because you don't get the slang, which is impossible to understand if someone doesn't explain it to you. But after a few beers and a couple of laughs, I got comfortable and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the evening.

The following day was all about a road trip adventure with the whole gang. We went to the beautiful Isle of Skye by ferry and enjoyed a couple of beers on the shore with the cool sea breeze was swooping along.

Eilean Donan Castle
I had to insist that they take me to see Eilean Donan Castle, which I wanted to visit since I saw it on television when was a boy. The castle was built in the thirteenth century on a small island. After I've had had my share of sightseeing, the boys took me to a tavern where we had a real feast. Warm baps (soft bread rolls), kippered herring from Loch Fyne and some smoked haddock, all drowned in streams of whiskey and beer - what more could a man ask for!

I wanted to see Loch Ness, but Cedrick and his mates had a different agenda and soon enough we were at the Celtic Park football stadium, as they wanted to show me their favorite site of the city. Although I am not a football fan, I was happy to see what my friend was so enthusiastic about.
The guys promised to take me to a big game the next time I visit. Of course, there was no way to avoid going to the pub once more, which somehow seems very natural, almost obligatory.
The visit to the magical land of my childhood ended with pints of beer and an evening-long performance of Celtic's fan-songs!"

Have you made a recent visit to a Celtic nation? The Celtic Harp Music Blog is just the place to share about your travels, and even include a few fun tips about special places to visit. Or perhaps you dream of visiting one of these lands and would like to expound about your visions? Contact me to be featured as a guest blogger through the email address posted on my website at CelticHarpMusic.com.

About our guest blogger: Mark Tomich is a father and a husband, so you may imagine what a rare treat it is for him to be able to fly out on his own to meet his friends. Apart from spending time with his family and traveling, Mark enjoys a good BBQ and a game of chess. You can reach out to him on Twitter - @TomMark84.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Tempestuous History of the Celtic Harp

The beautiful, bell-like tones of the Celtic Harp belie its turbulent history. When you read the following excerpt from Eliseo Mauas Pinto's e-book, "The Celtic Harp", you'll understand why:

"The English warlike power [by the late 15th century] were not only looking for Irish submission. The English insisted on the idea that the Irish were "barbarians"... [they wanted to] eliminate the custom of which kings and gentlemen shared the table with jugglers, harpists and crew members... 

[The above picture] depicts an Irish bard praising the harper (who plays a not very well drawn harp in the lower right hand corner) while the host and chieftain of the Mac Sweynes is seated at dinner. With the gradual weakness of the kings in their sovereign power, the fall of the leadership of the bards and the harpists began by the end of the 15th century. Thus, the harp found refuge in Scotland, where many noble were dedicated to it’s performance, even kings like James IV.
Between 1494 and 1503, extensive companies of harpists settled in the Highlands. Thus the Harp became the national instrument of Scotland. Each clan had its own harpist, but after several years of feudal expansion and fights for the power, the importance of the harp decayed by the end of the 17th century, and gradually it was replaced by the Scottish bagpipes (Highland Bagpipes). Ironically, while the Irish bards and harpists were persecuted and executed and their harps destroyed, Isabel I delighted with harpists at her court, who used to play jigs, strathspeys and hornpipes for her. Times passed by turning even harder.
Between 1650 and 1660, Oliver Cromwell ordered the destruction of harps and organs in both Catholic and Protestant circles. Five hundred harps were confiscated and burned in the city of Dublin alone, and some 2,000 in all Eire. Like the Highland bagpipes, the harp began to gain the status of a “forbidden instrument” and was the origin of revolt against the Crown. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the poetry and music of the bards decayed as a result of innumerable exiles and fears. This deliberate destruction and persecution finished with Oliver Cromwell; soon the Enclosure Laws in Scotland and the extreme hunger in Ireland, would again force these gaelic people to emigrate.
Since the 9th century through the Baroque era, the Irish harp represented the instrument of the upper classes in the Celtic countries. Perhaps this is why some survived to modern times."
--From “The Celtic Harp”, Smashwords Edition, ©2012 Eliseo Mauas Pinto, used with permission (including artwork). 

Interestingly, the harp is recognized as the national instrument of Ireland, appearing on its flag and coins. The harp stands for the struggles Ireland has endured throughout the centuries. 

Special thanks to my friend and wonderful harper, Eliseo Mauas Pinto, for his guest blog post. Share your love of Celtic culture, Celtic music, and Celtic harps, too! Contact me if you'd like to be featured as a guest blogger, contact me through the email address on my website at CelticHarpMusic.com.

About our guest blogger: Eliseo Mauas Pinto was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He took knowledge of the Celtic world at the age of twenty, motivated by his love for literary and musical subjects. He was the first to introduce the Celtic Harp and Celtic Festivals in Argentina. As a writer, poet, musician and reviewer, he has published printed books in Spanish, Galician and Asturian languages, enlisting some new works on eBook formats. Visit his Celtic Sprite blog.