For today, I decided on another piece from Lavinia Meijer, but this time it’s her original composition. It comes from her album titled Are You Still Somewhere? Which contains a lot of her original works, but also some of other composers, including Saman by Ólafur Arnalds which I shared earlier this month in her interpretation.
Earlier this month, I shared Lavinia Meijer’s two other pieces, including her rendition of Ólafur Arnalds’ Saman. But I thought that today I’d like to share yet another rendition of Arnalds’ music played by Lavinia on the harp, as I really like the way it sounds on the harp.
For today, I’d like to share with you a song from another harpist, whose music I hadn’t yet shared on here before. Christy-Lyn lives in Cape Town, and aside from being a harpist and singer she also teaches other people how to play the harp and generally popularises the instrument, through her youTube channel Learning the Harp. This song comes from her album Hope Isn’t Far Away, and was composed by another harpist – The Hip Harpist as she is known, i.e. Deborah Henson Conant – in memory of her mother’s voice.
Today I want to share with you the opening track from Scottish harpist Rachel Hair’s album THe Lucky Smile. It is a traditional tune, but in Rachel’s arrangement and with the help of her accompanying musicians it has an interesting jazzy feel to it. She is accompanied by guitarist Paul Tracey, keyboardist Angus Lyons, bassist Andy Sharkey and drummer Scott MacKay.
Today, I’d like to share with you this short piece played by Italian harpist Floraleda Sacchi, written by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. He created music for all kinds of media, and this composition is part of the soundtrack to the famous film about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything (which by the way is one of our Sofi’s favourite movies).
For today, I decided to share with you the first of Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes played by the Korean-Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer. I’ve already shared this same Gnossienne in the past, in the interpretation of Floraleda Sacchi, and in that post I shared more about Gnossiennes in general.
For today’s song of the day, I chose a beautiful and tragic medieval ballad. I guess every single country or culture has a similar famous tragic love story. I first heard Bendik og Årolilja back when I was just starting to acquaint myself with Scandinavian and Nordic folk music, and back then I happened to be quite a lot into folk metal, largely thanks to the influence of my late friend Jacek from Helsinki, so the first version of this song was by Gåte. In case you’re curious of Gåte I actually posted one song by them WAAY back in the beginnings of my blog, specifically, it was Inga Litimor.
But back when I heard their Bendik og Årolilja, and then a bit later Bukkene Bruse’s version, the only Norwegian I understood was through Swedish, and since this song is in quite archaic language, I didn’t really understand much at all, I just knew that it’s some sad medieval ballad and suspected that it had to do with tragic love and someone’s death or something like that, and not much more. I first heard Hirundo Maris’ version in December last year, so I’d already been learning Norwegian for a while by then, but still my understanding of it was very patchy. It was thanks to Balladspot, a blog about Scandinavian ballads, that I’ve finally learned what exactly the plot line of this song is and if you’re interested in Norwegian folk music as much as I am, I highly recommend reading that post because it includes a few different versions of this ballad, including this one and one by Kirsten Bråten Berg, whose one song I’ve even shared on here in the past, but hadn’t heard her version of Bendik og Årolilja before.
In the ballad, Bendik leaves home in search for a wife and subsequently falls deeply in love with Årolilja – daughter of a Danish king. – However, the king is not favourably inclined towards Bendik as his daughter’s future husband, or perhaps doesn’t want her to be married at all, because we are told that he built some sort of mysterious golden track, which is not to be treaded by anyone or else they will die. Supposedly, this track leads to where Årolilja lives and probably is a symbolic representation of Årolilja herself. Undeterred by that, Bendik embarks on this forbidden journey. He hunts during the day and visits Årolilja each night. Their happiness doesn’t last long though, because the king soon finds out about them through his young servant boy, which means death to Bendik. He is imprisoned and tied up with lots of ropes, which he breaks free from easily though. Thus, the same young boy who previously spied on young lovers, tells the king to tie him up with Årolilja’s hair. Those bonds indeed prove unbreakable for Bendik, as he says he’d rather remain inprisoned than break one of his beloved’s hair. Then we have all kinds of living creatures who ask the king to have mercy for Bendik, from birds and fish and trees to Årolilja herself and even her mother the queen who reminds him that he had promised to fulfil any request that she makes, but the king rejects all their pleas. Bendik is killed in the least appropriate place possible – beside the church – and soon after that Årolilja dies from sorrow. – It is only then, when the king finds out about his daughter’s death, that he finally regrets his actions. We are also told that on the graves of Bendik and Årolilja lilies started to bloom, which I think must be related to Årolilja’s name, because lilje and Lilja mean lily in modern Norwegian and Swedish respectively. As a name nerd I do have to add that I think the name Årolilja is really interesting and that it’s sad it’s not actually in use in Norway these days. 🙂
I’ve already shared a couple songs by Hirundo Maris in the last few months so I don’t think I need to introduce them much, but for those who are unfamiliar with them, this is an early music group founded by Catalan soprano and harpist Arianna Savall and Norwegian singer Peter Udland Johansen.
Earlier this month, I’ve shared with you a piece called It Feels Like Floating by Mary Lattimore. Since then, I have to say that her music has further grown on me. Especially this piece that I want to share with you today. I really like all the weird and wonderful things she’s doing with her harp here. This piece also feels like floating, and I tend to like floating pieces. I like how elaborate it is as well as the very strong summery vibe I get from it. Its title refers of course to the AMerican convenience stores Wawa, which Mary Lattimore is apparently quite fond of.
For today, I have for you a set of three Scottish tunes from harpist Rachel Hair’s and guitarist Ron Jappy’s collaborative album Sparks. All of these tunes are reels, and the first two are traditional, whereas Jamie Shearer’s was composed by Scottish fiddler and dancing master James Scott Fiddler.
For today, I’d like to share with you an extremely poignant and heartbreaking song. It’s really beautiful, despite its very dark theme, and there are a lot of amazing renditions of it, therefore I decided to share two of them in one post, and it’s possible that I’ll share some other versions of it in the future too, who knows. The first of these two versions is by Gwilym Bowen Rhys, from the first album of his Detholiad o Hen Faledi (Selection of Old Ballads) album series. This is the very first version of this song that I heard, and I love Gwilym’s expressive a capella interpretation of it very much. THe other is by Siwsan George, from her album Traditional Songs of Wales – Caneuon Traddodiadol Cymru. – I was introduced to Siwsan’s music earlier this year. She was from Rhondda and sang both as a soloist as well as part of a folk group called Mabsant. Siwsan was also a harpist. Sadly, she passed away in her forties due to cancer.
As we can read on Gwilym’s Bandcamp page,, this song tells the story of a poor girl called Jane Williams, from a village in Denbighshire called Cynwyd, who was raped at 23 and fell pregnant in 1868. Predictably, she was shamed and disdained by her community as a result, and eventually committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Dee. The lyrics were written by John Jones, also known under his bardic name of Llew o’r Wern, and set to a traditional tune called There’s Love Among the Roses.
I’ve taken the translation below from Gwilym’s website, where you can also find the original words in Cymraeg.
On the banks of the old river Dee A pure maiden sits Whispering quietly to herself “I’ve been left lonely Without a love or a friend in the world Nor a home to go to, the door of my father’s house is locked, tonight I am rejected. The finger of shame is after me Highlighting my weakneses And the tide of my life has turned And is buried under the waves. On the alter of lust I was sacrificed, Yes, I lost my virginity, And that’s the reason why I’m rejected tonight. You little trout that plays joyfully In the pure waters of the river, You have many friends And shelter from enemies You may live and die under the water With no one having to know you, Oh if I could only be like you I could die, and that would be the end. But my sorrowfull mind flies away To a world that’s yet to come, And you, my harsh traitor, remember, You must meet me there! I need only think of your name And living is too much for me. Oh, deep river, accept me, Your bed shall be my bed.” And the next morning she was found In the cold water of the river, With a piece of paper in her hand And on it, these words: “Dig me a grave in a lonely place, Don’t raise a stone or write an ephigy, To denote the place where lies the dust Of the rejected maiden.”
Fulfilling my recent promise, today’s song of the day is a modern piece played by Korean-Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer. This piece has originally been composed by Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds and ever since I heard the original, it really spoke to me in a weird way. I can’t say what exactly I find so captivating about this piece. It sounds simple enough at a first glance, or should I say listen, but there’s something weirdly intriguing about it to me. In reviews people describe it as calming and things like that, which it of course is, as I guess most if not all Arnalds’ compositions are in one sense or another, but it’s not its calming properties that jump at me right away when I’m listening to it, it’s something a lot more subtle, and I guess that’s why it is so difficult to describe. I remember thinking that someone should do it on the harp and, well, some time later I discovered Lavinia Meijer’s interpretation which I really like.
Since Ólafur Arnalds is Icelandic, I always assumed without much thinking that the title of this piece must be an Icelandic word and suspected it must mean something like “together”, because it sounded similar to equivalent words in other Scandinavian languages that I know. I always thought that a bit underwhelming and disappointing a title for such an unusual piece. Some of you may know that I have a sort of weird aversion since childhood to words like this: “together”, “common”, “community”, etc. Apparently that’s what happens when two people who each have a strong sense of their own identity and individuality send their kid to a boarding school hehehe. But when I was preparing to write this post, I wanted to make sure that my semi-educated guess was correct and find out whether “saman” really means “together” in Icelandic. Turns out it does, but I also found an article claiming that “saman” also means “calm/solace” in Arabic, and that this is what the title of this composition is apparently supposed to mean. That still sounds rather vague compared to the vibe I get from this piece, but at least it’s nicer than “together”, imho. Since I like the original very much as well, I think that at some point in the future I may feature it too, but for now, here’s Lavinia Meijer’s version:
Today I’d like to share with you a beautiful and long composition from American harpist Mary Lattimore. I was actually introduced to her music pretty recently and was surprised that I hadn’t heard about her earlier despite she seems to be so well-known, and she’s a really good harpist. Her mother has also been a harpist. Mary was classically trained, which shows in her music, though the music that she makes is actually electronic. SHe also plays several other instruments, including synthesisers. I’d say her music has a sort of new-age quality to it, though perhaps not in a very straightforward sense, which, despite she’s a very skilled harpist, means I can’t really include her among my most favourite harpists because I’m not very huge on new-agey-sounding stuff, but I still do like her harp play, and I find this piece particularly enjoyable. It really does feel like floating and I tend to like music which feels like this.
Today’s piece comes from harpist Lavinia Meijer’s brand new EP called Spring. I have never shared anything by Lavinia Meijer before, but I love the way she plays her instrument and how versatile she is. Aside from this piece that I’m sharing today, I am also planning to share a more contemporary composition played by her very soon. Lavinia is a classical harpist who was born in South Korea, but grew up in the Netherlands, as her adoptive parents are Dutch. This new EP, Spring, was released at the beginning of April, and consists of two baroque compositions as well as two contemporary ones. For today, I chose to feature one of the baroque compositions, the one that opens this EP – Ground by Henry Purcell.
For yesterday’s overdue song of the day, I chose this tune composed by Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan, and played by two American folk musicians – Margie Butler and Florie Brown. – Both Margie and Florie are also members of a Celtic folk group called Golden Bough, a few of whose tunes I have also shared recently. I believe this tune was originally a reel, but they play it a bit slower here.
Today’s song is a harp tune by the Canadian harpist Anne Crosby Gaudet, who has been featured quite a few times on here in recent months. This particular piece is Anne’s beautiful arrangement of the traditional Irish tune Star of the County Down, which is one of the more popular and often interpreted Irish songs.
I’ve featured Nadia Birkenstock’s music on here quite a few times, but most of it has been her renditions of traditional tunes. This, as far as I know, is her original composition. I think it has a really interesting sound.
Today, I want to share with you Órla Fallon’s ethereal version of this very popular Irish folk ballad. This is, as you may recall, not the first version of Siúil a Rún that I’m sharing on here, the first one I featured was by Anúna and in that post I also shared a bit about this song’s background. Others were by Celtic Woman and Clannad. Órla Fallon actually used to be a member of both Anúna and Celtic Woman, and is particularly well-known from the latter. Her rendition of this song comes from her debut solo album The Water is Wide from 2005.