A couple of weeks ago I, and a few of my colleagues, made the short walk to St Olave's Church in London, site of Samuel Pepys' grave and also the inspiration for Dickens' "St Ghastly Grim", in order to attend one of their regular recitals. This time the performer was our former colleague, the medieval harpist (harper ?) Leah Stuttard, playing a programme of 15th Century harp music based on research made into the records of George Cely, son and nephew of the principal builders and benefactors of St Olave's.
George was a meticulous note-keeper (possibly to prove to his father his fitness to carry out the family mercantile business), and not only did he note the sums paid to his music teacher, Thomas Rede of Calais, for his harp, lute, and dancing lessons, he also noted the titles of some of repertoire the songs that he learnt. These notes are now in the Public Record Office, and formed the foundation for some extensive research by Leah into the tunes, which were mostly songs well-known at the time in England, appearing in manuscripts across Europe, although rarely in English translations. In addition, he notes learning some European tunes, including a dance from Flanders - presumably useful accomplishments for a young merchant whose life would have required a fair amount of cosmopolitan travel.
Leah's instrument is a replica gothic bray harp, so named for the 'bray pins', pegs attached to the soundbox against which the strings vibrate, a musical effect which fell out of popularity in Europe but continued elsewhere, and producing a sound reminiscent of a sitar.( Samples behind cut )
Main gallery is here.
Examples of some of Leah's playing can be found here
, on SoundCloud.(On seeing the photos, Leah's response was "I didn't realise I looked so hardcore! There wasn't a mirror in the vestry!")