Radio Show – Episode 14 – Creative Fire – October 2, 2016

In this episode we enjoy the golden light of autumn as we sit with our “Creative Fire.” Here we’ll find tales, tunes, and songs filled with the fire of the poet’s initiation, the love of the land, the Otherworld, and flat out musical fun.

02:12 Niamh Ni Charra – Cailleach An Airgid
05:00 Altan – Comb Your Hair and Curl It
08:42 Kathryn Tickell – Lads of Alnwick / Old as the Hills
15:19 Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill – The Mountain Lark / Tom Doherty’s Reel
18:51 Mary Black – Song for Ireland
25:04 Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin – The Incantation of Amergin
30:36 Jami Sieber – A World Behind the World
40:13 Priscilla Hernandez – Leaves Never Settle in the Wind
42:35 Cernunnos Rising – Heartbeat of Harvest
44:52 Past Tense – Soundscape of Relaxing Nature Sounds
45:44 Knodel and Valencia – Willafjord
49:00 Silly Wizard – Queen of Argyll
52:23 Sharlene Wallace and Kim Robertson – Comb Your Hair
57:22 The Harp Twins – White Wedding

Listen to the latest episode of Forest Halls Celtic on demand


Format: Track Title – artist (CD Title)

“Cailleach An Airgid” – Niamh Ní Charra (Súgach Sámh / Happy Out)
Translated as “The Hag with the Money,” this is a traditional sean-nós song from Connemara. Catch the video on Niamh’s site or on Youtube. A fun twist to what could be a harsh song about a young lad after an old woman’s money.

She is your granny, she is your granny
She’s your granny, the hag with the money …
Do you reckon he’d marry, do you reckon he’d marry
Do you reckon he’d marry the hag with the money?
I know he’ll not marry, I know he’ll not marry
‘Cause he’s too young and he’ll squander the money


We’ll soon have a wedding, we’ll soon have a wedding
We’ll soon have a wedding, by two in the village
We’ll soon have a wedding, we’ll soon have a wedding
Between Sean Seamais Mhoir and Maire Ni Chathasaigh

“Comb Your Hair And Curl It / Gweebarra Bridge” – Altan (25th Anniversary Celebration)
Irish folk group Altan plays a slip jig followed by a reel. Come Your Hair and Curl it? In Celtic music you can create a tune around just about anything!

 “Lads of Alnwick/Old as the Hills” – Kathryn Tickell 
I love the unison at the beginning of the set of Kathryn on the northumbrian pipes and Julian Sutton on the melodian, perfectly in tune.

“The Mountain Lark/Tom Doherty’s Reel” – Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill (NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert)
As the set progresses, maybe you can feel how these two musicians drop deeper and deeper into the music and into the sensory world it’s creating. It’s a place where, as a musician, where your jaw becomes slack and it’s just you and the music and your instrument, and the sound all around. You might even find yourself drooling, you’re so into it. Martin and Dennis don’t do that – drool that is, but in the video you get that sense of going deeper and deeper into the music – at least, that’s how I feel listening to it.

“Song for Ireland” – Mary Black (Song for Ireland)
For the last quarter-century, singer Mary Black has been a dominant presence in Irish music, both at home and abroad. She has shared stages, tv shows and recording studios with some of the most revered performers of her time. She has also played a frontline role in bringing Irish music, past and present, to an increasingly appreciative and ever-growing global audience. The San Francisco Chronicle has described her as “One of the best interpretative singers around”. To me, her “Song for Ireland” captures the creative fire that one’s place – the very land itself – can ignite in our hearts.

The phrase “the fire in the head” refers to a visionary experience or poetic inspiration of a consuming nature. It appeared in “The song of Amergin”, a mystical poem spoken by Amairgen Glanglun, a bard from Irish legend, as he first stepped foot upon the land of Ireland, on the shores of Kenmare Bay. We’ll hear now a setting of this poem to music by Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, including the poem spoken in Irish Gaelic.

“The Incantation of Amergin (Am Gaeth I M-Muir)” – Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin (Song of the Scribe)

Pádraigín has been recreating the ancient tradition of sung poetry by composing airs in the traditional style for early Irish poetry, medieval Irish poetry, Bardic poetry, traditional songs and new songs in Irish and poetry in Irish and English including works by leading Irish contemporary poets such as Ciarán Carson, Seamus Heaney, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Biddy Jenkinson, Michael Hartnett, and also earlier works by W. B Yeats, Olav Hauge, Fearghal Óg Mac an Bháird, Fear Flátha Ó Gnímh, Eoghan Rua Mac an Bháird among others.

She is accompanied here by Helen Davies on harp.

“A World Behind the World” – Jami Sieber (Timeless)
“The Song of the Wandering Aengus” Poem by William Butler Yeats,
“The Tale of Taliesin” Text and retelling by Jen Delyth (Celtic Folk Soul: Art, Myth and Symbol)

Against the backdrop of Jami Sieber’s atmospheric composition for cello and voice, we take a deep dive into visionary and poetic fire with W. B. Yeat’s quintessential poem as well as by way of Jen Delyth’s commentary and tale of the transformation of the boy Gwion Bach into the legendary Welsh bard, Taliesin who lived in the sixth century.

Electric cellist, vocalist, and composer, Jami Sieber will be performing
Friday, Oct 14, 7:30 PM
Vashon High School Theater

Tickets are available at Vashon Intuitive Arts, Vashon Bookshop; online at Brown Paper Tickets
Sponsored by Woman’s Way Red Lodge.

“Leaves Never Settle in the Wind” – Priscilla Hernandez (Incantations)
A lovely song for Autumn.

“Heartbeat of Harvest”- Cernunnos Rising (Wild Soul)
… and another song honoring the Harvest.

“Willafjord” – Knodel & Valencia (Forest)
When Deb and I work up music together, we pull from any manner of inspirations. With this Shetland tune, were reminded of Harry Bellafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.” That piece inspired our choices of a calypso style rhythms, and a “steel drum” sound and some strumming on our harps. We had the great pleasure of performing a trio version of this piece with Kim Robertson at the International Society of Folk Harpers & Craftsmen Conference held in Vermont in 1994. Kim is an absolutely inspiring, fun, and generous harper, and I count the experience of our working up “Willafjord” with her and us performing it as among the “highs” of my harp career. That conference in Vermont was memorable in other ways: At that time, I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first child!

Deb Knodel, by the way, will be performing a house concert on Saturday, Oct. 15. at 6:30pm. If you’re in the Bay Area, do think about attending! Deb is a harper who possesses creative fire indeed. She has been working on some pretty blazing arrangements these past few years, and she is a just plain fun and friendly individual. You will definitely enjoy yourself if you attend. Email me if you want more information: fhceltic ‘at’

“Queen of Argyll” – Silly Wizard (Kiss the Tears Away)
One of my favorite songs from renowned Scottish band Silly Wizard

“Comb Your Hair” – Sharlene Wallace and Kim Robertson (Q & A)
Another version of “Comb Your Hair” by two harpers who know how to create and play some intricate and awesome arrangements. I’m always inspired by Kim, and Sharlene is fabulous too!

“Lochaber No More” – Spookytree
Thank you to you all for joining me in Forest Halls. A special thank you to my husband Andy Valencia for providing behind the scenes technical support. Our 29th anniversary is coming up,  and in honor of that I finish the show with a cover of a song we danced to at our wedding. This piece is decidedly not Celtic. It’s performed on pedal harp and electric harp by a pair of identical twins who have something like 75 videos of their covers of famous pieces, in which they dress alike (different costumes each time) and play with a flourish. This is Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”, arranged and performed by the Harp Twins, Camille and Kennerly Kitt.

“White Wedding” (Billy Idol) – The Harp Twins – Camille and Kennerly
Fun harp stuff here, with pedal effects from the electric harp and soundboard drumming on the pedal harp.


Radio Show – Episode 8 – July 3, 2016 – The Power of Music

Today’s show is devoted to the Power of Music and its ability to enchant. Irish myth describes “Three Noble Strains” of music, known as the geantraí – song of joy/merriment, the goltraí – song of sorrow, and the suantraí – song of comfort/for soothing. You’ll hear expressions of all three “strains” in the music and stories played and told today.

Click here for the latest Forest Halls Celtic show on demand

Show 8-Power of Music

12:00 Forest Halls Celtic / Show 8 – The Power of Music – Recorded on 7/3/2016 and updated for 7/19/20
Spookytree (Deb Knodel & Jane Valencia) – Lochaber No More
12:01 Heartstring Quartet – Sir Patrick Bellew’s March / An Cailin Rua Gaelach (The Red-haired Irish Girl)
12:05 William Taylor – Macpherson’s Testament
12:08 Paul Machlis – Darkness Falling
12:12 Dagda – Harp of Dagda
12:16 Johnnie Lawson – Natural Sound of the Forest Birds Singing
12:18 The Chieftains & James Galway – The Red Admiral Butterfly
12:23 Máire Ní Chathasaigh – Carolan’s Farewell to Music
12:30 Fiona Davidson – Deirdre of the Sorrows
12:46 Anúna – Sleepsong
12:50 Julie Fowlis – Cadal Ciarach Mo Luran
12:54 Tiffany Schaefer – Reconciliation
12:56 Spookytree (Deb Knodel & Jane Valencia) / Lochaber No More
12:57 The Irish Consort / Sorrow Sorrow Stay

Format: Track Title – artist (CD Title)

Geantrai – song of joy and merriment

“Patrick Bellew’s March / An Cailin Rua Gaelach” Heartstring Quartet (Heartstring Sessions)

The Heartstring Quartet brings together two famous Irish duos: Arty McGlynn & Nollaig Casey, Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman. Nollaig and Máire are sisters who play fiddle and harp, respectively.

“Macpherson’s Testament” – William Taylor  
Bill (William) Taylor researches, performs, teaches and records the ancient harp music of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He is one of very few players interpreting these repertoires using gut-strung medieval harps, renaissance harps with buzzing bray pins and wire-strung clarsachs.

In this show, I (incorrectly) stated that I thought that Bill Taylor was a harpmaker for Ardival Harps. But that isn’t so. He is a harper-in-residence for Ardival Harps. The actual makers are Zan and Alex Dunn and associates.

My friend and colleague, singer-songwriter and harper, Verlene Schermer writes:

“There is in Irish folklore, a story about the three sacred strains of music. The three strains are known as the goltrai — song of sorrow, the suantrai – song of comfort, and the gentrai – song of joy (Walton). The Dagda Mor, (the good god) is the leader of the Tuatha De Dannan, (the Fairy Folk – who are gods themselves), and it is his harp, Uaithne, that has the magical ability to bring listeners to tears, to put them to sleep, or to cause them to dance.”

Here we enjoy the story itself …

“Harp of the Dagda” – Irish Myth retold by Barra the Bard (Barra Jacob-McDowell) – read by Jane Valencia/ Music: “Darkness Falling” Paul Machlis (Greenwoods) 
Barra the Bard received her name from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides off the West Coast of Scotland and her love of storytelling from her maternal grandmother, Abigail Jones Dangler. With a repertoire of over 5,000 stories Barra specializes in tales from the Celtic nations (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, & Spain). She also enjoys telling stories from other ethnic traditions as well as family stories of her own.

Check out my Article for the Folk Harp Journal, Be A Bard: Start Down an Ancient Path, which features an interview with Barra.

Read Barra the Bard’s “Harp of the Dagda”.

“Harp of Dagda” – Dagda (Celtic Trance)
A review on says:
“If you’re not looking for “Traditional” Irish jigs, reels, lyrics, ballads or tunes, but rather a tightly put together selection of songs with a modern, mystic, Celtic “flavor” and a dream-like quality, with a nice heavy bass beat…then this is a CD for you!”

Danceable rhythms overlaid with string arrangements and lilting Celtic melodies compose the sound of Ireland’s Dagda, the collective moniker for producers Red Keating and Phillip O’Rely.

Johnnie Lawson -Natural Sound of the Forest Birds Singing 
Today’s forest sounds are from Johnnie Lawson. He writes: “I search out tranquil, quiet places in nature where we like to go when we want peace and calm, away from the stresses of modern day life. I capture the sense of beauty and tranquility of each location in sound and vision. It is my pleasure to bring these healing videos to you, free for you to relax with at any time of the day or night, anywhere in the world.”

On Forest Halls Celtic, we’ve heard several versions of the Irish slip jig, The Butterfly. A slip-jig is in 9/8 time, but we’ve heard it also in 11/8 and 5/4. In this next version, we hear yet another rhythmic variation, that of 12/8 tim.

“The Red Admiral Butterfly” (slip jig) James Galway & The Chieftains (James Galway & The Chieftains in Ireland)
Douglas Hadden writes:
“The Chieftains” and James Galway play an arrangement of the Irish slip-jig, “The Butterfly”. Possibly the best-known “slip-jig” [ in 9/8 time ] in Irish traditional music. It was made popular by “The Bothy Band” on their first eponymous album. It is often thought of as an original composition by Dublin fiddle-player Tommy Potts, but it is generally accepted these days that he “re-arranged” parts from other traditional tunes, and possibly only the 3rd part is original. In any case, a great tune. “The Chieftains” arrangement plays the original – a great introduction by Matt Molloy – and then change the time signature into 12/8.”

Goltraí – song of sorrow

“O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music” – Máire Ní Chathasaigh (The New Strung Harp)
From Wikipedia:
“Turlough O’Carolan (1670 – 25 March 1738) was a blind early Irish harper, composer and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition. Although not a composer in the classical sense, Carolan is considered by many to be Ireland’s national composer. … Some of Carolan’s own compositions show influences of the style of continental classical music, whereas others such as Carolan’s Farewell to Music reflect a much older style of “Gaelic Harping.”

Reputedly the last song composed by O’Carolan — perhaps even on his deathbed! — Carolan’s Farewell to Music is an expression of goltrai — a song of sorrow.

Máire Ní Chathasaigh is an amazing Irish harper, and one I listened to carefully when I first began learning harp.

“Deirdre of the Sorrows” – Fiona Davidson (The Language of Birds)
The Celts know all about beauty, passion, tragedy, and grief. In this story we experience how music gives voice to this Irish myth. This is a tragic tale, but so beautifully and richly told.

Fiona Davidson had quite a career as a harper, storyteller, and bard, and performed in Iona, a progressive Celtic rock band from the United Kingdom, during its early years. These days, she goes by the name Fionntullach, and is devoted to the path of the Celtic spiritual tradition, the Céile Dé.

Suantraí – song of comfort, for soothing, lullabye

“Sleepsong” – Anúna (Invocation)
This absolutely gorgeous song was written for a tale that contains elements similar to the preceding tale of Dierdre.


“The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne (Irish: Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne or Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Gráinne in modern spelling) is an Irish prose narrative surviving in many variants. A tale from the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology, it concerns a love triangle between the great warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, the beautiful princess Gráinne, and her paramour Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. Surviving texts are all in Modern Irish and the earliest dates to the 16th century, but some elements of the material date as far back as the 10th century. …”

The princess Gráinne is to wed the aged great warrior Fionn, but she falls for the young warrior, Diarmuid. They run off and are pursued.

They hide from Fionn in a forest near the River Shannon, where in this greenwood shelter Gráinne soothes Diarmuid with a lullaby.

“Cadal Ciarach Mo Luran (Sleep Well My Beloved)” – Julie Fowlis  – (Gach Sgeul – Every Story)

Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis sings a “sleepsong” along the same lines as the preceding song.

Sleep well my beloved,
Sleep well my beloved,
Sleep well my beloved,
I’ll always be with you …

Added for 7/19/20:
Music Tiffany Schaefer and The Irish Consort

Catch My New Live Celtic Music Radio Show!

Forest Halls Celtic Show

Forest Halls Celtic – Live radio show

Sunday, April 3rd marks the debut of my new live radio show! Mostly airing contemporary and traditional Celtic music, we’ll also make forays into folk, World, medieval, and Renaissance music. You’ll experience snippets of poetry, bardic and herbal lore, and other Celtic and nature-infused magic. I aim for a fun and refreshing mix.

Catch the show 1st and 3rd Sundays, 12-1pm PST on KVSH 101.9 FM or via streaming on Each show will also be available for two weeks for on-demand listening. Please join me, and please spread the word! Thank you!

PS. Harpers and harpists: I aim to feature wire-strung harp specifically, and folk or historical harp in general in every show!