Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Angus Fraser Collection - is it Harp Music?

Angus Fraser was the natural son of Simon Fraser,  who had published his own fiddle tune collection in the early 19th century.  Apparently it's a moot point whether the Angus Fraser Collection is really - as it says on the modern title page inside - Highland harp music.  What do you think?

The title page? 

A Collection of the Vocal Airs of the Highlands of Scotland: Communicated as sung by the people, and formerly played on the harp. 
By Angus Fraser.

Confused yet? Let's check the preface next!

The manuscript was found in an Edinburgh bookshop and presented to Edinburgh University Library.  Francis Collinson (author of The Traditional and National Music of Scotland, in 1966) said it was "the most important collection of Scottish Gaelic airs to be recovered in the past hundred years and the only seemingly authentic Scottish harp music every to be recovered."

But! The original title of the collection apparently said it was for piano - despite no piano accompaniment being given. It just contains tunes, some with variations.  The modern publishers says they're equally suitable for fiddle or whistle, and Angus Fraser apparently said that some of the variations were like piping pibroch.  It's a pity that the Taigh na Teud (Harpstring House) edition (1996, ISBN 1871931665) doesn't give library details of the manuscript itself.  In Edinburgh University Library Archive Catalogue, it is Coll-58, and you can read all about it here.

You can read more about the Angus Fraser collection on the Alt Pibroch Club blog, in this article by harper Simon Chadwick:- Burns March: a Gaelic Harp Ceol Mor?

There's further discussion about this manuscript here:-

  • Simon Chadwick's harp website is well-worth visiting; here is the homepage:-

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