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The Once & Future Harp - Liner Notes

This recording was made in several locations: Phoenix and Prescott, Arizona; in an oak

forest outside Nevada City, California; and at Lyra Studio in Oakland, California.


This album is dedicated to Diana Stork for encouraging and inspiring me to

compose my own music, and for her dedication to and love of the harp.


Native Spirit

(CA Fulton, 1989)


Native Spirit was directly inspired by the wildlife, abundant beauty, and majesty of Alaska. I was finishing up a tour of Southeast Alaska in the town of Haines with Twin Harps.  On my last day there I felt compelled to sit down with my harp facing the river along the border of Haines and out flowed all the themes for Native Spirit.  The opening theme came from seeing a pair of eagles who were circling, dancing in the air, and calling to each other.  The next theme was inspired by the moose, king of the Alaskan forest.  The music for the native people of the region, the Tlingit Indians was inspired by their artwork and amazing totem poles.  Next came the water themes, flowing and frozen, from the magnificent rivers, the pristine snow, and icy blue glaciers.  The swirling tones of the flickering Northern Lights make a transition to the stillness of the Alaskan night and the feeling of the awesome vastness, beauty, and supremacy of Nature.  The eagles return with the rising of the morning sun and beginning of a new cycle.  


The Poet

(CA Fulton, 1990) with Roy Whelden, viola da gamba


The opening theme for The Poet was inspired by the seashore at Asilomar near Monterey, California, where I was the harpist for eleven years for the the annual year end spiritual retreat with Brugh Joy and David Spangler. I was deeply moved by the beauty of the natural environment in combination with the gathering of people for a sacred purpose.  David Whyte was the poet for this retreat and every year his poetry and recitation were a beautiful and soulful part of the program.  This piece is named in honor of him.  



(CA Fulton, 1989)


This piece was inspired by a night-time drive across the desert towards Phoenix, Arizona.  As I was gazing up at the stars in the dark sky and breathing in the crisp, clear, chill desert air the tones of an F# Phrygian scale began playing in my imagination.  When I awoke the next morning in Phoenix and sat down with my harp, the music flowed out effortlessly as if from the essence of the stars and the desert. 



(Italian, 17th century arranged by CA Fulton)


Romanesca is one of the “Italian tenor” chord patterns sometimes associated with particular melodies, which formed the basis for many compositions and improvisations in the 16th through the 18th centuries.  For example, the well known Greensleeves melody is a Romanesca tune.  My arrangement is based on the chord pattern and melody found in the Tratado de glosas by Diego Ortiz published in Rome in 1553.  This recording was used for the soundtrack of the video game Braid and became an internet hit.


Adam’s Friend

(CA Fulton, 1990) with Kit Higginson, psaltery


Adam’s Friend was composed using fragments from modal melodies by Frauenlob (d. 1318), one of the most famous Minnesingers of his day.  I used fragments from both Protus D mode and Tetrardus G mode songs, recombined them in new ways, created the rhythms, and added original material.  The name comes from a reference in one of Frauenlob’s poems to “wise friend Adam” who is being addressed by the great Divine Feminine represented by both Eve and the Virgin Mary.


Winter Song

(CA Fulton, 1990)


Winter Song is an instrumental piece inspired by a poem written by the trobaritz (woman troubadour) Azalais de Porcairages (born c. 1140) The poem (originally written in langue d’oc) for which there is no existing music starts:


Ar em freg temps vengut

quel gels el neus e la fainga,

el aucellet estan mut,

c’us de chanter non s’afrainga;


The season of cold weather has now arrived

with frost and snow and mud,

the birds are silent 

and none of them wants to sing…..


I composed this piece in Perpignan in southern France whole working on a project of troubadour song and poetry which resulted in the recording Lo Gai Saber.  While there Dan Drasin and I visited many of the Cathar castles and we felt a deep connection with the rich history and spirit of that region.  


Lamento di Tristano and La Rotta

(Anonymous 14th century.  BM Add. MS 29987, arranged for harp by CA Fulton)


Lamento di Tristano and La Rotta is one of fifteen dances found in the Italian trecento manuscript London, British Museum Library additional 29987.  During my first visit to London in 1980 I went to the British Library and, with special permission from Indiana University, was allowed to study this manuscript for a few hours.  I had worked with the facsimile edition but I found that there was no comparison to actually holding the manuscript itself and seeing the music on the page on which it was originally notated.  The music in this manuscript is written in Italian trecento notation and I made my own transcript  The Lamento and its Rotta are in a medieval dance form called estampie.  In this form each phrase is played first with an opening ending and then repeated and played with a closed ending.  In the manuscript for the second section part of the Rotta only the endings are notated so for that section I have composed my own reconstruction.  In 20th century “folk” harp circles La Rotta came to be mistakenly thought of as an independent composition due to its publication in a popular folk harp collection. It is not an independent piece but is a variation of the Lamento di Tristano.  

Virgin Light

(CA Fulton, 1990) with Diana Stork, harp.


Virgin Light is based on Cantiga da Santa Maria #380, Sen calar nen tardar.  The Cantigas da Santa Maria, or songs for Holy Mary, were collected and beautifully preserved in four manuscripts by King Alfonso X, El Sabio (The Wise) who ruled medieval Spain from 1252 to 1284.  Although the exact authorship of the Cantigas, both the poetry and the music, is not known, it is very likely that some of them were composed by King Alfonso himself.  Cantiga 380 is a Cantiga de loor or Cantiga of praise.  Most of the Cantigas tell stories of the miracles of Holy Mary, but the Cantigas de loor (every tenth Cantiga in the manuscripts) extol her virtues and encourage everyone to thank and praise her.  








Love & Light

(Diana Stork, 1989)


This piece was written for me as a Winter Solstice/Christmas gift by my friend and colleague Diana Stork. Though the piece was composed specifically with triple harp in mind, she was able to achieve some very beautiful and idiomatic special effects.  The final melody before the return to opening motif evokes the joyful sounding of Solstice bells heralding and celebrating the return of the Light.




Five different harps were used for this recording: four historical harps and a contemporary lever harp with a Gothic-style design.  They are all strung with natural gut strings.


The Welsh Triple Harp: Romanesca and Love & Light are performed on my original Welsh triple harp made in 1850 by Bassett Jones of Cardiff, chief harp maker to Queen Victoria. The triple harp has three parallel rows of strings.  The middle row, containing the chromatic notes, is offset so it can be played by reaching between the outer strings with either hand. This harp stands about six feet tall and encompasses five octaves.


Three Medieval Lap Harps: Adam’s Friend is performed on a Cythara Anglica, Romanesque style medieval harp build by Rainer Thurau of Germany. The Cythara Anglica is a recreation of a 12th-century harp based on a drawing in a manuscript from the monastery of St. Basien located in the Black Forest of West Germany.  It is about 25 inches tall and has 19 strings.


Lamento di Tristano is performed on a Gothic-style harp also built by Rainer Thurau.  It is 40 inches tall with 21 strings and is based on the harp pictured in the triptych “Garden of Earthly Delights” by the 15th century artist Hieronymus Bosch.


Winter Song is performed on a 45-inch tall, 22 string Gothic style medieval harp built by David Brooks.


Lever Harp: Arizona, The Poet, Native Spirit and Virgin Light are performed on a 4 1/2 foot tall, birds-eye maple, 31 string, contemporary lever harp.  On Virgin Light, Cheryl Ann and Diana (also know as the duo Twin Harps) play two identical harps of this type custom-built for them by Robert Bunker of Colorado. The sharping levers allow the pitch of each string to be raised a half step when engaged. 

Viola da Gamba: The viola da gamba is played by Roy Whelden, a life-long friend and colleague of Cheryl Ann’s.  The instrument he plays on The Poet was made by David Rubio of Oxford, England in 1979, and is modeled after an 18th century French bass viola da gamba by Barbey. The viola da gamba, literally “viola of the leg”, is a member of a family of instruments related to, but distinct from, the violin and cello family.  Violas da gamba have six or seven gut strings, are partially fretted and are made in treble, tenor and bass sizes.  


Psaltery: The psaltery is played on Adam’s Friend by Kit Higginson, a friend and colleague of Cheryl Ann’s from their group Ensemble Alcatraz.  The trapezoidal psaltery he plays was made by David Brooks and has 19 double-strung courses of metal strings, is diatonic, and is played with plectra or picks.  The psaltery is distinguished from the harp in that the psaltery’s strings are arranged parallel to, rather than perpendicular to, the soundboard. 

Produced and engineered by Daniel Drasin

Notes by Cheryl Ann Fulton


In the largest of the Cantiga manuscripts (Codex j.b. 2 of the Escorial Library) there are forty miniatures, one for each Cantiga de loor,  depicting musicians from all walks of life playing an incredible variety of instruments.  Above the beginning of Cantiga 380 two harpists are shown playing large medieval lap harps.  Although this picture in no way indicates any specific performance practice it gave me the inspiration to use this Cantiga melody as the basis for apiece for two harps.

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