20 February 2020Solo gig and workshop in Ilkley March 28/29

Karen will be playing a solo harp concert in The Manor House in Ilkley on Saturday 28 March (times tbc probably 7.30-9.30) - a rare chance to hear all three Scottish harps in an intimate acousting setting. She will teach a day workshop for Transpennine Harps in Burley in Wharfdale Library on the Sunday.

27 January 2020Harper returns to Greenock

Solo harp gig at Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock on April 18th. Read about it here

Having lived in Greenock for several years after leaving school, and having played Beacon Arts Centre with The Cathal McConnell Trio two years ago Karen is looking forward to returning to Greenock with her solo album tour gig.

tickets available from Beacon Arts Centre

24 January 2020Preview of Karen's Birnam gig on 25th

Leading harper Karen Marshalsay plays at Birnam Arts Centre on Saturday 25th January in a concert that has been rescheduled from November following a family bereavement.

Karen, who’ll be playing music from the album she released last summer, The Road to Kennacraig and possibly some appropriate tunes for Burns Night, arrives in Birnam almost direct from the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, where she’s appearing as part of Irish music legend and Boys of the Lough founder, Cathal McConnell’s trio.

She’ll be playing three different harps, which provide contrasting sounds. As well as the familiar gut-strung clarsach, which is the most popular harp among traditional musicians and folk bands, Karen will bring the wire-strung harp from the Gaelic tradition and “the beast” – a bray harp whose buzzing, sitar-like tone often takes audiences by surprise.

“When people think of the harp, they probably imagine this sweet-sounding instrument, and that’s what I’ll be playing mostly,” she says. “The bray, on the other hand, was designed to cut through the hubbub of dances and gatherings in castles during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when harp players were the ceilidh band leaders of the day. Each string has a bray pin – a small piece of wood – that gives this buzzing effect and makes the instrument louder. If you put that together with a crumhorn and a tabor, or hand drum, that would have been the band that people danced to back then.”

Karen has worked with Indian, African and Paraguayan musicians, as well as leading “Celtic” musicians including Cathal McConnell, piper Allan MacDonald and Shetland fiddler Jenna Reid, but The Road to Kennacraig focuses on the Scottish aspect of her playing. All the music on the album is either traditional or written in the traditional style, with around half of the tunes being Karen’s own.

“Most of the tunes have stories behind them,” she says. “So I’ll be talking a bit about the background to them and the background to the harps but not too much because I like to let the music do most of the talking.”

Rob Adams

20 January 2020Cathal McConnell Trio at Celtic Connections

The Cathal McConnell Trio are playing Celtic Connections on Tuesday 21 January 8pm in the Strathclyde Suite, with support from The Canny Band.

tickets and info here

Preview feature in Glasgow West End Today

02 November 2019Harper Takes the Road to Birnam

Feature on Karen's upcoming gig at Birnam Arts Centre on Saturday 25 January by Rob Adams. Read it here.


31 October 2019London Jazz News review

London Jazz News published a great review by Patrick Hadfield of Karen's new album today - you can read it online here!

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