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Ann Heymann

portrait of Ann

Ann Heymann is a master in the performance and traditions of the Gaelic harp and leads the instrument's revival today. From the start she chose an uncompromised approach of performing in the traditional manner with the harp on her left shoulder (opposite the usual orientation), using specialized fingernail and damping techniques.

With the instrument alone as her teacher and guided by descriptions of techniques used by the eighteenth century Irish harpers, Ann developed a virtuosic and idiomatic signature performance style that she calls "Coupled Hands," which is perfectly adapted to the character of her replica instrument. In addition, she has used parallel traditions, especially the Welsh sixteenth century Robert ap Huw harp manuscript and the Highland bagpipe piobaireachd repertoire, to establish a plausible role for the harp in the performance of Gaelic poetry.

Ann appears at concerts and festivals throughout the world with her talented husband and multi-instrumentalist/singer Charlie under the name "Clairseach." Yet their collaboration extends beyond the stage, as they give lecture/demonstrations on their specialty research into related areas such as Gaelic harp mythology, the metallurgy of historical strings, ceol mór, the performance of Gaelic lays, etc. And as author of the instrument's first tutor, Secrets of the Gaelic Harp, Ann is much sought after to lead workshops and master classes, teaching fingernail technique not only to wire-strung harpers but also to gut-strung harpers with historic interests and nylon-strung harpers with modern traditional leanings.

Ann's definitive solo recording, Queen of Harps, brings to life some repertoire of Denis O'Hampsey played on a replica of his Downhill harp and it demonstates the spectacular results of her virtuosic interpretation of ceol mór. Other recordings include The Harper's Land (with Alison Kinnaird) for Temple Records, Edinburgh; Héman Dubh, Ann's Harp and Let Erin Remember with Charlie for their own Clairseach Records; and a featured track on Harpistry for Imaginary Road/PolyGram Records, New York.

Ann has served on the faculty of the Historical Harp Conference & Workshop, Amherst Early Music, the Edinburgh Harp Festival, the World Harp Festival and Oberlin College Scottish Harp School and has taught at notable institutions and organizations such as the Edinburgh International Festival, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Cáirde na Cruite, Comunn na Clàrsaich and the School of Scottish Studies.

"Legends of the singing harp are myriad. In the hands of Ann Heymann, the legend comes to life."

-St. Paul Pioneer Press

"Arguably the outstanding [clarsach virtuoso] is an American, Ann her command of the metal-strung harp, she really is in a league of her own, not only in terms of the technical manipulation of a notoriously stubborn instrument, but also in making it breathe expressively through the subtle use of string-stopping."

-The Scotsman

"...[Ann Heymann's] playing is astounding as much for what you don't hear as for what you do. The hard part is getting rid of the sound, not producing it. Heymann plays with clarity and expression. If anyone has succeeded in rediscovering what the old harpers might have sounded like, Heymann has."

-Sing Out!

"Ann Heymann is one of the best-kept secrets in the harp world."

-Sounding Strings