Jon Pickard, harp-guitar, St Patrick’s Day concert, Castle Cary

IF you picture the Celtic lands as windswept moors, dramatic cliffs and crashing seas, with the rain battering down, then the eve of St Patrick’s Day was probably perfect, and the storms lashing Castle Cary set the mood for an evening of music for St Patrick’s Day, performed by the virtuoso guitarist and harp-guitarist Jon Pickard.

The Bruton-based musician plays one of the rarest instruments in the world. The harp-guitar is at least 250 years old, preceding the guitar by about half a century, and connected back in musical history to the theorbo or “harp-lute.”

It is, literally, a six-string guitar with an additional 17 open strings. Every harp-guitar is custom-made and each is different. The result is an instrument that produces sounds which are beautiful, atmospheric, almost meditative, profoundly emotional and spiritual. You want to close your eyes as you listen and let the pictures conjured by the musician take you … perhaps to the ruins of ancient Holy Cross island, to the Hill of Tara or to the mysterious little rocky outcrop off the island of Herm, itself off the coast of Guernsey, where Jon grew up.

At the start of the concert, Jon played a few pieces on the guitar – Irish tunes and a Cancion y Danza by the Spanish composer A Ruiz Pipo – before lifting the cover from the instrument beside him and revealing the strange but beautiful harp-guitar, made to his design and specifications by Stuart Mewburn.

The first piece was Wayfarer on the Path to Holy Cross Abbey, by the American harp-guitarist John Doan. Other evocative and mystical pieces by Doan were Resting on Jacob’s Pillow and St Patrick in the Spirit, both musical responses to places and legends connecting the Emerald Isle with the early days of Christianity.

Jon has composed several works for the harp-guitar, some inspired by Herm and the tiny rock with its mysterious standing stone – Bells Beneath the Waves, and the Herm Island Suite.

Last year, he released his first solo harp-guitar album, Metamorphia, which includes some of the pieces he played in this lovely concert. For more details of his concerts or his recordings, visit his website



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