Reviews of Harp Making in Late-Georgian London

ALEXANDER RIDER, HARP MAGAZINE, SPRING 2021

 

In recent years we have been blessed by a number of substantial works of historical research on the Irish and Neo Irish Harps, notably that of Dr Nancy Hurrell on the harps of John Egan. However, this latest book by Mike Baldwin is undoubtedly one of the most substantial works on the organology of the pedal harp to be encountered. Baldwin has accomplished a difficult thing with regards to publications of this type in that each section represents a substantial standalone essay, whilst maintaining a satisfying narrative. In addition, whilst the scope and content of the book's mission is very detailed and specific, it gives a great sense of context to the whole affair: to put it plainly, it doesn't trip over its own sense of niche-ness!  Actually, the book ably suggests the overarching story of one of the most fruitful periods in the development of the pedal harp. Of particular interest is the decorative history of the instrument: the Grecian and Gothic styles having become iconic, it is interesting to read about how they evolved. Today we may be forgiven for thinking of Sebastian Erard and family as being the "big boys" on the scene, but it was also the lesser-known Erat who contributed much. In fact their instruments were held in high regard by the Erard firm, as contemporary letters reveal, so detailed work on Erat is to be appreciated. A painstakingly researched, enjoyable read—  and a very handsome hardback presentation, very reasonably priced.

ROB BANKS, GOODREADS.COM, OCTOBER 2020

This is a fascinating look at harp making during an active time of development and innovation. It is well researched and has numerous illustrations that help clarify the technical aspects as well as being of interest on details.

... a wonderful and astonishing book...

 

Professor David Watkins FGSM. Hon ARAM

... a magnum opus and incredible resource [...] altogether mindblowing...

 

John Hoare, Pilgrim Harps, Surrey, UK

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Reviews of Mizen: Rescued Folklore

Mizen folklore book was a labour of love

THE SOUTHERN STAR, SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2019 

BY KIERAN O'MAHONY

A LONDON teacher with strong West Cork roots has recently published his first book featuring stories and folklore from schoolchildren collected from various West Cork national schools during the 1930s.  Mizen: Rescued Folklore, Histories and Songs from Ireland’s South West is the work of Dr Mike Baldwin, whose grandparents hail from Goleen and Durrus. Mike is a regular visitor to Goleen during the summer months.  ‘There’s stuff in there that will make you laugh out loud,  but also stuff in there that could draw you to tears. Some of it is quite tragic and quite moving, given the obvious history of the local area,’ Dr Baldwin told The Southern Star.  The book is a direct transcription from books held by the National Folklore Collection (UCD), written down by the schoolchildren from National Schools at Crookhaven, Lissagriffin, Goleen, Altar (Toormore), Lowertown, Schull and Ballydehob between 1937 and 1939. Their stories tell tales of local life, trade, farming, superstition and even the supernatural.

It was only while he was researching for a novel of his that he came across the stories online and he was then given permission by the UCD archive to publish the stories.  Virtually all the resources I used were online and I also used online newspaper collections. The Irish Folklore Commission at the time charged the students of Ireland’s schools with the rescue of the country’s folklore. The standard of writing is remarkable and shows how excellent the education system was.

‘The book is currently on Amazon as well as in local bookshops in Schull and Skibbereen and the e-centre in Goleen. I might have underestimated the interest in these stories. I’m already working on a follow-up which will feature stories from schools from Ballydehob to Skibbereen. Hopefully I’ll finish that by the end of the year.’

Dr Baldwin’s academic background is steeped in music having completed a MA in organology (science and history behind musical instruments) as well as completing a PhD last year on harp making.  He has been teaching ‘forest learning’ for the past 10 years and takes students into a woodland environment to teach them real lifeskills and how to solve problems.

"A wonderful rediscovery of history, tradition and song from one of the most beautiful places on this breathtaking planet."  

 

Sam Lee - Mercury Prize nominated folk singer, winner of best traditional song (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2016), song collector, broadcaster, animateur, and naturalist.

"[...] Folklore is something you normally associate with the distant past, but there is an intimate quality to the voices in the stories [...] It would make a great gift for an expat from the area and is EXACTLY the kind of book you'd want to be able to look at if you were staying in a cottage or AirBnB in the area."

 

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