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Portland Highland Games
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Fiddle and Harp

Second perhaps only to the bagpipe, the fiddle occupies a place of central importance in the musical heritage of Scotland. The fiddle, or a crude instrument very much like it, has been played for centuries in Europe, going back at least as far as early Roman times. The "fiddle" is the same instrument as the violin and remains with us today principally because of its association with Scottish dance music. Acknowledging also the important contributions of the Scottish tradition to America's own rich fiddle heritage, we are especially pleased to see fiddling take its rightful place in the Scottish-American community of the Pacific Northwest here at the Portland Games.

The harp is by far Scotland’s oldest traditional instrument. Stone slabs and Celtic crosses dating back to the eighth century A.D. throughout Scotland depict harps and harpers. Public accounts show that from 1490 to the end of the mid-18th century, the gut-strung harp and the wirestrung clarsach existed simultaneously in the Highlands and the Lowlands.

In the Highlands, harpers were employed by clan chiefs, and held enviable social status. They accompanied their chiefs into battle until bagpipes assumed that duty in the 16th century. Clan harpers performed for joyous and sad occasions, and also played the clan to sleep at night. Educated people were expected to have some proficiency on the harp. The Scottish harp had fallen into disuse by the 18th century, and until recently had not been heard for hundreds of years.

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