Brooklyn College has recently experience a kind of “invasion of the Scots”, and like the British Invasion of the time of the Beatles, this one is a musical one as well. As we pointed out in the article on Karen Cargill a few issues back. There seems to be a large number of Scots who are musical who are putting in an appearance in the United States. Several, we noted were at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City and we have located two more who have arrived at Brooklyn College who are also musical.

The first of the pair we had the chance to meet was Murdo Macrae (pronounced like “Mack Ray”) who hails from a small town called Nostie about 7 miles to the east of Kyle of Lochalsh. Murdo comes from a musical family. Both his father and his older brother Farquhar are pipers and his mother and two sisters, Sarah and Isobel are also musical. His mother, Susie, who hails from Enbo (Dornach) however is professionally a dentist. While his father, Farquhar is a hill farmer (sheep and cattle) which Murdo feels defined his childhood! His father was brought up in the region and importantly bith his father and mother, were the GP of the district for many years and was his paternal grandfather.

Murdo Macrae

When Murdo was about 5 he began to study piano, but it was when he was 9 that he first got to play the instrument that would become most involved with – the harp. He was introduced to the instrument in Plocton primary school He began by playing the clarsach, the wonderful Scottish harp, and then about 6 years later took up the pedal harp – the kind traditionally found in symphony orchestras.

While Murdo’s mother was both studying and working, attending Gaelic classes as Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye, Murdo was moved to Sleat and continued his studies there. Murdo himself went to another Gaelic speaking school on Skye as well.

After he finished his schooling locally, where he attended Plockton High School for three years after his time at Sleat), Murdo attended the City of Edinburgh Music School where he started as a pianist, but ultimately felt that he had a stronger affinity for the harp and switched over to that instrument. He also says that he is particularly fond of the harp repertoire and has a special fondness for some of the works of Britten, Ravel, Debussy and Hindemith. He is now playing with the Brooklyn College orchestra and says he enjoys playing with an orchestra almost as much as playing solo. He remembers fondly his experiences with orchestras in Aspen Colorado and playing 7 other harpists in the conclusion of Wagner’s Die Götterdämmerung and Mahler's 8th Symphony! Summer 2012 Murdo says “I attended the Aspen Music Festival and I was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2009 where we featured in the BBC Proms ( I was playing harp and piano!)” (We hope not at the same time!)

In addition to playing the piano, the clarsach and the pedal harp, Murdo also sings and performed in London Gaelic Choir during his time studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where I completed my Bachelors.

Murdo has performed in Scotland at Eilean Donnain (Eilean Donan) the Macrae castle located in Loch Duich,just a few miles from his home. His father, uncle and brother have also performed there as pipers. Murdo also performed at the Royal National Mod, singing and playing the clarsach where he won the Glendale Quaich (and also won many other prizes at the Mods on harp and piano too! He has over 30 gold medals!) Among the other awards, he can claim is his current scholarship from the Robertson Scholarship Trust and the Scottish International Education Trust which supplements the support he receives from his grandmother, Dr. Mary Macrae, his grandfather John Mackintosh, and his parents!

Murdo Macrae

So what is Murdo doing in the wilds of Brooklyn? Well it seems that Sivan Magen, a world-renowned harp soloist has recently been employed at Brooklyn College and when Murdo learned of this, he applied to the graduate program and was accepted with a partial scholarship. He arrived this August to start his studies at Brooklyn College.

Murdo says that “Studying has always played an important role in my life. I have been very fortunate to have secured a place by way of an audition to continue my studies as a Master’s student with Sivan Magen at Brooklyn College in New York. Working under Mr. Magen will give me the chance to expand my musical palette and help me to discover and convey my own voice and ideas through my instrument. I am both excited and honoured to be joining the conservatory as one of Sivan Magen's first students there, and I look forward to representing my country overseas as a young ambassador of Scottish culture and tradition”.

He has high hopes for a future that includes both performing and teaching.

“After my Master’s degree, I plan on being an active solo, chamber and orchestral performer, and teacher. The incredible performance opportunities I have had during the past few years at the Guildhall School and in London will no doubt act as a springboard for future engagements; I have recently recorded for BBC Radio 3, attended the Aspen Music Festival, taken part in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and played chamber music in the Barbican and Wigmore Halls. During these performances, I really felt like I was ‘doing my job’ – a sensation that I hope to carry with me throughout my musical career. In addition to my musical experiences, my passions including art, culture and architecture feed directly into my music making.

“I am passionate about teaching. It is an ambition of mine to contribute to the elevation of classical harp playing in Scotland, and I hope to one day be able to pass my skills on to a younger generation. During my early studies in Scotland, I traveled great distances to find the teachers I needed to receive harp training. Even whilst at music school in Edinburgh, it was necessary for me to make frequent trips to London for supplementary lessons. I hope to be a local resource for the next generation of harpists. Music is such an intrinsic part of Scottish culture, and as a future teacher, I would love to invite and encourage players of traditional and folk music to extend their love of playing onto the concert harp. “

Murdo’s enthusiasm, musicianship and professionalism will doubtlessly be an inspiration to the other students in the music programs at Brooklyn College

Also arriving at Brooklyn College, but by a more circuitous route, is Prof. Marianne Gythfeldt who teaches clarinet and coordinates the woodwind and chamber music programs.

Prof. Marianne Gythfeldt

Prof. Gythfeldt was born to a Scottish mother and a Norwegian father in Aberdeen. Her parents met while her mother was teaching primary school. in Glasgow where her husband to be was in business school. Prof. Gythfeldt’s maternal grandfather Fergus had a farm called Kirkhill where he raised Clydesdales. Since this is being written on Halloween it behooves us to say that the current owner of Kirkhill says that “Gus the Ghost” is still around the farm!

Prof Gythfeldt left Scotland with her family when she was less than a year and moved to Oslo, Norway, thus following the route of another famous musician, Edvard Grieg! It was while she learned to play the recorder which her mother taught. While she was in school that she became enamored of the clarinet and began to study and play the instrument. Although she was living in Norway, the family spent summers and often holidays back in Scotland visiting friends and relatives.

While in high school, the family moved to the United States, settling in New Jersey. After graduating from high school, Prof. Gythfeldt attended the University of Rochester at the Eastman School of Music and received her BA from there. That was followed a stint at State University of New York’s Stoney Brook where she was awarded her MA.

After that she began to free lance as a performer playing classical music with a variety of orchestras and chamber groups. One of the highlights of her career was performing with Orpheus at the very prestigious Usher Hall in Edinburgh. All her Scottish relatives showed up to see her perform.

Interested in teaching as well as performing, Prof. Gythfeldt began teaching as an adjunct at William Patterson College, until the obtained a full time position at the University of Delaware. Eight years later she was offered the position she now holds at Brooklyn College and so she moved back to the NY area where she lives with her husband chemist husband Marco Ceruso and their daughter Maude.

Prof. Gythfeldt feels that teaching performance is not just teaching the techniques of playing, but also the discipline and professionalism required of anyone planning to enter a field as competitive as musical performance.

Prof. Gythfeldt has been very pleased with the amount of students in music at Brooklyn College and feels that they have a very distinct approach to music and are not in the least shy or timid in approaching performance. She performed a small concert recently at the college and her performance made it clear that Brooklyn College has gotten itself a very talented performer and teacher.



The Clàrsach - Pamphlet

The pamphlet “The Clàrsach” was written by Sir A.F. Philip Christison, Bt. GBE, CB, DSO, MC, DL, FSA(Scot) © 1969 with illustrations by Angus MacPhee. It was printed by John G, Eccles Longman, Inverness and was published by An Comunn Gàidhealach with whose kind permission we publish it here.

What a fascinating article about the "Highland Harp".

These pamphlets have been scanned and therefore are large image files.

Click each link to read one page at a time



WIND FARMS - Ugh! The owners were paid seven hundred and thirty thousand pounds to switch some farms off last year as the wind was too strong, Quiet they aren't My family lived near one in Killwinning the thump, thump could be felt in the house when the wind was in a certain direction.

House prices are falling in those areas. One man has had to knock over £20.000 off a house and still cannot sell it. A lady from Yorkshire came north to speak at a meeting. She has a farm and has had to leave her house every evening for the past 6 years as she cannot sleep because of them,

Sweden did away with the idea not workable. En Power took a group of protesters to listen to them .They took them on a non-windy day. I haven't seen any reduction in Electricity charges due to higher input.

A blue guide was doing a bus tour on one of the Islands off the West Coast of Scotland, Standing with his back to the front of the coach he was saying "Round this next corner you will see the only wind powered generator on the Island" the Coach driver then said "It blew down in February,"

I rest my case.

From AB in Scotland

For some more information about Scottish Power and new rate hikes see: Scottish Power to add £113 a year to energy bills for its 2.2m customers with 8.6% hikes

quietrevolution design vertical axis helical turbines. These are made to be Very quiet - I (cecilia) have been right next to one while it rotated and believe me, it was not noticeable. This may be a much better design than the typical turbine.