Carol Wood

Carol Wood

BandClassicalCeltic

This singer, harpist, and composer draws her inspiration from great poets like William Blake and W. B. Yeats; she loves the magic and the versatility of the Celtic harp.

Biography

Drawing her inspiration from ancient and modern poetry, Celtic music, and classical music, harpist and songwriter Carol Wood creates music that lies somewhere between the folk song and the art song. Her music is often called “magical” or “enchanting,” perhaps because she plays and writes for the Celtic harp, with its pure, delicate sound.

Her latest CD, The Eve of St. Agnes, includes her settings of poetry by great poets of the past and present, such as Robert Herrick, William Blake, and W. B. Yeats, as well as her settings of her own translations of six of the mysterious Anglo-Saxon riddles. The title piece is an instrumental suite inspired by Keats’ famous poem. (“Not every great poem can be—or ought to be—set to music,” she says. “But that’s a whole other topic.”)

This CD also shows off the versatility of the Celtic harp and includes, in addition to art songs, diverse pieces ranging from a tango to a neo-medieval suite to “The Magician’s Birthday,” a composition which was named one of five finalists in the Jazz and Blues category of the 2005 South Atlantic Songwriter’s Competition in Washington, D.C.

Carol was initially drawn to the harp because of her background in medieval literature. (She began studying the harp while finishing her Ph.D. in medieval Welsh poetry.) There has always been a special affinity between poets and the harp—the troubadours, the Celtic bards, and Anglo-Saxon scops, all played their own versions of the harp.

Her first CD, The Chaucer Songbook, was a collection of songs from Chaucer’s works, arranged for harp, voice, and other instruments. (The CD was accompanied by a book published by Mel Bay.)

Since then, Carol has been writing her own music; she has published four collections of music for the Celtic harp, voice, and other instruments with Afghan Press (A Gathering of Friends, Friends Far and Near, The Beasts of Bethlehem, and Homage to Yeats.)

Her second CD, The Beasts of Bethlehem, featured her own settings of several Christmas poems, including the title suite, a collection of poems by the great contemporary American poet X. J. Kennedy, along with her wistful version of Thomas Hardy’s “The Oxen.”

Carol was a clinician and performer at the Oklahoma Harp Conference in 2003 and adjudicated at the Celtic Harp Competition at the Richmond Highland Games in Virginia (also in 2003). She has performed in all kinds of venues, from coffee houses to concert halls, and in all kinds of places, from McPherson, Kansas, and Houston, Texas, to New Orleans and Paris.

“What I really love to do is to set poems to music so that I can sing them, or so that other people can sing them. Sometimes people ask me if I ever write my own lyrics; I always say no, I don’t. I wouldn’t dare to, because I spend nearly every day teaching the greatest poetry in the language. (In my other life, I’m an English lit professor.)”

Lyrics

Mead

Written By: Carol Wood, translator

Prized by men, but hardly rare,

I fly from forests through the air

To tiny homes, where craft and care

Transform me till I tempt the bear.

Changed once more, I gain in might;

I now tempt men, who every night

Grapple with me—and lose the fight,

Floored and foolish by morning’s light.

The Forsaken Merman

Written By: Matthew Arnold

Come, children, let us away;
Now the great winds shoreward blow;
Now the salt tides seaward flow;
Now the wild white horses play.

Call her once before you go—
In a voice that she will know:
“Margaret! Margaret!”
Call her once and come away;
“Mother dear, we cannot stay.’
The wild white horses foam and fret.
Margaret! Margaret!
Children dear, was it yesterday
That she went away?
Once she sat with you and me,
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,
And the little one sat on her knee.
She combed its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.
She sighed, she looked up through the clear green sea.
’Twill be Easter-time in the world—ah me!
And I lose my soul with thee.’

From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers,
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.
We climbed on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,
And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes.
She sat by the pillar; we saw her clear:
‘Margaret, come quick, we are here!
Dear heart,’ said I, ‘we are long alone;
The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.’
But, ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were seal’d to the holy book.

She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well;
For the wheel where I spun, and the light of the sun--
And the blessed light of the sun!’
Till the spindle drops from her hand,

She steals to the window, and looks at the sand;
Over the sand at the sea;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
Hers is a sorrow-clouded eye.
Her eyes are set in a stare, and her heart is sorrow-laden,
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaid
And the gleam of her golden hair.

The Dandelion

Written By: Vachel Lindsay

O dandelion, rich and haughty,
King of village flowers!
Each day is coronation time,
You have no humble hours.

I like to see you bring a troop
To beat the blue-grass spears,
To scorn the lawn-mower that would be
Like fate’s triumphant shears.

Your lovely heads are cut away,
It seems your reign is o’er.
By noon you raise a sea of stars
More golden than before.

Discography

The Chaucer Songbook
The Beasts of Bethlehem
The Eve of St. Agnes

Set List

Typical set lists are drawn from her original material and include harp solos such as--

"The Cyanoblue Waltz"
"The Wise Woman Tango"
"The Eve of St. Agnes"
"Wild Swans"
"The Changeling"
"Mischief"
"The Changeling Dances"
"Hiraeth"

--and vocals, such as--

"The Night Piece--to Julia" (Robert Herrick)
"The Rainy Pleiads" (A. E. Housman)
"in time of daffodils" (E. E. Cummings)
"Six Anglo-Saxon Riddles"
"Maid in the Moor"
"Angelus ad Virginem"

as well as traditional Celtic music, from Carolan to Scottish songs, and some covers, such as "A Whiter Shade of Pale" or "I Will."