SONY DSCKaren Marshalsay is a composer with compositions uploaded to MusicHub. Read below to find out more about them.

As a harper I learned arranging skills fairly early as you’re expected to perform your own rather than someone else’s arrangements, and as a traditional musician it just seems very natural to write tunes, so these two things combined to foster my interest in composition.  When I was given a New Voices commission at Celtic Connections in 1999 it was the first time I’d scored out parts for other people and was a big learning curve, but since then I’ve gone on to write for larger groups such as string quartet, chamber ensemble, and orchestra. I find that writing for instruments that I don’t play, such as my piano and piece trumpet piece Winter Sun, or the string quartet pieces, is a different discipline to writing for harp and I tend to compose on keyboards or straight into Sibelius on the computer for that, whereas for solo or even harp ensembles I usually work the parts out on the harp first then scribble them down before fully scoring the piece out on the computer. I love immersing myself in a score while composing and realising all the phrasings and markings and really exploring the possibilities of dialogue between the instruments. It’s also great to hear other folks play my tunes and see where they take them!


Karen Marshalsay is a master of traditional Scottish harp music. Specialising on all three Scottish harps – gut- and wire-strung and the baroque bray harp with its buzzing sitar effect – Karen has appeared throughout the UK, Europe, America and Australia. Career highlights include Edinburgh International Festival, Celtic Connections, the Australian National Folk Festival, and working with African and Paraguayan musicians on multi-cultural projects including Yatra, which premiered at the Edinburgh Mela in 2008.

With a particular interest in pipe music, Karen performed with Allan MacDonald in his acclaimed pibroch concerts, and in the National Piping Centre’s 2013 Ceòl na Piòba concert and she continues to work with Allan and other top traditional musicians including legendary Irish singer and flute player Cathal McConnell.

Karen was composer in residence with Harps North West (Cumbria/Lancashire) in 2015-16, has written works for Celtic Connections, the Distil showcase concerts for the Scottish Traditional Music Trust, and has published her own series of harp books.  She was clarsach tutor at the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton for 7 years, teaches wire and bray harp at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and is a guest lecturer for Glasgow University and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Check out Karen Marshalsay’s music here.

Check out Karen Marshalsay’s website.

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