The Kennedy Center

Robin Huw Bowen


Born in Liverpool (the unofficial ôcapital of North Wales,ö despite being in England) to Welsh-speaking parents, Robin Huw Bowen, inspired by the Breton harper, Alan Stivell, learned to play the simple Celtic harp while at school. He was first exposed to the triple harp by the brothers Dafydd and Gwyndaf Roberts who played the instrument with the traditional Welsh group, Ar Log. They had learned from Nansi Richards, the last of the Welsh gypsy harpists.

In 1979 he received a degree in Welsh Language and Literature from the University College of Aberystwyth, Mid-Wales. For some years Bowen worked at the Welsh National Library. While there he began his pursuit of the Welsh triple harp and discovered several old collections of Welsh tunes and arrangements for harp. He set up his own press, Gwasg Teires, to publish this material, one of the only current sources for traditional Welsh music. His book of two hundred hornpipes, Tro Llaw, was published by the Welsh National Library.

Bowen played locally for several years, and joined the Welsh traditional group, Mabsant, in 1986, toured and recorded with them for two years and then set out on his own. Since then he has played solo and with the vocal duo Cusan Tan, with whom he currently tours. As a solo performer he has toured North America, Australia and Europe and has performed at major festivals, concerts and colleges. He has also taught classes and workshops.

The triple harp has obscure origins in the eighteen century. It has three rows of strings, the outer two in unison to each other, the middle for accidentals, making it a fully chromatic instrument. It was popular for a time throughout Europe, in art music as much as folk, but was later superseded by the pedal harp (which uses the pedal for accidentals). The triple harp lived on only in Wales, where it was extremely popular, and much cheaper and lighter than the new pedal harps. It became known as the Welsh national instrument in the nineteenth century.
Robin Huw Bowen