Category Archives: Sheet Music

Tam Lin, and Other Fairy-Mortal Tales


I promised myself I would not let another Halloween go by without publishing my collection of Tam Lin tunes.  In most versions of the story, it is Halloween night when our heroine must pull Tam Lin from his horse as the fairies pass by and hold him fast while he turns into all manner of things.  I have loved all things Tam Lin (including the many novels based on the story) for a number of years and being able to play the ballads on the harp is so much fun!  And they make for great programming in an set devoted to mysteries of the Celtic tradition.

So, with a few days to spare and without further ado, I bring you . . .

Tam Lin

Tam Lin is a legendary Scottish story, recorded in many ballads, which dates from at least the 1500s. The heroine’s story, one of pluck and courage, transformations, and the relationship between the fairies and mere mortals, has been the subject of innumerable versions.  This version of the tune is a traditional tune collected by BH Bronson.

Margery (or Margaret or Janet) sits calmly in a bower sewing when the thought of fresh roses sends her impulsively to the forbidden woods. After being seduced there by Tam Lin, she ultimately must rescue him from his enchantment at the hands of the Queen of the Fairies. To do so, she must pull him from his white horse and hold him tightly as he is transformed into a variety of beasts and then a brand of fire, finally covering his nakedness with her mantle of green as he comes back to human form in her arms.

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Lord Robinson’s Only Child

Lord Robinson’s only child is, of course, none other than Tam Lin.

This version of the Tam Lin ballad has an unnamed maiden walking her father’s grounds when a figure appears and demands to know why she is there. When she questions him he reveals himself to be the only child of Lord Robinson, and that he was stolen away by the faeries.

Another tune collected by BH Bronson, it has a pleasing lilt to it and sounds lovely on the harp.

Young Tambling

Here is another ballad for those of us bitten by the Tam Lin bug. I’ve added an introduction and ending to this lovely melody.  This version of the Tam Lin ballad was popularized by folk singers like AL Lloyd and Frankie Armstrong.   Another beautiful piece for harp, full of the drama rescuing Tam Lin from the Fairy Queen.

The Tamlin Reel

A rollicking reel, so fun to play!  What a nice way to break up a set of Tam Lin ballads in your programs.  I’ve shared the love between two hands, making it achievable even for advanced beginners.  There are some cool downward rolling chords for that spooky effect, and also some fun grace notes (leave them out until you can play the melody well without them).

Thomas the Rhymer

Often confused with Tam Lin, Thomas the Rhymer is another ballad about a man, in this case a harper, living with the Queen of the Fairies.  In this ballad told from his point of view, Thomas is a willing captive set free at the end of seven years and given the “gift” of truth-telling. This tune is a great fit for any program about fairies, the mysteries of Celtic lore, or, best of all, the adventures of harpers.

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More Halloween Sheet Music for Harp

More Halloween Sheet Music for Harp

bench-forest-trees-path-2Witches and Fairies and Shape-Shifting, Oh My!

Before it’s completely too late for Halloween sheet music, here are a few more Celtic tunes you might enjoy!

The Witches’ HIll

This Scottish strathspey sound great on the harp and isn’t too difficult to play. The first verse features a simple accompaniment; choose to play only this version if you are a lower intermediate player.  The second time through, I’ve added grace notes, rolled chords and some parallel passages, none of them too hard for solid intermediate players.

Song of the Pooka

I first fell in love with this haunting tune on a Noirinn ni Rainn recording years ago.  Once I discovered it’s beautiful story, I knew I had to arrange it for harp.  It’s a staple for performances and fits beautifully into a performance of Celtic mysteries.

This is a very old Irish tune, written by a fisherman and fiddler from the Northwest coast of Ireland, who, when out fishing with his mates one day, heard the tune mysteriously playing in the middle of the ocean. Believing it have an otherworldly origin, he named the tune after the, Pooka, an Irish water spirit.  Later speculation tied the tune to migrating humpback whales.  Either way, the tune is haunting.

The Song of Fionnuala

Fionnuala was the only girl in a family of boy, resented and ill-treated by their father’s new wife.  The stepmother eventually turned the lot of them into swans.  I have set this tune with a left-hand that becomes almost a counter melody, with contrary and parallel motion.   Play it simply and beautifully. The text is by Thomas Moore.

Sheet Music for Harp: Ghost Stories

Leaves Are Falling, the Nights are Colder

. . . and It’s Time for Some Ghost Stories

The Celtic tradition is full of ghostly tales, many of which have come down to us with beautiful melodies. Whether you want to plan a Halloween program or just enjoy the Celtic mysteries, these arrangements are sure to please.

Binnorie (Two Sisters)

The Celtic tradition is full of ghost stories, but in this one from Scotland the harp plays a central role. When a passing harper makes a new harp from the golden hair and white breastbone of a lovely murdered maiden, it starts to sing the story of her cruel sister’s betrayal. This arrangement of the haunting tune includes a recurring motif as introduction and interlude, with three different verses. One of the verses features the melody in the left hand with floating chords above it.

The Lover’s Ghost (Cock’s Crow)

This English ghost ballad is one of my favorites. The tune is haunting and the story more sweet than macabre. This arrangement of this beautiful tune includes some left hand harmonics, harmony in sixths, and a recurring (but optional) lever change.

Wandering Spirit

Like the famous Butterfly, this tune is a slip jig, in 9/8 time. It’s a lot of fun to play and a great addition to your ghostly repertoire. The first verse features a rollicking open hand pattern in the left hand–it looks impressive but is not hard to master. There is also some fun parallel motion in the second verse.

Sweet William’s Ghost

This lovely tune is another ballad about a ghostly lover, a story with the usual tragic results. In spite of the sad subject matter, the tune itself is sweetly upbeat. This arrangement is accessible to early intermediate players, and features a lovely waltz pattern in the left hand. The second verse takes the tune into a higher octave.

Downloadable Harp Sheet Music

Beautiful Music, From My Harp to Yours

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 . . . Get Your Free Tune & A Special Discount Just for My Readers


After many requests, I’m really excited to announce the launch of my downloadable harp sheet music store!  What will you find there?

Many beginner and intermediate arrangements of haunting Celtic tunes

Beautiful classical pieces capturing as much or the original as possible, but arranged to be accessible to lever harpists at different levels

Original pieces that give beginner and intermediate players something fun to work on as they learn new technical skills

There are over twenty downloadable PDF selections available, with many more to come, as I’m adding new titles every week.

During the past decade, I’ve built my Celtic harp repertoire for background gigs, weddings, and numerous other events, as a soloist, as part of a flute and Celtic harp duo, and as a member of various larger ensembles.

Along the way, I have created numerous compositions and arrangements for my own performance needs, for therapeutic harp use, for my students, and just for fun!  I’ve written arrangements and original compositions for solo harp, as well as arrangements for harp ensemble and harp with voice or other instruments.

Here’s what one harpist had to say about my arrangements of Celtic tunes:

I love Susan’s Celtic arrangements and she was kind enough to let me “test drive” several of them when I was her student.  They are simple without being simplistic.  In her arrangements, you always have a strong sense of the melody and the accompaniment embellishes without taking over.  She has searched out some of the most beautiful pieces written in this tradition. 

There is enough going on in the arrangements that they are full and beautiful played by note, but there is room for improvisation if you want to branch out.  As a beginner or intermediate player, sometimes it is hard to find arrangements that are complex enough to be interesting but simple enough that you can memorize them and have them under your fingers if you are asked to play.  These arrangements fill that niche.  You will love them. 

~ Robin Stadnyk

Pick up a free copy of the fun multi-mode tune, Sister Jean, and save 15%  for a limited time on any sheet music purchase. Visit the store and use coupon code NEWSTORE at checkout to receive your discount.

Coupon expires April 10, 2014.

Photo by Chance Agrella, courtesy of and copyright Free Range Stock,