Chris Knowles

Musical biography......

The past.....

Chris started out playing electric and acoustic guitars in blues, folk and rock music. He went on to explore various styles of music, and many other instruments including tin whistle, fiddle, shakuhachi, mandolin, dulcimer, bouzouki, bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, and others.
Eventually taking up the Celtic harp in 1986, he decided to concentrate on that as his main instrument, and traditional Celtic music in particular- including much Irish, Welsh, and Scottish music, and also some Breton, Manx and Cornish music- this soon evolved into a full-time profession.

Based in Wales, from the late 80's & throughout the 90's Chris played solo harp performances, including private bookings, public recitals and live background music, work with theatre productions, and events for CADW at many castles in Wales. He was CADW's official minstrel at Caernarfon castle for 9 years, from 1991- 1999. He also did recording and live performance work for various projects, including recording and festival performances with nature poet and artist Clyde Holmes, plus session recording work for various studios and artists, and appearances on TV & radio programs.
During this time he also played in a duo with uilleann piper Allan Moller, and they appeared at many folk clubs, festivals, arts centres, and other venues throughout the UK. At the time they were one of very few acts in the world playing the rare combination of uilleann pipes and Celtic harp together in a duo; the duo repertoire was mostly Irish music, with some Welsh and other Celtic material. Their appearances included headlining at Pontardawe International Music Festival Festival (1989 & 1990) and at the week-long Isle of Islay Celtic Festival for 2 years running (1990 & 1991), Glastonbury Celtic Festival (1991), and they played privately for H.M. The Queen on her first visit to Conwy Castle in 1991.

In the mid-90's Chris and Allan teamed up with the trio 'Hin Deg' from South Wales consisting of renowned Welsh singer Heather Jones, plus fiddle & bouzouki player and arranger Mike Lease (an all-Ireland competition finalist and Gold medallist in the UK Irish fiddle competition, Mike was a founder member of the legendary Welsh band 'Yr Hwntws') and fine fiddler, bodhran player & clog dancer Jane Ridout. This 5-piece trad. Welsh folk band was called 'Hafren', and over a period of 4 years or so they played concerts, festivals (including Cambridge folk festival) and appeared on live radio sessions and several TV programmes for BBC, HTV and S4C.

Another musical partnership during this time was with acclaimed acoustic guitarist Anthony Griffiths, including occasional performances as a harp/guitar duo, and recording several tracks together on Anthony's CD "Ysbryd".

In 1998 Chris and Allan formed a trio called 'Howling at Ravens' with Ben Walker, an excellent jazz multi-instrumentalist from Manchester, who had become involved with trad. Irish music. Ben played flutes, whistle, uilleann pipes, keyboards, saxophone, synth, percussion and other instruments. Although this band was short-lived, they played some concerts & festivals including Glastonbury Festival (1999), and they recorded a CD 'Lovely Molly', an intriguing mixture of some pure traditional Irish and other Celtic pieces, and some rather surreal arrangements (with a dash of quirky musical humour here and there...) - the album attracted considerable critical acclaim in some trad. folk music circles and was played on radio including Mike Harding's folk programme on BBC Radio2, a 1 hour special feature with live interview on Radio Scotland, and various stations thereafter in the USA and Canada. (See Recordings page)

Chris was also a member of a contemporary folk band called 'Roam' for four years (1999-2003); this band featured the original songs of Colin Rudd and the versatile voice of singer Rachael Anne Davies. Roam recorded two CDs, and played many folk clubs and several folk festivals, mainly in the North of England.

Since 2004, Chris has performed mainly solo, and also in a duo with Ben Walker, playing both private bookings and public performances, festivals etc. mainly in the UK but also including a short tour of concerts in Canada in July 2005. 
During 2008-2011, Ben was often replaced in the duo by fiddler Gary Mathewson, when he was unavailable due to teaching committments.

Since 2009, Chris has also played occasional gigs with singer/songwriter Catrin O'Neill , as either a duo, or a trio with Mike Lease, and they recorded Catrin's album 'Cegin Nain' together in 2009.


           The present.....

Chris presently plays both public and private bookings solo, on Celtic harp. 
His main harp is a Camac Ulysse 34-string harp. He also has an antique 30-string Morley clarsach from the 1880's.
In addition to his main repertoire of traditional Celtic music, he can offer a large set of popular music for weddings & corporate events, and also a set of early music from the 13-17th C. for mediaeval banquets etc.

He also plays in a duo with Ben Walker. The duo plays traditional Celtic music in public performances, featuring harp, uilleann pipes, flutes, whistles, bouzouki, cittern and mandolin. The material is largely from the Irish tradition but also features some music from Scotland, Wales, Brittany and the Isle of Man. They also play private bookings such as weddings, corporate events etc. as 'The Gold Ring' -(Website: )

Chris and Ben also have an entirely different kind of set of music consisting of Ben's own songs. These songs are of a more contemporary folk-jazz style, with a subtle eclectic mixture of various musical influences. In these songs Chris plays a self-customised Alden 'Mandocaster' electric mandolin, as well as harp (see videos on links page for a few examples).  The Mandocaster has been customised to have single G, D & A strings, allowing note bending and use of a small brass finger slide, and also the use of an Ebow for the effect of continuously sustained notes, so it can be used more in the style of a small lead guitar; and the double top E strings allow for a more Mandolin-like tremolo style. This makes it quite a versatile instrument for more electric styles of music.

Other current ongoing collaborations include occasional performances with Catrin O'Neill , and fiddler Mike Lease.

Chris also often plays for ceilidhs with local North Wales-based ceilidh band Mooncoin, where he plays mainly fiddle, whistle, low D whistle, & alto saxophone.  (Mooncoin website:

In and around his home town Barmouth in Gwynedd, he often plays in informal sessions with other local musicians, mainly on soprano & alto sax, low D whistle, & the customised Mandocaster.

He is also available for recording session work.



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