Chris Knowles

Musical biography......

The past.....

Chris started out playing electric and acoustic guitars in the late 60's and early 70's- mainly blues, folk and rock music. He went on to explore many other instruments including tin whistle, fiddle, shakuhachi, mandolin, dulcimer, bouzouki, bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, and various styles of music including bluegrass, appalachian, and in particular traditional Irish music.
Eventually taking up the Celtic harp in 1986, he decided to concentrate on that as his main instrument, and on traditional Celtic music - especially Irish, Welsh, and Scottish, and also some Breton, Manx and Cornish. This soon evolved into a full-time profession.

From the late 80's & throughout the 90's Chris played solo harp performances including public recitals, folk clubs, private bookings, live background music in restaurants and art exhibitions, work with theatre productions, and events for CADW at many castles throughout Wales. He was CADW's official minstrel at Caernarfon castle for 9 years, from 1991- 1999. He also did session recording & live session work for various studios and artists, and on TV & radio programs. 
During this time he also formed a duo with an uilleann piper, the late Allan Moller, and they appeared at many folk clubs, festivals, arts centres, and other venues throughout the UK throughout the 1990's. At the time they were one of very few acts in the world playing uilleann pipes and Celtic harp together in a duo. Their appearances included live radio features, numerous folk club gigs, and they also headlined at many festivals including Pontardawe International Music Festival Festival (1989 & 1990),  Isle of Islay Celtic Festival(1990 & 1991), Glastonbury Celtic Festival (1991), Edinburgh Folk Festival (1991) and Strathearn Festival (1995) 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 Welsh trio 'Hin Deg' (renowned Welsh singer Heather Jones, fiddle & bouzouki player Mike Lease and fiddle & bodhran player Jane Ridout). This 5-piece Welsh folk band was called 'Hafren', and over a period of 4 years they played concerts, festivals (including Cambridge folk festival 1996, and headlining at Crawley and Aberfeldy folk festivals) 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, performing as a harp/guitar duo, and recording together on Anthony's CD "Ysbryd".

In 1998 Chris and Allan formed a trio called 'Howling at Ravens' with excellent jazz multi-instrumentalist Ben Walker, who also played trad. Irish music.  Ben played flutes, whistle, uilleann pipes, keyboards, saxophone, synth, percussion and other instruments. Although this band was short-lived (1998-2000), they played some concerts & festivals including Glastonbury Festival (1999), and they recorded a CD 'Lovely Molly', an album that attracted considerable critical acclaim in trad. folk music circles and was played on radio including Mike Harding's folk programme on BBC Radio2, plus 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 contemporary folk band 'Roam' for four years (1999-2003); this band featured the original songs of Colin Rudd, with singer Rachael Anne Davies, and Jayne Coyle on viola. When Jayne left due to her classical music committments, she was replaced by Ben Walker on flutes, pipes & fiddle. Roam recorded two CDs, and played many folk clubs and several folk festivals.

Since 2004, Chris has performed mainly solo, and also in a duo with Ben Walker, mostly in the UK but also including a short tour of concerts in Canada in 2005. 

Between 2008-2013, Chris also played numerous gigs in duo with fiddler Gary Matthewson.

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


           The present.....

Chris works as a multi-instrumentalist; his principal instrument is Celtic harp, which he frequently performs solo, but also quite often in combo with other musicians.
His main harp is a 
34-string Camac Ulysse. 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, and also a set of early music from the 13-17th C. for mediaeval banquets etc.

His other main instruments are bouzouki, whistle & low D whistle, alto & soprano sax, fiddle, and electric 'mandocaster'- a customised electric mandolin.
He mainly plays these other instruments in various duos or bands with other musicians.

Chris continues to play in duo with Ben Walker; they play trad. Celtic music featuring harp, uilleann pipes, flutes, whistles, bouzouki, and cittern. Their material is largely Irish, but also features other Celtic music. They play public performances as 'Ben Walker & Chris Knowles'. They also play private bookings such as weddings, corporate events etc.  as 'The Gold Ring Duo' -(Website: )
  In addition to the trad. Celtic material, they also have an entirely different kind of set consisting of Ben's own songs, which are of a more contemporary folk-jazz style- with Ben on vocals and guitar, and Chris on harp & mandocaster.

Other current ongoing collaborations include occasional performances with Catrin O'Neill, and fiddler Mike Lease, and Chris frequently plays fiddle, whistle, low D whistle, & alto sax with North Wales-based ceilidh band Mooncoin. (Mooncoin website:

Chris also does occasional improvised solo performances on saxes & low whistle and often plays informal sessions and small local venue gigs with local musicians in and around Barmouth, Gwynedd.

He is also available for recording session work.



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