National Harp Day 2019Dublin Highlights
The Lexicon Library and Cultural Centre Dun Laoghaire and other Dublin venues
The sound of the harp echoed throughout The Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire on National Harp Day 2019, as it once again proved the perfect hub for a range of activities which took place from early until late. Performances were given by students and professionals alike, who created a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the large numbers of listeners who attended.
A steady stream of harpers of all ages and standards took part in our harpathon, which once again proved to be a huge success. Featured harpers included Alannah Thornburg, who began the morning’s music en route to a concert in Belfast with her group Alfie, Muireann Ni Mhuirthile, and Melissa Byrne, Anna Ivanova, Jessica Berwick and Sarah Gadalof, Cathal and Conor O Brien. Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin introduced her audience to the magical sounds of the early harp and sang songs of the harpers to her own accompaniment.
Tomás MacUileagóid of Eala Harps hosted a lively and interactive slot Shaping and Making: An interactive slot on harp making, where one of Tomás’s newest harps was given an impromptu airing by Aibhlín McCrann. The Bray Harp Ensemble, taught by Rachel Duffy, entertained us with a wide variety of harp music from dance tunes to newly composed ensemble settings, while Pedal Harpist Claire McCague gave an interesting, illustrated talk about the pedal harp tradition in Ireland in the nineteenth century – popularised by foreign virtuosi who travelled from London to Dublin to perform and to teach.
We were thrilled to welcome Úna Monaghan, holder of the Liam O’Flynn Arts Council/National Concert Hall bursary who dropped in to join in the celebrations, and played a wonderful version of the harper’s tune Tabhair dom do Lámh on Wicklow harp maker, Kevin Harrington’s new instrument, which also received its first outing on National Harp day.
We were joined for our open mic slot by 8 harpers led by Junshi Murakami, from the Kingston Academy in Dalkey, who added greatly to the variety of the performances. Junshi finished the evening with a beautiful slow air on his lap harp.
The day culminated in the Dublin National Harp Day Concert at the DLR Studio featuring Cormac de Barra and Anne-Marie O’Farrell; Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin; Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman. It was particularly pleasing to have Máire and Chris unexpectedly available to perform and the red carpet was rolled out for Cormac de Barra, who hightailed it over to Dún Laoghaire from a performance in Farmleigh, with Cormac Breathnach and Theo Dorgan, to join Anne-Marie in a scintillating performance of harp music.
Barry Séanainn gave invaluable help on the day marshalling performers and keeping the harping going while it couldn’t have run so smoothly without the support and assistance from Marion and her team at the Lexicon. Míle buíochas daoibh.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Dublin, students on the Royal Irish Academy of Music gave a pop up concert at lunchtime there, while Cairde na Cruite’s winter concert took place in the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham to celebrate National Harp Day. Special guest artist at this event was up-and-coming harper Éadaoin Ní Mhaicín from County Mayo. The concert opened with performances by student harpers Gráinne Ní Fhrighil, Helen Taaffe-Richardson and Emer Ní Scolaí. The students‘ performance of an eclectic range of music – from Carolan, contemporary, jazz to film music – was enthusiastically received by the audience. Éadaoin Ní Mhaicín gave a wonderful recital of pieces from her forthcoming album. The concert finale featured Éadaoin, who was joined in true Irish style by harper Emer Ní Scolaí, for an impromptu duo performance which brought the concert to a rousing finish.
Another harp event staged in Dublin on National Harp Day was a talk and harp recital entitled, A Celebration of the Harp / Céiliúradh na Cruite featuring harper, Teresa O Donnell and her sister Mary-Louise at the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin. There was an impressive turnout; people of all ages and representatives from each of the five continents enthusiastically welcoming the diverse, informative and interesting overview of harping from Teresa and Mary-Louise in their own inimitable style.
Over in the Seámus Ennis Centre in the Naul, Co Dublin, an early Irish harp Discovery Day with Siobhán Armstrong, Simon Chadwick, Róisín Elsafty and Sylvia Crawford, presented by The Historical Harp Society of Ireland, was greeted with enormous enthusiasm; we are delighted that the interest in the early harp continues to grow and it is welcomed enthusiastically by audiences wherever it is performed.