Achill International Harp Festival • 22-24 October, 2021

Following on from the success of last year’s online festival, Achill International Harp Festival will once again be online 22-24 October, 2021. The opening evening of the festival features a stunning film which is the culmination of a specially commissioned AIHF project ‘Casadh na Taoide – The Turning of the Tide’. Earlier this year, a traditional Galway Hooker, Mac Duach, visited Inishbofin, Inishturk, Clare Island, Achill Island and Arranmore. Onboard were Artistic Directors, Laoise Kelly and Diarmuid Gielty along with project manager Freda Hatton. Travelling between the islands the group encountered musicians, artists and storytellers, as well as many memorable island characters. They have gathered stories of shared heritage and culture, with the hope of forging new connections for a shared future. This film by Heavy Man Films captures the essence of this project, with particular focus on selected artists from each island, including Andrew Murray (Inishbofin),  Cathy O’Toole (Inishturk),  Beth Moran (Clare Island),  Proinsias Mac a’ Bhaird (Arranmore) and Mary Lavelle Burke (Achill).

This year’s festival is also bringing Ireland’s ancient harpers and manuscripts to the fore. Leading academics in the area of ancient harp manuscripts will contribute to the festival and a host of exciting new collaborations and commissions will bring this ancient Irish harp music to life with a fresh, new energy and perspective. Acapella group Coda accompanied by Freda Hatton and with the assistance of Steve Cooney have arranged a stunning collection of O’Carolan songs, these will be showcased at the Sunday evening concert. Siobhán Armstrong, Simon Chadwick & Eilís Lavelle take an in depth look at the early Irish harp as well as music collector Edward Bunting. During the Saturday evening concert the Cafferky Crew: Harry Lawlor, Padraic Collins and Andrew Gallagher will also provide an exciting new take on the music of historic Mayo harper, Hugh Higgins. This performance is in association with Cruit Éireann who have continually supported the festival since its very first year.

AIHF is extremely proud to have two of this year’s TG4 Gradam Ceoil recipients amongst this year’s artists. Steve Cooney, TG4 Gradam Ceoil, Composer of the Year, 2021 will perform for our Saturday recital and also give an online workshop. Niall Hanna, TG4 Gradam Ceoil, Singer of the Year, 2021 will perform with Eilís Lavelle at the Saturday concert. This commissioned collaboration between Niall and Eilís was due to take place at the 2020 festival. Covid restrictions prevented this from happening but recording took place on Achill this summer and AIHF is delighted to bring this wonderful performance to this year’s festival audience, it certainly will have been worth the wait! The Ó Flatharta family and Cafferky Crew also complete the line-up for Saturday evening’s concert to add another dimension to the diverse range of talent which makes up this year’s festival. On Sunday joining Coda and Freda Hatton will be exciting new talent Aisling Lyons followed by Laoise Kelly and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn who will perform an extraordinary concert of new tunes from Bunting’s collection.

Expert online tuition from festival harpers as well as other leading Irish tutors will be available to suit all levels from absolute beginner all the way up to advanced level. AIHF is excited to present an exciting new teaching initiative this year. Úna Ní Fhlannagáin has created a series of harp tutorials specifically aimed at beginners. Her technique for teaching those new to the harp is unparalleled and this is the first time that an absolute beginner resource has been made available online. Alongside the harp tutorials is an online harmony workshop with Steve Cooney. Using the system of Geometric Visualisation of music, this workshop is aimed at those working with children, those with difficulties reading staff notation or anyone with an interest in exploring an alternative way to understand rhythm, melody and harmony. Participants will learn how harmonies are created and work on simple systems that will help them to develop harmonies on their own.

Achill International Harp Festival, as always, is keen to provide something for everyone so there will be several other exciting events. Children can listen to the enchanting bilingual tale of The Dagda’s Harp, which will be brought to life using a beautifully illustrated crankie scroll, transporting viewers back in time to the lands of Irish chieftains. This year’s virtual walk will follow the Paul Henry Trail which showcases the stunning Achill landscape that influenced so much of Henry’s work.

The weekend promises to be a feast for the senses and while tutorials and workshops must be purchased all other events are free to view, ensuring that everyone will have the opportunity to experience the magic of the festival. For further details visit , Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.