Harps Alive Festival 2023

Harps Alive Festival 2023

An all-island celebration of Irish harping


Some 231 years on, harp music resounds…..Harpers and historians join forces in Belfast and Dublin to celebrate the Irish harping tradition.

Now in its second year Harps Alive (Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin) is a cross border collaborative festival, which brings together the finest harpers from across the island to celebrate the significance of the landmark event of the Belfast Harp Festival 1792.  An event, that through the work of Armagh-born Edward Bunting, resulted in the collection of the music and techniques of the Irish harping tradition; a collection which is central to the continuity of the Irish harping tradition today.

Cruit Éireann | Harp Ireland, working in partnership with Reclaim the Enlightenment, present the Harps Alive | An Chruit Bheo | Harps Leevin festival in Belfast, on September 30th and in Dublin on October 21st – 22nd, 2023.

The festival will bring together harpers from all over Ireland to assess Edward Bunting’s legacy, showcase the harpers’ music, and bring a contemporary spotlight to bear on current developments to safeguard harping as a living tradition in Ireland.

A dynamic series of cross-community and cross-border events featuring two major concerts, a series of recitals, talks and workshops remembering the contribution of Edward Bunting 180 years after his death, is planned in the two cities.

Chair of Cruit Éireann | Harp Ireland Aibhlín McCrann, stated, ‘It is very satisfying to see our collaboration with our northern colleagues coming to fruition, and to gain such understanding of the important role that the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly played in the safeguarding of the harpers’ music. Our work together has been a true partnership, epitomised by collegiality, enthusiasm and positivity”.

John Gray, Chair of Reclaim the Enlightenment, considers this event to be “a major musical festival rooted in history. A celebration of the heritage of the harp and the contemporary revival of harp playing”.  He considers that it will continue to “create more awareness of the harp tradition with the public and leave a lasting legacy”.

The success of last year’s Harps Alive festival has inspired harpers to further explore the music of the Irish harp. This year the festival commissioned County Antrim harper Gráinne Meyer, to arrange music for the newly established Harps Alive Ensemble.  The commission will be premièred at a concert on 30 September in Rosemary Street Church, Belfast at 5.30pm which also features early Irish harper, Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin, the Northern Stars Trio, and harp and pipes duo, Laoise Kelly and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn.

“We are looking forward to celebrating this work and to welcoming audiences across the cities of Belfast and Dublin this autumn”, said Lauren Ní Néill, Cruit Éireann|Harp Ireland’s CEO. “Our exciting line-up of harpers shows that the harping tradition in Ireland is vibrant, dynamic and constantly evolving. It is part of our living cultural heritage, and we are intent on celebrating Edward Bunting’s achievement and safeguarding it for future generations of harpers”.

Festival Events

Saturday 30th September

25-29th SeptemberPrimary School Harp SeriesVarious
11.00-13.00 Hands on Harps Workshop Series

Workshop 1: Try your hand at the early Irish harp with Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin

Workshop 2: Irish Harp Workshop with Gráinne Hambly

Workshop 3: A Masterclass with Richard Allen




First Prebyterian Church


Shankill Road Library


St. Joseph’s, Sailortown



Film Screening – Beart Bunting


Linenhall Library
13:00 – 14:00Ceol agus Cruitireacht le hÚna Ní Fhlannagáin | Harping Fun with Sharon Carroll

Harp, storytelling, drama and singing workshops for children in English and Irish with Sharon Carroll and Úna Ní Fhlannagáin


An Cultúrlann | Turas





13:00 – 14:00


Illustrated Lecture with Mary Louise O’Donnell & Teresa O’Donnell: Edward Bunting: Illuminating his LegacyLinenhall Library
14:30 – 15:30 

Citizen’s Manifestation


Assembly Rooms


Harps Together

Featuring the Harps Alive Ensemble’s specially commissioned work, Northern Stars Trio,  Early Irish Harper Eibhlis Ní Riordáin, Harper Laoise Kelly & Piper, Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn


Followed by:

Harping Late: Harp session and get together.


Rosemary Street Church





The Deer’s Head


Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin continues in Dublin on Saturday 21st and  Sunday 22nd  October with a Gala Concert in the Pepper Canister Church, Dublin 2. This event features a newly commissioned poem remembering Edward Bunting by Aosdána poet Moya Cannon and harper Aisling Lyons, the Harps Alive Ensemble, Maria McNamee(pedal harp), early Irish harper Siobhán Armstrong, Triona Marshall (harp) and Martin Tourish (Accordion).


Date / TimeEventVenue
16-20th October


Primary School Harp SeriesVarious
Saturday 21st October

13:00 – 14:00

Harping Fun with Aisling Ennis

A fairy-themed harp and storytelling workshop for children with Aisling Ennis



14:30 – 15:30



Film Screening: Beart Bunting


Lecture with Mark Doherty: Edward Bunting: Illuminating his Legacy


Sunday 22 October

11:00 – 12:00 noon

Remembering Edward Bunting

Aisling Lyons & Moya Cannon


Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 8
Sunday 22nd October



10:00 – 14:00





11: 00 – 13:00



13:30 -15:30


Hands on Harps Workshop Series in collaboration with the Royal Irish Academy of Music


Workshop 1:

Learn, Listen, Have a Go!

Try your hand at the early Irish harp with the Historical Harp Society of Ireland


Workshop 2: A Masterclass with Richard Allen


Workshop 3: Irish Harp Workshop with Aisling Lyons


The Royal Irish Academy of Music
Sunday 22nd October 


Harps Together: Siobhán Armstrong, Moya Cannon & Aisling Lyons, Maria McNamee, the Harps Alive Ensemble, Martin Tourish & Tríona MarshallPepper Canister Church