Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Scoil na gClairseach—Summer School of Early Irish Harp 2013 Director's Report

Photo: Pat Moore
Well, what an amazing 10th anniversary summer school we had this year! We celebrated Scoil na gClairseach 2003–2013 with a cake and bubbly at our opening reception and carried on with a celebratory 10th anniversary concert series in Kilkenny, Galway and Dublin, during and after the summer school, with all concerts either sold-out or close to that.

At the opening, we made presentations to our longest-serving students: Paul Best, who has attended ten out of eleven Scoileanna, and Barbara Karlik and Jim Johnston, who have been with us for nine out of the eleven. We’re touched by the faithfulness of our students, most of whom come back to us year on year.

Several ‘family’ members couldn’t be with us for various reasons this year. In their stead we greeted many new faces, from as far afield as New Zealand and Japan. We had twenty-one students in total, from ten countries [England, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, France, New Zealand, Austria, Russia], plus auditors each day.

Our students spanned the gamut from complete beginners who had never before touched a harp, to professional harpists who wanted to refine their skills on early Irish harp. We had more than our usual number of under-18s: five in total, which provided them with a fun peer group together.

This year’s timetable can be accessed here: http://www.irishharpschool.com/timetable.htm

Lecture highlights of 2013 include historian John Gray’s presentation on 18th century Belfast, which helped us put the Belfast Harpers’ Meeting into its social and political context; Jacopo Bisagni’s talk on the philology and organology of early Irish musical terminology and Simon Chadwick’s presentation of his latest work on the repertoire of Rose Mooney, Patrick Quin and other 18th century harpers. But, as ever, when Karen Loomis comes from Scotland to address us, she stole the show! Her presentation of the latest part of her doctoral work on the Queen Mary and Lamont harps (with a side-dish of interesting new information on the Trinity College harp) was breathtaking: she lead us through a presentation of her astonishingly rigorous work, and that of her scientific colleagues who examined and analysed historical wire samples found in the Lamont and Queen Mary harps, and who tested wood samples using scanning electron microscopy, to reveal that the soundboxes of both harps are constructed of willow, and not hornbeam, as had been conjectured for many decades.  This is such invaluable work, presented in a manner, which actually had many of us on the edge of our seats with suspense as Karen led us through her presentation. Thrilling stuff!

Our HHSI Summer Concert Series this year, entitled The Ancient Music of Ireland, presented me, Siobhán Armstrong, Ann Heymann and Andrew Lawrence King in concert, with guests Áine Ní Dhroighneáin, sean-nós song, and piper Ronan Browne. We were really pleased to sell out the Kilkenny concert in our new concert location: the newly renovated Chapter House of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Galway and Dublin concerts were very close to sold-out.

A musical highlight of this year’s concert series was to hear Ronan Browne play his 1760 Kenna Irish pipes set. I had never thought to hear 18th century Irish pipes, never mind a gorgeous set which were already being played more than thirty years before the Belfast Harpers’ Meeting of 1792 and which are still in beautiful condition and in very good hands.

Our field trip to Dublin felt very relaxed this year: we had a smaller number of field-trippers than usual and since we couldn’t access the harps in the National Museum in Collins Barracks, due to staff shortages there, we had a more leisurely time at other museums and libraries.

There are a number of people I’d like to thank for their help and support in the last number of weeks:

An Comhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council who have financially supported us through their Festivals and Traditional Music schemes; Music Network  and The Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who have funded the purchase of harps for us this year; our generous patron Jane Carter; and our other supporters and Society members, who kindly support our work. Our complete Members, Supporters and Patrons list can be visited here: http://www.irishharp.org/patrons.htm

We would like to thank Philip Edmondson  and  Kilkenny School of Music for our summer school venue and John O’Neill and St. Mary’s Cathedral for hosting our Kilkenny concert.

I would also like to give my most heartfelt thanks to the HHSI team behind our summer school and concert series: HHSI Hon. Sec. and Scoil Assistant Director, Simon Chadwick; our PR officer, Natalie Surina; and Sylvia Crawford, our newest administrative assistant; all three of whom have worked energetically, cheerfully and tirelessly for weeks now to ensure that everything came to pass smoothly and successfully.

Maura Uí Chróinín of Galway Early Music, has our gratitude for the lovely concert poster design she made for us and for her help in promoting the Galway leg of the Summer Concert Series.
And finally, our thanks go to John Elwes for his kind and generous logistical help.
Artwork: Hannah Amesso

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

HHSI Summer Concert Series


The Ancient Music of Ireland

Fri. 16th August KILKENNY
Thurs. 22nd August GALWAY
Fri. 23rd August DUBLIN

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland 2003–2013

KILKENNY Chapter House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, James’s St. FRI. 16th Aug. 8.00 p.m.
The Historical Harp Society of Ireland is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with concerts of ravishing early Irish harp music. This is the ancient instrument depicted in Ireland’s national emblem and played by a very small group of musicians nowadays. Our performers will be playing exquisitely ornamented replicas of the Trinity College or Brian Boru harp—Ireland's only surviving medieval harp—strung in brass and 18-carat solid gold strings.
PERFORMERS The internationally acclaimed performers are Ireland’s own Siobhán Armstrong, the USA’s foremost Irish harpist, Ann Heymann, and Channel Islander Andrew Lawrence-King, who is not only the world’s most famous historical harpist but now the most-recorded harpist of all time!
They will be joined by possibly the most stylish of Connemara’s young traditional singers, Áine Ní Dhroighneáin and by one of Ireland’s best known uilleann pipers, Ronan Browne, whose haunting 19th century instrument compliments these ancient harps perfectly.
PROGRAMME The programme will include rarely heard gems: the earliest songs in the Irish language together with heart-breaking laments and sparkling dances of the old Gaelic world. The sound of the early Irish harp has been described as ‘mesmerizing and heart-breakingly beautiful’ [The Irish Times] and ‘the true sound of ancient Ireland’ [NY Times]. The same might also be said of Ronan Browne’s rare pipe set from the 1840s, whose sound makes you want to curl up and snuggle deep into their rich, warm tone as he performs old airs, marches and jigs. Áine Ní Dhroighneáin is from An Spidéal, Co. Galway, an area steeped in Irish language, tradition and culture. She sings love songs and laments of earlier centuries in the style of her native area, but in her own unique voice.
This is a
rare chance to visit newly refurbished Chapter house and enjoy the old Irish music in its' old walls.
BACKGROUND In the ten years of its existence, the HHSI has been exploring and researching the centuries-old musical landscape of Ireland and its Gaelic neighbour, the Scottish Highlands and Islands. This research and collaboration with historical pipers and singers, steeped in ancient traditions, has helped to create rare and evocative concert programmes from the old Gaelic world.

TICKET PRICE €15/ €10, payable at the door. Bookings: 087 6332891
These concerts follow the HHSI’s international Scoil na gCláirseach—Summer School of Early Irish Harp, which takes place at Kilkenny School of Music 14th -20th August. Scoil na gCláirseach is the only summer school in Ireland dedicated entirely to the early Irish harp.

To listen to the sound samples please visit http://www.irishharpschool.com/concerts.htm
For more information about HHSI summer concert series, the Historical Harp Society of Ireland and Scoil na gCláirseach please visit our web-pages at www.irishharp.org or phone us on +353 (0)87 6332891.
In 2013 The Historical Harp Society has been supported by An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Music Network and The Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.