Other 2018 firsts included our first-ever virtual lecture given by Dr. Karen Loomis direct from Princeton, New Jersey, to the audience in Kilkenny.
We had our largest-ever faculty of performers, speakers and coaches including, for the first time, fiddler, Darren Mag Aoidh, and scholar-singer, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, both involved in presentations of music from Oriel in south-east Ulster. The staff and students alike were also enthralled by Allan Macdonald, the iconic Scottish piper and singer who made his first visit to us, and to be able to interact with this master of Gaelic music.
Pat Glavin, the Scoil chef, made us all very happy, once more, with his delicious vegetarian meals each lunchtime.
And music-making sounded until late into each evening at players' platforms and spontaneously around the building through the break- and practice-times each day.
We offered three levels of intensive hands-on sessions each morning inc. a dedicated Beginners' stream, and Masterclasses each afternoon, before our General and Specialist Workshops took place. These ranged from song workshops to a novel approach to modes and scales in Gaelic music to influences between 18th-century Irish harpers and English violinists.
Our pre-concert Lectures this year ranged from an exploration of the sound world of sixteenth-century Ireland to the radio-carbon dating of an iconic medieval harp to establish its age.
Each lecture was connected to the ensuing concert by time and a tableful of delicious, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and drinks for all those in attendance, prepared by Pat Glavin.
We were welcomed back warmly in 2018 to the spacious Coláiste Pobail Osraí, Kilkenny's Irish-language secondary school in the centre of town for this year's festival. Míle buíochas ('a thousand thanks') to Príomhoide, Cathnia Ó Muircheartaigh, Leas-Príomhoide, Síona Nic Eoin and school caretaker, Paul McDonald.
NEXT YEAR'S FESTIVAL
Scoil na gCláirseach 2019 will take place in Kilkenny 14-20 August. If you are planning to join us, do book your accommodation as soon as possible as Kilkenny is a much-visited summer tourist destination.
Our 2019 festival – funding permitting – will involve an exciting, new collaboration with Kilkenny Civic Trust and the Medieval Mile Museum. Our early-evening lectures and concerts will take place in the Museum itself: the recently-renovated, thirteenth-century St. Mary's Church, a perfect venue for our ancient harps. More venue information here: medievalmilemuseum.ie
We already have a juicy array of performing artists, workshops and talks set up for Scoil na gCláirseach 2019. Once our funding is confirmed, we will let you know more about our seventeenth festival. Bígí linn: come and join us!
Check out our youtube channel for some of this years’ (and other years’) Scoil workshops, concerts, talks and other presentations, which will shortly be available to view online. We are grateful to harper and film-maker, Mícheál Ó Catháin, who documented our events for us this year.
We are grateful to President Michael D. Higgins, who gave us his presidential patronage in 2018, to honour our work to rediscover the history, traditions and historical performance-practice for the early Irish harp. We also thank our generous sponsors for their material support, without which the festival could not take place: An Chomhairle Ealaíon (The Arts Council); Music Network and the Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Mrs. Jane Carter; Kilkenny Arts Office; HHSI Gold, Red Brass and Yellow Brass Supporters; HHSI Associate & Scoil na gCláirseach Members. Many thanks also to the local, national and international Scoil participants,and to the concert- and lecture-goers who joined us in Kilkenny in 2018; they each made Scoil na gCláirseach a vibrant highlight of the historical harping year in Ireland.
Special Collections at Queen's University Belfast's Library kindly allows us to show – and work on with the Scoil participants – pages from the all-important late-eighteenth century Bunting harp manuscript collection, for which they hold the copyright. We are grateful to them to have this vital resource at our fingertips.
Thanks also to the 2018 Scoil faculty for all their expertise in exploring lost traditions, their skill at imparting new ideas and their work to inspire the Scoil participants and audiences.
Finally, enormous thanks, as ever, to Sylvia Crawford and Simon Chadwick who administrate Scoil na gCláirseach with me each year and to Maura Uí Chróinín for her beautiful design work for the festival and the HHSI's other events year-round.