|Some of us... [Photo: Leticia Prados]|
And what a great festival we enjoyed thanks to the staff tutors, visiting lecturers and performers, administrative staff, concert goers, sponsors, funders and most importantly to the participants who came from Ireland, Europe and as far away as Japan and Australia to take part. Míle buíochas!
This year, we sought out a new venue once more, one which could accommodate late-night opening so that participants can practise, socialise and play music in-house together. We were warmly welcomed to Coláiste Pobail Osraí, the Irish-language secondary school in the centre of town, opposite Kilkenny School of Music. So happy were we there that we have already booked it for the 2018 festival! Many thanks to Príomhoide, Cathnia Ó Muircheartaigh, Leas-Príomhoide, Madailin Mhic Lochlainn and school caretaker, Paul McDonald. We had spacious classrooms, well-equipped with projectors and white boards for classes and illustrated workshops. We had a central presentation / concert room, a dedicated eating space and a kitchen that made Pat Glavin, our amazing cook, very happy. And there was free on-campus parking. As Paul McDonald was often heard to say: “Happy Days!”
On the last day –Tues. 22 August – we had our annual field trip to Dublin to see surviving early Irish harps in museum and private collections. This is always a thrill for staff and students alike – a chance to see the instruments which are not on public display but which we can access, examine and photograph on our private tour once a year. My thanks to the staff in the Guinness Storehouse, the Old Library, Trinity College and to those at the National Museum for their generosity and helpfulness to us each year.
Each concert featured a harpist: Simon Chadwick (Scotland), Ann Heymann (USA) and me, Siobhan Armstrong (Kilkenny). A further concert was the Irish debut of historical harper, James Ruff (USA). It’s marvellous to see the national and international early Irish harp revival advance sufficiently that we are starting now to see the Irish debuts of public performers who are new to us.
Three of the harpists had a guest at their concerts: Sean-nós singers, Éamonn Ó Bróithe (Galway) & Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin (Wicklow), sang harpers’ songs & songs of the Déise (Co. Waterford) respectively, and historical piper Ronan Browne (Connemara), played his rare 1760s Irish pipes, the only working set in Ireland of which I know. I am delighted to say that we had up to full-house attendance at these events.
In addition to my contributions, our song class, workshops, talks and lectures this year were deftly led by Eamonn Ó Bróithe, Ronan Browne, Ann Heymann, Sylvia Crawford and Simon Chadwick.
Éamonn Ó Bróithe taught the fluent Irish speakers an 18th-century harpers’ song in the song class while I taught the non-Irish speakers an unfamiliar archive version of the famous Déise song ‘Cill Chais’.
Simon Chadwick compared the sound, ergonomics and musical possibilities of medieval v. later early Irish harps. In other presentations he spoke about attempted early Irish harp revivals of the 19th- and early 20th centuries, and revisited key source manuscripts of core repertory based on work he has done over the last year for his newly published book.
|[Photo: Mícheál Ó Catháin]|
Simon Chadwick brought his wonderful Early Gaelic Harp Emporium to tempt us with books, recordings and more...
We are grateful to harper and film-maker, Mícheál Ó Catháin, who has worked so hard, over the course of the festival, to document our events. Maith thú, a Mhícheál!
Bígí linn – come and join us if you can!