Scoil na gCláirseach 2016 took place this year in the illustrious surroundings of St. Kieran’s College in Kilkenny, founded in 1782 and situated in its own spacious grounds. For the first time in our fourteen years, students had the possibility of being accommodated on campus and many commented on how lovely it was to be together in the evenings for music-making and socialising. Enormous thanks to St. Kieran’s for making it possible for us to be there.
Our theme this year was the music of Arthur Ó Néill, the early Irish harper and Belfast Harp Society teacher who played in Belfast in 1792 with the other harpers attending the Harpers’ Assembly that year, and who died 200 years ago this year, in 1816. Dr. Colette Maloney of Waterford Institute of Technology was our guest speaker at the opening on Wednesday, 17th August, outlining for us the major milestones in Ó Néill’s life.
The Scoil staff tutors – Ann Heymann [USA], Siobhán Armstrong [IRL], Simon Chadwick [Scotland] and Sylva Crawford [IRL] – explored his harp music and songs over the next five days in intensive classes, workshops and masterclasses.
We were joined by erudite and entertaining guest tutors and lecturers for our post-lunch General and Advanced lectures and workshops each day. Piper Ronan Browne, singers Róisín Elsafty and Éamonn Ó Bróithe, organologist Dr Karen Loomis and harp builder Natalie Surina all dealt with the most diverse subjects, which have relevance to our field. Read about the presentations in our timetable here: http://www.irishharpschool.com/timetable.htm
Particularly memorable for me this year were Simon Chadwick’s groundbreaking presentations on his new ideas about historical stringing parameters for medieval Irish harp and the repertoire that ought to be considered for the instrument. Also Ronan Browne’s use of archive recordings from the late 19th- and early 20th-century to wake up our ears to questions of style in the performance of historical Irish music.
One of our two commissioned Connemara Rose Mooney harps, built for us by Natalie Surina, was ready in time for students and staff to enjoy playing it at the Scoil for the first time. Nails v. no nails was a thread running through the Scoil this year, given that we were dealing with 18th-century music, and this was the ideal instrument on which to contrast the different approaches.
Once more, Míchéal Ó Catháin joined us to record Scoil events for the Irish Traditional Music Archive. We remain delighted that ITMA is now archiving the work of the summer school each year and sending an early Irish harper to do the filming!
We were also delighted to welcome Sarah Cunningham from Music Network to our final Student Platform on Monday 23rd August. Sarah came to hear students playing our Student harps; a resource available to us only because of Music Network’s kind support over the last number of years, administering capital funding from An Chomhairle Ealaíon and the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Pat Glavin, our wonderful cook, produced many delicious lunches for us again this year, one of the agreed highlights of which was his Indonesian spicy squash and coconut soup starter on Saturday 20th August!
The National Museum of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and the Guinness Storehouse kindly facilitated our visits to them on our field trip to Dublin on Tuesday, 23rd August, to see as many of the surviving early Irish harps as it is possible to see in one day. This is always a Scoil na gCláirseach highlight with new discoveries about the instruments made each year by students and staff members alike.
Enormous thanks to all who made Scoil na gCláirseach possible this year: An Chomhairle Ealaíon; our patron, Jane Carter; Fáilte Ireland & IPB Insurance; Kilkenny County Council; Music Network and the Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; our HHSI Yellow Brass Supporters, Associate Members, Scoil students and auditors; Maura Ó Cróinín & Galway Early Music; John O’Neill and St. Mary’s Cathedral; The National Museum of Ireland; The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin; the Guinness Storehouse; and John Elwes. A complete list of our Supporters can be seen here: http://www.irishharp.org/supporters.htm
My particular thanks to Scoil Assistant Director, Simon Chadwick and HHSI Treasurer and Scoil administrator, Sylvia Crawford, who both work tirelessly to administrate Scoil na gCláirseach with me; to Natalie Surina, our administrator at St. Kieran’s during Scoil na gCláirseach; and to Maura Ó Cróinín, our PR officer for 2016 HHSI summer events.
To get a flavour of the 2016 summer school, you can shortly have a look at our photo album here, once we upload a selection of photos: http://www.irishharpschool.com/2016/photos
Director, Scoil na gCláirseach—Summer School of Early Irish Harp
Chair, Historical Harp Society of Ireland