Festival director, tutor
Siobhán Armstrong is one of Europe’s foremost historical harpists and plays an extensive collection of copies of medieval, Renaissance and multi-row baroque harps. A versatile musician, she is at home playing seventeenth-century opera in some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, performing as a soloist on a Hollywood film soundtrack and gigging at some of the world’s best-known traditional music festivals. She founded The Historical Harp Society of Ireland in 2003.
Listen to Siobhán HERE
When performing Irish music, Siobhán is unusual in choosing to place herself at the point where ‘historical’ meets ‘traditional’. For more than twenty-five years, Siobhan has been rediscovering the playing techniques, aesthetics and lost repertory of the early Irish harp. Sharing this with others as a performer and as a coach is now at the heart of her artistic and educational work. Siobhán is an experienced and enthusiastic tutor, working with beginner to professional harpists on historical and modern harps. She also coaches instrumentalists, singers and chamber-music performers in a variety of European art music in conservatories and universities around Europe.
She is currently writing up a PhD thesis at Middlesex University, London, on the subject of eighteenth-century Irish harp performance practice. With her ensemble, The Irish Consort, she has embarked on a ground-breaking project to produce a series of recordings documenting music in Ireland between 1500 and 1800. The first recording in the series was released in March 2019: Music, Ireland and the Sixteenth Century on Destino Classics, UK. It was produced with generous funding from the Arts Council Music Recording Scheme, managed by Music Network.
Festival assistant director, tutor
Simon Chadwick is one of the most important experts on the history and traditions of the early Irish harp, helping to spearhead the current international revival. Now based in Armagh, in the north of Ireland, he researches, teaches and performs the ancient native music traditions of Scotland, Ireland and neighbouring countries as well as giving lectures and presentations at third-level institutions and in the public sphere, primarily in the UK and Ireland.
Listen to Simon HERE
Simon documents his research on his ground-breaking information website – earlygaelicharp.info – which is widely acknowledged to be the pre-eminent published source of information on the early Gaelic harp and its traditions. He has published a pair of tutor books outlining the historical performance tradition for the instrument, a book on advanced playing techniques, and an often-cited article in the scholarly journal Early Music.
Simon was born and grew up on the edge of the New Forest in the south of England. His mother taught him change-ringing on tower bells when he was a child. He studied physics before later switching to archaeology. Simon became interested in the old Gaelic harp traditions – based on the earlier work of Ann Heymann – and started gathering information about the extant historical harps preserved in museums. This led to commissioning replicas of them and experimenting with these to understand their set-up and stringing. He has also done enormous work researching, collating and studying the sources for old Irish and Scottish harp music, aiming to restore the old music to the reconstructed instruments.
Festival financial administrator, tutor
Sylvia Crawford, from Co. Armagh, recently completed a Masters by Research in Ethnomusicology, at Dundalk Institute of Technology. Her research focused on the life and music of Patrick Quin, an eighteenth-century harper from Co. Armagh, and on cultural tourism in the Oriel region.
Listen to Sylvia HERE
Sylvia combines classical and traditional music backgrounds, playing early Irish harp, fiddle and piano. She has a BA Hons in Music and Ethnomusicology from Queen’s University Belfast, and an HDip in Arts Administration from NUI Galway
In recent years Sylvia has been actively involved with the revival of the old Irish harp, and has presented concerts, talks and workshops on the subject. She is involved with The Historical Harp Society of Ireland, both in an artistic role and as Financial Administrator. As well as private and online tutoring for harp, fiddle and piano, Sylvia tutors annually at Scoil na gCláirseach and at HHSI Discovery Days around the country.
Most recently Sylvia Crawford has been collaborating with singer, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, on eighteenth-century Irish vocal music. Sylvia’s harp music and research features on Ní Uallacháin’s acclaimed 2017 online project, Oriel Arts.
A master in the performance and traditions of the Gaelic harp, Ann Heymann continues to spearhead the instrument’s revival. She plays in the traditional manner, the harp on her left shoulder so the right hand plays the bass and the left hand plays the treble.
Listen to Ann HERE
Known for her symbiotic relationship with her instrument and her ability to wed performance practice with the recorded literary tradition, Ann is the first modern harper
- to interpret fingernail and damping techniques detailed in the Welsh Robert ap Huw harp manuscript;
- to adapt piobaireachd’s highly ornamented variations to the clairseach;
- to interpret and perform repertoire of Denis O’Hampsey from the original Bunting manuscripts in Belfast (also using a replica of O’Hampsey’s instrument and O’Hampsey’s tuning);
- to interpret and perform the compositions of Cormac MacDermott, an Irish harper at the Elizabethan court.
Ann also authored the first tutor for the instrument, based upon the first tunes taught student harpers in the old tradition (Secrets of the Gaelic Harp and A Gaelic Harper’s First Tunes).
ANDREW LAWRENCE KING
Baroque opera, orchestral & ensemble director, imaginative continuo-player, Early Harp virtuoso, specialist in baroque gesture & Historical Action, investigator of Flow, Andrew Lawrence-King is the doyen of historical harping, one of the world’s leading performers of Early Music, and an internationally renowned scholar.
Listen to Andrew HERE
Andrew’s pioneering recordings of Trabaci, Ribayaz, Handel and Carolan re-established the lost worlds of Italian, Spanish, Anglo-Welsh & Irish baroque harps. As co-director of Tragicomedia and director of The Harp Consort, he led a revolution in improvisation & continuo-playing. His research into Tactus has redefined our understanding of baroque rhythm. As guest director and teacher, he inspires musicians around the world to reach new levels of technical precision and stylish historicity with fun, energy and passion.
Andrew has directed at La Scala, Milan & Sydney Opera House and won Russia’s highest theatrical award, the Golden Mask (2012) for Cavalieri’s Anima & Corpo. His direction of Handel’s Orlando (2019) won the Russian Eugene Onegin Award and has been nominated for another Golden Mask. During his long collaboration with Jordi Savall, he has won a Grammy (best ensemble 2011), the Spanish Premio de la Música in duet (2010) & trio (2011), and Australia’s Helpmann Award in duet (2013) & ensemble (2018).
Andrew’s latest recording traces the roots of favourite Christmas carols from the Finnish Piae Cantiones (1582) with the Helsinki Utopia Choir, released on Jordi Savall’s AliaVox Diversa label (2019).
Visit Andrew’s website HERE
EIBHLÍS NÍ RÍORDÁIN
Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin is an Oireachtas and Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann prize-winning sean-nós singer and also an historical harpist, presenting 17th- and 18th-century Irish harp songs. This is a much-neglected genre which she is almost unique in presenting in the manner of the old harpers i.e. accompanying her singing herself on a copy of an 18th-century Irish harp.
Listen to Eibhlís HERE
Eibhlís’s deep interest in Irish music and heritage has also led her to research and perform songs from the sean-nós repertoire of the Déise (east Munster) for the past seven years, for which she has won many prizes including at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and Corn Mháire Nic Dhonnachadha at the Oireachtas competition. Her new, solo sean-nós song recording will appear later in 2020.
Eibhlís has studied early Irish harp with Siobhán Armstrong, which has led to a fortuitous amalgamation of her interests in Irish music and song, early music, research and performance. She now researches, reconstructs and performs Irish harp songs. She has also been exploring the interconnections between early Irish harp music and the living sean-nós song tradition.
From co. Cork, Eibhlís followed her musicology degree at UCC with a Licentiate in piano teaching and works professionally as a classical piano teacher. She also holds a first-class Honours MA in Women’s Studies from UCD, which focussed on women in the arts in contemporary Ireland. Eibhlís is also a composer and arranger for diverse media: piano, voice, vocal duo, choir, and various traditional Irish instruments.
Since 2018, Eibhlís has been invited by Siobhán Armstrong to perform harp songs in concert with her, including at Culture Night at Áras an Uachtaráin, at festivals, and at HHSI Discovery Days around Ireland.
James Ruff is a harpist and tenor from the USA, who has focused his energies on researching and performing early Gaelic repertoire from Scotland and Ireland for voice and early Gaelic harp since 2005, as well as learning the Scottish Gaelic language to fluency. He has sung as an art-music tenor at international early music and opera festivals and has won the highest prizes for his singing in the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd. In addition to coaching harpists, James teaches singing at Vassar College, USA.
Listen to James HERE
Since 2005, James has focused his vocal talents and early music experience on researching and performing the early Gaelic repertoire from the courts of Scotland and Ireland for voice and early Gaelic harp, transcribing this oral-tradition music and text from manuscripts and archival recordings, and arranging these for voice and harp using historically-informed techniques and practices. He has presented Gaelic harp and voice concerts at the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe, Midtown Concerts in New York, Beacon Hill Concerts in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Stone Church Arts Concert Series in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and the Mount Holyoke College and Vassar College Music Series.
James speaks Scottish Gaelic, and has been coached in Gaelic song by award-winning Scottish singers Kenna Campbell, Mary Ann Kennedy and Christine Primrose, and has studied early harp techniques with noted Irish harpist Siobhán Armstrong. In autumn 2016, he won first place/Men’s Division and Highest Overall Score in Gaelic Song at both the ACGA North Carolina Gaelic Mòd and the U.S. National Gaelic Mòd.
James has been a soloist with the US early music ensembles including the Handel and Haydn Society, Newberry Consort, King’s Noyse, Aradia Ensemble, New York Collegium, Early Music New York, and Music of the Baroque. He has toured the U.S. and abroad singing the title role in the medieval Play of Daniel with Early Music New York and GEMS, most recently in the Twelfth Night Festival in New York city. James has taught voice at Vassar College since 2008, and maintains a private voice and harp studio.
Bill Taylor is a specialist in the performance of ancient harp music from Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and is one of very few players investigating these repertoires on lyres, psalteries, medieval gut-strung harps, wire-strung clarsachs and Renaissance harps with buzzing bray pins.
Listen to Bill HERE
Bill is one of the foremost interpreters of music in the Robert ap Huw manuscript, containing the earliest harp music from Europe, and he has made two solo recordings of this repertoire using historical harps. He performs and records as a soloist and with several ensembles, including Graindelavoix, Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien, Quadrivium and Sinfonye. As a teacher he is much in demand, and is frequently invited to lead workshops in the UK, Europe and the USA, including regular appearances at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival.
Scoil na gCláirseach–Festival of Early Irish Harp is made possible with funding from An Chomhairle Ealaíon (The Arts Council) and Kilkenny County Council. Our wonderful bank of HHSI Student harps has been funded by The Music Capital Scheme, supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and managed by Music Network. This year’s video concert series is generously supported by Cruit Éireann / Harp Ireland.