Festival director, concert artist, 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, speaker, workshop leader, 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, workshop leader, 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.
In addition to playing early Irish harp, Aoibheann Devlin is an accomplished and respected fiddle player. Her abiding interest in the early Irish harp stems from her fascination with the older strata of Irish music captured by Edward Bunting in the late 18th- and early 19th century, much of which was collected from the venerable Donncha Ó hÁmhsaigh aka Denis Hempson of Magilligan, co. Derry.
This led Aoibheann to organise a series of concerts and produce a CD entitled The Ancient Music of Ireland in the early 2000’s to celebrate the early Irish harp tradition. Next to follow in 2009 was a well-received double documentary for BBC NI and TG4, Banríon an Cheoil [Queen of Music], an attempt to re-establish and bring new relevance to the early Irish harp and its repertoire in modern traditional music.
Aoibheann plays a replica of Hempson’s Downhill harp created as part of the documentary, and her musical interpretation is very much rooted in her upbringing as a traditional Irish musician. She is currently recording a collaborative project with her niece, Manchester-based singer and and BBC2 Folk Awards winner, Ríoghnach Connolly.
EIBHLÍS NÍ RÍORDÁIN
2020 Concert artist (voice and harp) , tutor
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 (coming shortly)
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.
CIARÁN Ó GEALBHÁIN
2020 Concert artist (voice), workshop leader
Ciarán Ó Gealbháin is a native of an Sean-Phobal, in the Waterford Gaeltacht, and a lecturer in the Department of Folklore and Ethnology, University College Cork, where his doctoral research focused on aspects of the Déise song tradition. A former member of the traditional Irish music group, Danú, he has toured extensively in Europe and North America sharing his special interest in the music and song traditions of his native area. www.publish.ucc.ie/researchprofiles/A005/cogealbhain
Listen to Ciarán HERE (coming shortly)
2020 Concert artist (fiddle), workshop leader
Pádraic Keane was the 2011 TG4 Young Musician of the Year in Ireland. He is featured on The Rolling Wave, Na Píobairi Uilleann’s 2012 CD of significant young pipers. He is from Maree, Co. Galway and was born into a big musical family, his father being Tommy Keane, the well-known piper.
Listen to Pádraic HERE (coming shortly)
Pádraic began learning the pipes at the age of eight under the guidance of his father and has also received tuition from many leading pipers. He is now a tutor himself at music festivals in Ireland and abroad.
He has toured the USA – as soloist with The Irish Chamber Orchestra, performing Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin’s Termōn – and Europe with Ragús. He has also collaborated with the RTE Concert Orchestra, RTE Symphony Orchestra and ConTempo Quartet.
2020 Concert artist (fiddle), workshop leader
Breda Keville is an exceptionally soulful fiddler who grew up near Lough Corrib in Co. Galway. She has been particularly influenced by some of the most important Irish music tradition bearers including Paddy Fahey, Sarah & Rita Keane, Bobby Casey, Willie Clancy and Felix Doran.
Listen to Breda HERE (coming shortly)
She attended whistle lessons with Mary Bergin from the age of 7 and began learning the fiddle at school shortly afterwards. She got a new fiddle for her 13th birthday and soon became hooked! She gives workshops regularly, both in Ireland and abroad, and also teaches in Galway on an individual basis. She released her solo CD, ‘The Hop Down,’ in July 2006. Dermot McLaughlin wrote that: A recording like this is a cause for optimism at a time when so many accents and points of difference are being smoothed out of traditional music in studio recordings and elsewhere. This hop down is really a big step up!
2020 Workshop leader
Carolin Margraf is a German, undergraduate historical harpist and historical musicologist, currently completing her studies at Europe’s most famous early music university, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Switzerland.
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.