The HHSI’s third annual summer school – Scoil na gCláirseach – Summer School of Early Irish Harp – has just come to a successful conclusion. It was the biggest Scoil to date: six staff tutors and lecturers, twenty students and five auditors from nine countries including Japan, Poland and the USA.
This year’s Scoil was memorable for many reasons:
This year saw the introduction of the position of Assistant Director at the Scoil, now ably filled by Simon Chadwick (UK), who was also one of our lecturers.
Our guest tutors/performers included the instrument’s doyenne, Ann Heymann (USA), visiting the Scoil for the third year in succession, and for the first time, Javier Sáinz (Spain). Other guest staff were Paul Dooley (Irl) returning for the second time to tutor and perform and Seán Donnelly (Irl), the pre-eminent scholar of early Irish harp history who has also lectured at each of the previous Scoileanna. We had the pleasure of being addressed by Ireland’s first ever professional player of the instrument in modern times, Gráinne Yeats, at our official opening.
Perhaps one of the most heartening aspects of this year’s Scoil was the fact that for the first time, the number of Irish students exceeded that of foreign students. Eight Irish students (children, teenagers and adults) made up the beginners’ class. Given that the purpose of the Scoil is not only to foster interest in the early Irish harp in general and to help revive the playing of the instrument, but to do so particularly here in Ireland, this has to be seen as a very encouraging development indeed. One unexpected and delightful spin-off from this year’s Scoil has been the setting up, by Scoil students, of an independent early Irish harp circle in Dublin, which will meet monthly from this autumn.
The advanced class this year was also the largest to date, with eight participants. This also demonstrates the continuing and welcome development in the expertise of existing players.
This Scoil saw students being offered the Society’s new HHSI Student Trinity harps from the HHSI Student Harp Bank to play on for the first time: measured copies of the Trinity College harp strung in brass and silver, incorporating the unison tenor G strings known as ‘na comhluighe’ and the idiosyncratic string spacing of the original, built in 2005 to the Society’s specifications by master luthier David Kortier (USA). One new student was so impressed that she bought one from the Society on the spot!
This year, all the Scoil tutors played replicas of surviving instruments. This, together with the Society’s new strategy of making affordable student copies of surviving instruments available to students, has crystallised our intention to press forward along this path: strongly to encourage the use of accurately measured student- or facsimile copies of surviving Irish harps. The Society sees this as the best way, for historical harpers, to gain insight into and practical knowledge of the early Irish harp.
In addition to having our usual three distinct levels of tuition (beginner, intermediate and advanced), this year, for the first time, our lecture timetable offered a new two tier system, with parallel streams for beginners and more advanced students; all-in-all, we had a mesmerizing array of talks, lectures, seminars and concerts.
This has also been the first year where the Scoil has attracted a considerable body of auditors including Irish language scholars, professional harpists and builders of Irish harp.
Each lunchtime, we ate wonderful food prepared for us by our fellow musician and professional cook Danette Milne, who put aside her flute to become the Scoil lunch cook for the week!
I would like to thank sincerely my assistant director, all the staff, students and auditors for their extraordinary enthusiasm, concentration, hard work and good humour during Scoil 05; it all contributed to a very memorable event indeed.
Many thanks for their invaluable financial help:
Fergus Shiel and An Chomhairle Ealaíon (The Arts Council)
Mary Butler and Kilkenny County Council
Thanks also to
our associate presenters: Philip Edmondson and Kilkenny School of Music
Maura Uí Chróinín and Galway Early Music
Jeffrey Skidmore, Susan Proud and Kilkenny Arts Festival
Treasa Ní Cheannabháin
The modern revival of the early Irish harp depends on all of us working together. Thank you so much to all who played their part this August in Kilkenny.
Chair – Historical Harp Society of Ireland