Playing the harp in the Linen Hall Library

Yesterday I was at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, for the conference or colloquium, A Celebration of The Beath Collection and the Bicentennial of the Irish Harp Society (1819-39)

The organiser, Lily Neill, had asked me to play some old Irish harp tunes to tie in with the music manuscripts and the early 19th century documents relating to the Irish Harp Society.

I took the new reconstruction copy of the NMI Carolan harp, which was delivered to me in Kilkenny by harpmaker Pedro Ferreira less than four weeks ago. So, this was the new harp’s first public engagement!

I played a couple of tunes I had found in the Collection, and some tunes associated with Irish Harp Society students Matthew Wall and Patrick Byrne.

Here is the full line-up for the day:

3:30pm-4:00pm
Dr. Mary Louise O’Donnell – “The Bengal Subscription and the Irish-Indian Connection”
Frank Bunting – “Edward Bunting’s Kilmore Parish Connections”

5:15pm-6:15pm
Philip McDonagh – “Do you remember Sinclair Stevenson? Reflections on the Irish Missionary Tradition in India”
Lily Neill – “The Emergence of the Lever Harp”

6:30pm-7:00pm
Simon Chadwick – “The Old Irish Harp”
Nicholas Carolan – “Some Irish Traditional Music Finds in the Beath Collection”

Mary Louise O’Donnell
Frank Bunting
Philip McDonagh
Lily Neill
Me with the new harp
Nicholas Carolan
Conference attendees discussing items from the Beath Collection on display

My header image shows a fragment of a manuscript which I played in my concert, from the Collection: Box 4, appendix 1, no.8

Victorian Visions

The Museum of the University of St Andrews has an exhibition currently called “Victorian Visions”, looking at 19th century items in their collections, and with a focus on the rediscovery and restoration of the medieval heritage of St Andrews.

When they asked me if I could come in and do a concert of medieval harp music to tie in with the exhibition, I started thinking of musical parallels to this rediscovery. Continue reading Victorian Visions

Playing the harp for Nathaniel Gow

“Nathaniel Gow’s Dance Band Concert” last night at the Edinburgh Assembly rooms was far, far more exciting, beautiful and moving than I had expected. The venue was just stunning, the band was amazing, the dancers were elegant and alluring, the programming was just perfect and the audience was almost full and really engaged with the entire project.

Continue reading Playing the harp for Nathaniel Gow

Nathaniel Gow’s annual ball, 1817

On Friday 20th January, I will be in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, playing as part of a bicentenary concert. Nathaniel Gow introduced Quadrille dances to Edinburgh in 1817, at his annual ball at the Assembly Rooms, and this year Talitha MacKenzie has organised a series of events commemorating this. The main event will be a Regency ball on Saturday 11th March, but there will also be dance workshops and the concert on 20th Jan.

Continue reading Nathaniel Gow’s annual ball, 1817

The Memoirs of Arthur Ó Néill

Today I presented my concert in St Andrews, “the Memoirs of Arthur Ó Neill”.

I read excerpts from his autobiography, and played the tunes referred to in the anecdotes.

Here is my video of the complete, half-hour performance:

Continue reading The Memoirs of Arthur Ó Néill

“…the fleshy part of the finger alone”

Today I was working on tunes collected by Edward Bunting from the 18th century Irish harper, Arthur Ó Néill, for my concert in St Andrews on 3rd August.

As I played through some of his settings of Carolan and other baroque Irish harp music, using a copy of an 18th century Irish harp, I started thinking about the whole issue of playing the harp with long fingernails.

Continue reading “…the fleshy part of the finger alone”