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”
My header image shows a fragment of a manuscript which I played in my concert, from the Collection: Box 4, appendix 1, no.8
The third tune on Edward Bunting’s Examples of Irish Melody wanting the fourt and seventh, is Féileacán. Today I made two video demonstrations and also two transcriptions with fingering of this important tune.
In my book Progressive Lessons, I included a full size full colour facsimile of Edward Bunting’s loose sheet titled “Examples of Irish Melody”. These settings of the three beginners’ tunes are interestingly different from the ones we have from Denis O’Hampsey and Patrick Quin, and I have been using them more and more in my teaching.
It is very interesting to work through these settings with complete beginners in my classes, as well as discussing the implications with my established students. It really feels like a proper system for playing the Irish harp in the old Gaelic tradition is starting to emerge.
“But Cambridge forty-eight, for many years, was the greatest peal that was rang or invented” (Tintinnalogia p.2)
In Duckworth’s Tintinnalogia, published in 1668, he gives the full text of “three old peals on five bells, which (though rejected in these days yet) in former times were much in use” (p.15-17). I am interested in these three as rare testimony of the state of change ringing in its true infancy in the early to mid 17th century.
Looking through the books from the Jimmy Shand Collection in Dundee library for a tune to play on Saturday week at the free community concert in Dundee, I noticed “Carlione a Favourite Irish Tune” in Neil Gow’s third collection (1792). It is Dr John Stafford, or Carolan’s Receipt (no. 161 in Donal O’Sullivan’s index).
Whether or not I’lI get it up and running to play in two weeks time, it got me thinking about tunes titled with strange variants of Carolan’s name.
I am going to play the replica Queen Mary harp in Kisimul Castle on Barra in the Autumn, and so I thought I should get a MacNeil of Barra tune up and running. I am finding it a great challenge to get MacNeil of Barra’s March working on the harp.
I was reading the descriptions of people’s appearance in Togail Bruidne Dá Derga (The destruction of Daderga’s hostel), an early medieval Irish story from the Ulster Cycle, when I was interested to note these quite vivid descriptions of people at the court of the Irish High King, Conaire Mór mac Eterscél, who is said to have reigned in the first century BC or AD.