James McCurley was a traditional Irish harper in the middle of the 19th century. He played concerts, and he was beaten up in Cootehill. This post is to draw together the information we have about him, so that we can start to tell his life story.Continue reading James McCurley
Mr O’Connor was a traditional Irish harper in the mid 19th century. He was originally from Limerick; he was blind, and was enrolled into the Irish Harp Society school in Belfast some time in the late 1820s or early 1830s. He had a very good performing career, touring and playing concerts usually with other traditional harpers, and also playing at private functions at the big houses of the nobility. Most of his work was in the South-East of Ireland.
This post is to draw together references and information about him, to try to piece together his life story.Continue reading O’Connor
Scoil na gCláirseach
Last week was Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny.
Reflections on Scoil na gCláirseach
I was in Kilkenny the other week, for the fourteenth annual Scoil na gCláirseach – summer school of early Irish harp. During the week, I explored some of the issues I have been working on so far this year, namely the new setup for the medieval Gaelic harps, and the issues of using fingertips instead of long nails for playing the 18th century Irish harp repertory.
Scoil na gCláirseach
I have not posted for a while because I my time has been largely taken up with preparations for Scoil na gCláirseach next month.
As well as corresponding with attendees, and dealing with the hydra-like timetable, trying to corral all the different tutors, speakers and other events into some kind of order, I have been preparing for my own presentations.
This year, as usual I am leading the ever-popular field trip, where we visit all of the historical Irish harps in Dublin museums, and also presenting the very challenging one-hour overview of the entire tradition. This is pretty tough, trying to boil down everything to its essence. I have been working on a new handout, a kind of map or venn-diagram of the repertory, trying to illustrate the nature of the core repertory and peripheral stuff, and to categorise the core repertory – I think that what survives is in some ways not at all representative of what was played in the old tradition.
I am also leading two specialist sessions. I am giving a presentation on my work researching the music and traditions of Raghnall Mac Ailein Òig, which should be a great opportunity for me to refine my ideas on him. I did some more digging on his journey to Achnacarry to visit Cameron of Locheil – I have still not managed to locate the River Sgaitheal, but I did enjoy a digression reading all about Glen Pean.
Also I will be chairing a seminar on the Cloyne harp; we will have two different chromatic Irish harps on site, so this seems a great opportunity to get everyone together to discuss this difficult and intriguing subject.
I’m just back from Kilkenny where I have been running Scoil na gCláirseach and its associated concert series – sold out in Galway!
For me the best moment was the visit, organised at the last minute, of Senegalese griots Solo Cissokho and Seckou Keita to the School of Music to demonstrate their traditions. It was fascinating to see Solo’s response to Ann Heymann’s question about the nitty gritty of the old tradition – he asked for the video camera to be switched off before saying anything more.
Here is Brenda’s wonderfully atmospheric photo of Solo: