Mudcat Café message #3777019 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777019
Posted By: keberoxu
06-Mar-16 - 04:12 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
On another thread I have quoted "The Irish Harp," the thesis (master's degree) viewable online, from the University of Wales, Bangor, written by Oona Linnett (2009). The author did extensive interviewing with direct quotes, some of which may be brought to bear upon this conflicted public identity/image question.

Sister Carmel Warde, archivist (at the time of researching the thesis) for the Sion Hill Convent, is also interviewed, and without any trace of irony, she speaks about supplying musicians to precisely the 'stone castles' criticized by the record review in the original post on this thread.
"Looking back over the 1950's and the 1960's I recall very happy busy days preparing [the harp students at the convent] for Jury's Cabaret....Before the Summer holidays we awaited invitations from Bunratty Castle, Killarney Hotels, Dublin Hotels, and the Hilton Hotel in London for our harpists to entertain guests for a week or two...These were great days when the Sion Hill Harp School flourished." (p. 44, The Irish Harp thesis)

Gráinne Yeats was intrepid about facing this conflict head-on and speaking of it; and Oona Linnett interviewed her as well:
"What you had, basically, were beautiful young girls singing sweet folk songs, playing little chords, and they weren't really playing the instrument. They were using it solely as an embellishment of the song....Mary [O'Hara] was the best, and she sang beautifully, but you did have a lot of terribly inefficient ones. "   (page 47)
When Yeats asked Sean O'Riada to compose something for her own instrument, the relatively modern gut-stringed harp rather than the wire-stringed harp of Irish antiquity, O'Riada turned her down. This is how Yeats accounts for O'Riada's refusal.
"I think he was depressed about the standard of harp-playing at the time, because it was very, very low....the little girl image, singing sweet songs, was not one that appealed to Séan. And he was right, I think. Because we're talking about a very old and beautiful tradition." (page 51, thesis)
Yeats goes on to relate that there was, at the time, only one harp-maker in Ireland, Daniel Quinn, of whom Máire Ní Chathasaigh recalls that the waiting list for his harps was as long as two years. When Yeats asked Quinn if he would make for her a wire-strung harp -- such as the purist O'Riada would take seriously -- "Quinn was absolutely incredulous" (page 54, thesis).