Mudcat Café message #3777247 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777247
Posted By: keberoxu
07-Mar-16 - 06:59 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
More first-person testimony, this time from chapter 2 of Travels with my Harp, the revised edition of memoirs by Mary O'Hara.
"It was 1951, my penultimate year at Sion Hill. The annual pageant was going to be based on the life and works of Thomas Moore, who in his poems depicted the harp as a symbol of Ireland. For that reason, harps and harpers had to be found. [Remember, this school is located in Greater Dublin -- where were they going to find musicians if not in Dublin?]
Unfortunately, both had by then gone out of fashion in Ireland. The forward-looking prioress of Sion Hill, Mother Jordan, had earlier decided to introduce the harp to the school, probably with the pageant in mind. Researching for my Talks in 2005, I chanced upon some interesting correspondence between Mother Jordan and Mr. Malachy McFall of Belfast, the only harp-maker left in Ireland at the time. He didn't have any new harps and could only offer her one second-hand Tara standing harp for 65 pounds, a pretty stiff figure in those days. So, the school scoured the country high and low and collected old harps from barns, outhouses, and attics -- most of them riddled with woodworm -- and managed to 'fit' three small Brian Boru knee-harps to three young singers in the pageant: Deirdre Flynn, Kathleen Watkins, and me....
"Deirdre, Kathleen, and I were not particularly pally starting off, but finding ourselves frequently thrown together during the ensuing couple of years, friendships were formed and, to this day, we have kept in touch and meet occasionally. They opted not to take up music professionally but have followed my work closely and been my lifelong supporters."
keberoxu notes: Clearly there would have been players of European pedal harps, the classical music concert harp, around somewhere, and teachers of European harp technique with them. The point of the quote is that when the harp peculiar to Ireland and Irish music was called for, there were hardly any to be had.