Mudcat Café message #3777508 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777508
Posted By: keberoxu
08-Mar-16 - 08:37 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
Thanks, Mr. Ryan, that's me sorted out. Actually I know why I got the two confused -- has to do with an obituary/memorial for Gráinne Yeats; that can wait for a later post.

And in due course, I should have in my hands an article written by Janet Harbison, actually it is a paper presented at a conference in the 1990's; I have ordered a copy of the proceedings and am waiting for its snail-mail delivery, not holding my breath. Quotes from this article pepper the Internet, and it sounds as though Ms. Harbison does not mince words. She is protective of the women who kept the harp-makers in business by teaching harp to other women, and with reason. While Ms. Harbison has studied classical music with its emphasis on literacy and written notation -- she was a pianist before she took up the Irish harp -- she has also studied with Irish women whose tradition was oral and who in one case did not even read music. Harbison values both sources of learning personally, even though she has made some hard-nosed decisions about pedagogy and how to teach other teachers.

And talking of teachers, there are two women I would like to mention; they belong to earlier generations, and there is only so much information on them.

Caroline Townshend, sometimes spelled Townsend, information on her is scarce. I have neither birth nor death dates. It is written that her father was a philosopher in the 19th century. Ms. Townshend, in the early 20th century, studied not only Irish harp but all things Celtic, including the Gaelic tongue. She came from outside Dublin, but at some point in her adult life Townshend relocated to Dublin. And there she enthusiastically passed on everything she could to her students. The Shea / Ní Sheaghdha sisters were influenced by Townshend's devotion to Celtic culture, and these three women made their presence felt in the 20th century. I will say more later.

Then there was the nun, Mother Attracta Coffey (at first of course she was Sister Attracta). In 1903 she actually published a tutor, an instruction book, for the Irish harp. Mother Attracta was installed at Loreto Abbey, which along with the Dominican foundation at Sion Hill became the source of a lineage of Irish harp teachers and performers. Sheila Larchet Cuthbert, years after Mother Attracta's death, succeeded in finding a rare copy of Mother Attracta's "Tutor for the Irish Harp," and incorporating what she could of it into her own tutor publication, thus preserving the roots of a tradition of teaching.