Mudcat Café message #3777710 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777710
Posted By: keberoxu
09-Mar-16 - 04:52 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
The 7 March post quoting "Travels with my Harp" by Mary O'Hara, names the Sion Hill superior, Mother Jordan, and harp-maker Malachy McFall of Belfast. Oona Linnett's thesis "The Irish Harp" (quoted post 6 March) includes a reproduction of a public advertisement dated 1904, by one James McFall in Belfast, which declares:
"In use in all the leading Convents throughout the world." Which supports the repeated assertion that, turning from 19th century to 20th, harps in Ireland were limited to the parlors, drawing rooms, salons, and convents, where it was expected that women, not men, would play them.

Page 50 in "The Irish Harp" brings up Comhaltas Ceoltóoirí Éireann in the 1950's when it was founded. Séamus MacMathuma, interviewed by Linnett for her thesis, confesses:
"I suppose we would generally be perceived as being conservative....The [Irish] harp was looked at as a bit of a sacred cow in the early years [of Comhaltas]. It was something that you paid lip-service to....Probably with Comhaltas it got off to a bad start."
And, on page 102, Mac Mathuma recalls how it was twenty years later, with the breakthrough of a younger generation of musicians.
"I can remember, because I had known Máire Ní Chathasaigh as a young girl, and she was doing wonderful things. I remember the first year the harp was included in the Scoil Éigse [1976]. We would normally have recitals at some stage. There wasn't an expectant hush for the harp, because people hadn't heard Máire playing. But mind you, once she started! Within that week, a whole lot of young people changed their attitude to the harpers....a whole lot of people just accepted it straight away. There were things happening on the harp!"

To reinforce how differently the Irish harp was perceived in the 1950's, another quote from page 50 of the thesis, this time from Aibhlín McCrann, at Cáirde Na Cruite:
"Comhaltas did the harp no favors in the 1950s, because they just totally ignored it, and kind of neatly put it into a little box and said: 'Ah, you're fine for cabaret and the American circuit: "the Colleen behind the harp". '   [Their attitude] was understandable in some ways, because what they were hearing wasn't their perception of what Irish [traditional] music should be."