Mudcat Café message #3785385 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3785385
Posted By: keberoxu
14-Apr-16 - 08:48 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
The following quotes are from a paper which was presented in 1996 at the Crosbhealach an Cheoil/Crossroads Conference.
the copyright is dated 1999, Crosbhealach an Cheoil along with the papers' author:
Dublin-born, Ulster-descended harpist Janet Harbison.

The harp is the most ancient, the most famous, the most romanticised, the most political, and the most dismissed of members of the family of Irish music.
[E]very century of harping in Ireland testifies to a phenomenally rich diversity in repertoire, performance, and professional situation, along with an emotionally charge romanticism and political significance, particularly from the time that the Irish harp was established as the national emblem. All these have mesmerised modern commentators who, rather than address the depth and variety within each century of significance individually, consistently generalise in the global negative (except for the glories of the early middle ages).

Perhaps it is that the tradition was too hybridised or compromised to appeal to the lesser educated nobility of the planter English and Scottish patrons of the 17th and 18th century; or was it that their tradition was too romanticised, ethereal, and poetically political when cloaked in the heady sentimentality of Thomas Moore's songs, the Celtic Twilight, and the Gaelic Revival period to the turn of the [19th/20th] century; or perhaps, is it that the tradition of the Irish harp has been too contrived, effeminised and commercialised in its association with the winsome wenches working the "begorrah" cabarets of famous Dublin hotels and the medieval castles of Southwest Ireland?

[As a young student,] I was happy to accompany or arrange for my friends and to indulge in the vast dance music repertoire which all my traditional music friends outside school were playing nightly....before long we became aware of the critics. Our first misdemeanour involved our professional engagements. It seemed that our association with the Irish cabaret scene earned us a sleazy kind of reputation. My first summer job as a self-supporting music student, was as a harp player in Knappogue Castle, the sister castle of Bunratty, in County Clare. The label of "Bunratty Bunnies" was occasionally levelled to my great amusement. But we merrily played our Aoyama Japanese harps, perhaps lying occasionally to maintain the myth....I was, in fact, all the while, a student of piano and classical music at a Dublin university, and my life as a formal art musician with the piano and as a social traditional musician with the Irish harp, were clearly defined and never intermixed.

from: Harpists, Harpers, or Harpees? by Janet Harbison, and under copyright