Mudcat Café message #3791672 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3791672
Posted By: keberoxu
23-May-16 - 02:32 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Helen's post of March 9 remarked on The Irish Harp Book, a tutor published and written by Sheila Larchet Cuthbert. Still alive, I believe, and of very advanced age; most of Mrs. Cuthbert's contemporaries have now predeceased her. She was one of the group of harpists who established the Cairde na Cruite, or Friends of the Harp; these musicians got tired of waiting for the Comhaltas to regard the Irish harp as something more than a cabaret/banquet, indeed "spinning Eileen," fixture, and their association promoted lessons, tutors, and teaching of the Irish harp.

The Irish Harp Book includes some printed music, some composed for the harp and some arranged for the harp. One of the arrangements is "Máire Ní Eidhín," the Anthony Raftery poem set to a very simple tune (not the sean-nós version). The arranger is Máirín Ní Shé, who taught in the Sion Hill Harp Room of the college run by Dominican nuns in Blackrock. The arrangement is easy on the ears, perhaps more demanding for the harpist's fingers.

One of the original "dear spinning Eileens," Kathleen a/k/a Caitlín Watkins, performs "Máire Ní Eidhín" on Gael Linn's "Amhráin Ghrá" compact-disc anthology. To my ears, though, Watkins does not play the arrangement by Máirín Ní Shé, who was her teacher; in fact Watkins plays something with fewer, slower notes, far simpler than the "Irish Harp Book" arrangement. A far cry, indeed, from the opinionated, adventurous Gráinne Yeats, who undertook to sing AND play the Belfast Harpers' Festival repertoire from 1792, and record same for Gael Linn. But then, Mrs. Yeats was not a "stage Irish"/cabaret/stone-castle artist.

This thread has been fascinating to research: all these prejudices and conflicts converging on one musical instrument, the Irish harp.