Tag Archives: Ireland

“…the fleshy part of the finger alone”

Today I was working on tunes collected by Edward Bunting from the 18th century Irish harper, Arthur Ó Néill, for my concert in St Andrews on 3rd August.

As I played through some of his settings of Carolan and other baroque Irish harp music, using a copy of an 18th century Irish harp, I started thinking about the whole issue of playing the harp with long fingernails.

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Restoration of the Brian Boru harp

On Thursday I was at the National Museum of Scotland store in Granton, a suburb north of Edinburgh. I went there with Karen Loomis, to look at the plaster-cast of the Trinity College harp which is kept in the store. We had a very productive hour, inspecting, measuring and photographing the cast, and discussing aspects of the cast and how it related to the real thing in the Long Room at Trinity College, and to later illustrations and depictions of the harp.

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Aonghus Mac ind Óg ⁊ an tiompán

As part of a big push to re-do my stringing paper at earlygaelicharp.info, I was searching for the reference to the tiompán with strings of “ór dearg” (red gold), which Ann Heymann refers to in her article Strings of Gold.

I was pleased when I finally tracked it down, to find that the person holding the instrument is Aonghus, son of Boann and  the Dagda, who lived in Newgrange, at Brú na Bóinne. This is the same Aonghus an Bhroga referred to in the praise poem to Aonghas Òig, Rì Innse Gall, which I was working on last year.

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Picts & Saxons in early medieval Ireland

I was reading the descriptions of people’s appearance in Togail Bruidne Dá Derga (The destruction of Daderga’s hostel), an early medieval Irish story from the Ulster Cycle, when I was interested to note these quite vivid descriptions of people at the court of the Irish High King, Conaire Mór mac Eterscél, who is said to have reigned in the first century BC or AD.

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Scoil na gCláirseach

I have not posted for a while because I my time has been largely taken up with preparations for Scoil na gCláirseach next month.

As well as corresponding with attendees, and dealing with the hydra-like timetable, trying to corral all the different tutors, speakers and other events into some kind of order, I have been preparing for my own presentations.

This year, as usual I am leading the ever-popular field trip, where we visit all of the historical Irish harps in Dublin museums, and also presenting the very challenging one-hour overview of the entire tradition. This is pretty tough, trying to boil down everything to its essence. I have been working on a new handout, a kind of map or venn-diagram of the repertory, trying to illustrate the nature of the core repertory and peripheral stuff, and to categorise the core repertory – I think that what survives is in some ways not at all representative of what was played in the old tradition.

I am also leading two specialist sessions. I am giving a presentation on my work researching the music and traditions of Raghnall Mac Ailein Òig, which should be a great opportunity for me to refine my ideas on him. I did some more digging on his journey to Achnacarry to visit Cameron of Locheil – I have still not managed to locate the River Sgaitheal, but I did enjoy a digression reading all about Glen Pean.

Also I will be chairing a seminar on the Cloyne harp; we will have two different chromatic Irish harps on site, so this seems a great opportunity to get everyone together to discuss this difficult and intriguing subject.