Last week was Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny.
I was in Kilkenny the other week, for the fourteenth annual Scoil na gCláirseach – summer school of early Irish harp. During the week, I explored some of the issues I have been working on so far this year, namely the new setup for the medieval Gaelic harps, and the issues of using fingertips instead of long nails for playing the 18th century Irish harp repertory.
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.
I’m just back from Kilkenny where I have been running Scoil na gCláirseach and its associated concert series – sold out in Galway!
For me the best moment was the visit, organised at the last minute, of Senegalese griots Solo Cissokho and Seckou Keita to the School of Music to demonstrate their traditions. It was fascinating to see Solo’s response to Ann Heymann’s question about the nitty gritty of the old tradition – he asked for the video camera to be switched off before saying anything more.
Here is Brenda’s wonderfully atmospheric photo of Solo: