Festival Celebrating the 1792 Harpers’ Assembly and Edward Bunting to Take Place in Belfast and Dublin
The second Harps Alive Festival, organised by Cruit Éireann/Harp Ireland in partnership with the Northern Ireland organisation Reclaim the Enlightenment, will take place in Belfast on Saturday 30 September and in Dublin on 21–22 October.
The festival celebrates the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly, better known as the Belfast Harp Festival, which took place 231 years ago in 1792. The events will celebrate the significance of the landmark event, which, through the work of Armagh’s Edward Bunting (1773–1843), resulted in the collection of the music and techniques of the Irish harping tradition, a body of work that is central to the continuity of the Irish harping tradition today.
The festival will include a number of cross-community and cross-border events, including two major concerts and a series of recitals, talks and workshops remembering Bunting 180 years after his death.
This week in Belfast, a number of ‘Hands on Harps’ workshops are taking place with harpers Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin, Gráinne Hambly and Richard Allen. On Saturday 30 September, there will be a morning screening at the Linenhall Library of the film Beart Bunting, which follows traditional musicians and a brass band as they perform music collected by Bunting. This will be followed by a harp, storytelling, drama and singing workshops for children in English and Irish with Sharon Carroll and Úna Ní Fhlannagáin at An Cultúrlann at 1pm. There will also be an illustrated lecture at the Linenhall Library at lunchtime titled ‘Edward Bunting: Illuminating his Legacy’ with Mary Louise O’Donnell and Teresa O’Donnell.
At 5.30pm at Rosemary Street Church in Belfast, there will be a Harps Together gala concert featuring a specially commissioned work by Gráinne Meyer for the Harps Alive Ensemble. Also performing are the Northern Stars Trio, Eibhlis Ní Riordáin and the harp/pipes duo of Laoise Kelly and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn. A harp session will take place in the Deer’s Head on Saturday evening.
In Dublin on 21 October, which is also Lá na Cruite, the national harp day, there will be harping fun with Aisling Ennis at Russborough House in Wicklow at 1pm, and another screening of Beart Bunting along with a lecture by Mark Doherty at the National Library of Ireland. A ‘Remembering Edward Bunting’ event will also take place at Mount Jerome Cemetery on Sunday morning, as well as a series of workshops at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
On Sunday 22 October at 6.30pm at the Pepper Canister Church, there will be a gala concert featuring a newly commissioned poem remembering Bunting by poet Moya Cannon as well as performances by harper Aisling Lyons, the Harps Alive Ensemble, Maria McNamee (pedal harp), early Irish harper Siobhán Armstrong, Triona Marshall (harp) and Martin Tourish (accordion).
Commenting on the festival this year, Aibhlín McCrann, Chair of Cruit Éireann/Harp Ireland, said:
It is very satisfying to see our collaboration with our northern colleagues coming to fruition, and to gain such understanding of the important role that the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly played in the safeguarding of the harpers’ music. Our work together has been a true partnership, epitomised by collegiality, enthusiasm and positivity.
For further details on all events and booking, visit https://www.harpireland.ie.
Published on 28 September 2023