Honorary Award for Mary O’Hara at First Achill International Harp Festival

Mary O’Hara

Honorary Award for Mary O’Hara at First Achill International Harp Festival

60-year career to be recognised by inaugural festival and new organisation, Harp Ireland: Fóram Cruite na hÉireann.

Irish soprano and harper Mary O’Hara will receive an honorary award recognising her contribution to the Irish harp, spanning more than 60 years, at the first Achill International Harp Festival this weekend.

The Festival, together with new organisation Harp Ireland: Fóram Cruite na hÉireann, will present a specially commissioned work by sculptor Ronan O’Halpin.

Festival Director Laoise Kelly commented,

Mary O’Hara was an iconic figure on both sides of the Atlantic, enthralling audiences with the purity of her voice and accomplished harp playing. … her voice immortalised the Irish harp to audiences all over the world and she has left us an enduring legacy of fine recordings and music. We are thrilled to honour her here at our first international harp festival. 

O’Hara’s international career was cut short when she lost her first husband to cancer two years into their marriage. Shortly afterwards, she became a Benedictine nun where she spent more than 12 years in an enclosed monastic order. Her emergence in the early seventies to resume her music career made her a global success once again. She has completed five volumes of harp accompaniments and continues to travel promoting harp music and performance. Her papers are held in The Burns Library in Boston College, where an exhibition on her work was held in 2010. 

Chair of Harp Ireland, Aibhlín McCrann, added, 

Few people today are aware that Mary O’Hara was one of our most successful musicians on the world stage, appearing with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. She performed at the Carnegie Hall and in the Sydney Opera House, had her own BBC series and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Not only that, her recordings have made a big impact on a generation of Irish female singers who credit her with influencing their style. It is timely that a new generation of harpers marks her remarkable contribution.

The inaugural Achill International Harp Festival open on Friday 28 October with a concert featuring a newly commissioned work, Sraith Oileán Acla, for harp, pipes and traditional ensemble, written by Scottish musician Allan MacDonald.

On Saturday, Rodrigo Romani and Beatriz Martinez (Galicia), Mary MacMaster and Donald Hay (Scotland), and Gráinne Hambly (Ireland) will perform a concert of harp music, and on Sunday evening Ismael Ledesma (Paraguay) will feature as well as Laoise Kelly and special guests. The festival also features harp-making workshops, harp classes, children’s sessions, a festival club, a talk on the harp by Drs Sandra Joyce and Helen Lawlor, and a harp-makers’ exhibition.

On Sunday afternoon, the second meeting of Harp Ireland: Foram Cruite na hÉireann will take place. An initiative of the Arts Council, Harp Ireland is the national umbrella resource organisation for the harp and includes leading figures from Cairde na Cruite, Cláirseoirí na hÉireann and the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, who have combined forces to support all forms of harp performance in Ireland. 

For further details on all events, visit www.achillharpfestival.ie.

Published on 27 October 2016

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