Co Antrim Harpers Join Harps Alive Festival Lineup This Weekend

Co Antrim Harpers Adam O’Neill, Gráinne Meyer, Kathryn Weir, Susannah Weir, and Katy Bustard will be performing as part of the Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin festival in Belfast this weekend.


Organised by the Harps Alive partnership, the festival will bring together the finest harpers from across the island to recognise the landmark event that collected music more than two centuries ago for future harpers to learn from and perform.


Having already opened with events in Magilligan and Mussenden Template last weekend, the festival represents four further days filled with music, history and heritage. The majority of the festival will take place across a number of sites in Belfast, before culminating with an event in Dublin on July 24.


The Portballintrae-based Causeway Ensemble, directed by Katy Bustard, set the Harps Alive festival in motion when they played at a concert honouring the legacy of harper Denis Hempson at Mussenden Temple last weekend, performing music from the Bunting collection. They were joined by Aoibheann Devlin on early harp and Scoil Ruiadhrí Dall harp ensemble led by Nodlaig Ní Bhrollaigh.


The festival continues this weekend with a series of musical performances, workshops and exhibitions in venues throughout Belfast.


Adam O’Neill is an accomplished harper and has performed at various impressive venues, most notably having played for Michael D Higgins in the Áras an Uachtaráin. He is billed to perform at the festival launch concert at Linen Hall Library on Friday, July 15, and is also scheduled to perform alongside Gráinne Meyer at the Northern Stars concert on Saturday. Gráinne, both a harper and a pianist, has recently completed a postgraduate diploma in classical and Irish traditional music at the TU Dublin Conservatoire of Music. County Meath Harper Ciara Taaffe, a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, will also be playing at the Northern Stars concert, which will take place at First Presbyterian Church on Rosemary Street, Belfast.


Katy Bustard will be leading an informative workshop with harp-maker Brian Waugh, where attendees will be able to learn the A-Z of harp-making and will have the opportunity to hear Katy play the harp live.


Harpers Kathryn Weir and Susannah Weir of Coleraine will round off the events in Belfast with a finale concert held at St Joseph’s Church, Sailortown where they will perform in a tribute to the Belfast Harp Orchestra, led by Director, Janet Harbison.


The two sisters have been part of the Hampsey Harpers, and were also members of the Belfast and Irish Harp Orchestra from 1997 - 2004, and during this time played in countries throughout Europe.


Organised by the Harps Alive partnership, the Harps Alive 2022 Festival will bring together the finest harpers from across the island to recognise the landmark event that collected music more than two centuries ago for future harpers to learn from and perform.


The partnership between Harp Ireland and Reclaim The Enlightenment is to mark 230 years since the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast. In 1792 the Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast brought together 11 harpers, six of whom were blind and the eldest Denis Hempson was 97 at the time.


Aibhlín McCrann, Chair of Cruit Éireann Harp Ireland, said that celebrating the anniversary presented a unique musical opportunity for the harping community.


“We are delighted to bring harpers from all over Ireland together to mark 230 years since the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast,” she said.


“Our harping heritage transcends boundaries and has really connected the partners, north and south.


“It is wonderful to hear the harpers’ music reflecting our living tradition and to see that there is so much interest in it. We are looking forward to welcoming audiences across the city of Belfast to our concerts, talks and exhibitions and in Dublin later in the month.”


John Gray, Chair of Reclaim the Enlightenment said the Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin festival is rooted in musical history.


“In bringing more than 50 harpers to Belfast, the festival will create the largest-ever such assembly in the city,” he said.


“It will be a celebration of the heritage of the harp and the contemporary revival of harp playing, and when it concludes we hope to have created more awareness of the harp tradition with the public and leave a lasting legacy.”


For tickets to the Co Antrim harpers’ shows and for more information about the festival go to http://harpsalive.com

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