The repertory of the old Irish harpers was, to a large extent, vocal in nature: they sang songs and accompanied themselves on their brass-wire-strung early Irish harps. Since the demise of the early Irish harping tradition at the end of the 18th century, this significant harp song repertoire has been largely unexplored and unperformed.
In this concert, Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin performs harp songs by Turlough Carolan (1670-1738), which she has recently reconstructed from the manuscripts of the music collector, Edward Bunting (1773-1843). Bunting’s manuscripts are now housed in the Special Collections of the library of Queen’s University, Belfast. Bunting collected these songs by Carolan from the harpers at the Belfast Harpers Assembly in 1792. The harpers sang and played, among other music, many of the songs Carolan composed about a century earlier.
A selection of these songs by Carolan are heard being performed here, for the first time in over 200 years, in the way in which they were first intended: as self-accompanied songs, with the early Irish wire-strung harp, played with historical Irish harping techniques, as the accompanying instrument. For this concert Eibhlís accompanies her own singing on a Historical Harp Society of Ireland copy of the ‘Mulagh Mast’ harp (the original is in the National Museum of Ireland).
Eibhlís would like to thank Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections and Archive, for the digitised manuscript pages from the Bunting Collection, and for their kind permission to show the pages in this video.