A Day in the Life: Kate Heneghan


PRIZED POSSESSION Musician Kate Heneghan is popularising the Irish Harp all over the globe.

Name: Kate Heneghan
Age: 25
Lives: County Mayo
Occupation: Musician

During the past year, I’ve tried to keep as normal a routine as possible. I would get up relatively early, between 8 and 9am, depending on how busy I’ve been during the week. I love working out first thing in the morning. I usually do a fasted workout and then I’ll have my breakfast while listening to Radio 1. This time of year, it’ll be a big bowl of porridge.
I’m currently preparing a collaboration with two universities in Europe; Mozarteum University in Salzburg and the University of Parma in Italy. Next year, I’ll be travelling with some of my students from Castlebar to Italy and Austria. At the moment, I’m composing music and preparing pieces with the lecturers in both of them universities.
My life changes daily. I usually have a lot of emails to catch up on in the morning before practicing. I really try to treat this as a job as much as I can, so by 10 o’clock I’ll be in my music room, doors shut, working on whatever projects that are upcoming.
This year because Covid was here and I wasn’t gigging, I actually took up violin lessons with a teacher from the Dominican Republic. I used to travel up to Belfast every two weeks and I was getting piano lessons from the Ulster School of Music with a Russian tutor. I completed my Diploma in Classical Piano this year with the ABRSM.
This year I really invested a lot of time into practice. I’ve been doing between four and five hours a day on each instrument. I’ve been super diligent with that. Classical music is a different genre as it is so thorough. You need to be working that hard on it to see improvements, so there was no half-doing it.
I’m just after finishing a summer school that my Mom runs. This week we had 30 students over from Mozarteum University in Salzburg and the University of Parma on a kind of cultural exchange. We taught them music lessons on tin whistle and violin in the morning. We also taught them singing and had dancing classes in the evening, so it was kind of a whole rounded Irish cultural experience. We also did sessions in the evening in Westport where we played, sang and danced, and it was great fun.
Next year in early 2022 I have upcoming tours with Irish dance shows in Germany. I’ve also been offered another cruise from the United States up to Canada for four months in 2022. It feels like a really attractive proposal as it goes to Mexico, San Francisco, San Diego, up to Vancouver and Seattle. I’m quite fond of the idea. My parents … not so much!
It’s been really tough not being able to perform during the pandemic. Performing is my passion. I absolutely love being on stage and sharing Irish music with audiences around the world. It’s when I’m on stage that I’m at my happiest, so I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road and getting back on stage again.
I think it’s been a really tough year for the entertainment industry. It was the first industry to shut down and it’s the last to reopen. I’m really just keeping my fingers crossed that it will be back up and running as soon as possible in a safe way.
People abroad are definitely more receptive to Irish music than the people here in Ireland. I experience that with students from different countries, where there would be complete silence in a pub when you’d be playing a jig or a reel. When you’re playing in a pub with Irish people it’s just total background music.
I recently flew over to my sister Sal in Gothenburg in Sweden, where she is studying, and we performed together at the Glenntown Irish festival. We did two sets on harps and the audience were absolutely amazed. They had never seen or heard anything like two harps being played together at the same time. That was really cool, as me and Sal might take that for granted.
I listen to a wide range of music. For the first time in my life, I’ve been enjoying American country music… definitely not the Irish stuff! At the moment, I’m obsessed with the Zack Brown Band and Billy Strings. I also love Johnny Cash. Walk The Line is one of my favourite films of all time.
I love listening to music from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. I love the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac,
Dermot Kennedy and Hermitage Green, but trad is what I listen to the most.
Outside of music I’m quite outdoorsy and love hiking and that kind of thing. I’m a qualified personal trainer so I’m really into the gym and really into keeping fit. I supposed that’s another string to my bow!

In conversation with Oisín McGovern

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Rent a holiday villa in a hot country (with a recording studio) and bring my favourite musicians with me to collaborate, compose music and record an album
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I am a qualified personal trainer and super passionate about health and fitness

What is the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
I tasted Haggis whilst in Scotland ... never again!

Where is your favourite place in the world?
New York City or Achill Island.. From one end of the spectrum to the other, but both are very inspiring places for me to be for very different
What makes you angry?
Losing board games. I played a lot of chess this year after watching The Queen’s Gambit and discovered I am a sore chess loser!
Your first hero?
My mom!

Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Oat milk, dark chocolate and pink lady apples

What makes you nervous?
Severe air turbulence on airplanes
Favourite TV show?
Most recently it has been Mare of Easttown
Most famous person you’ve met?
Pierce Brosnan on his wedding day in Ballintubber Abbey
What do you miss most about being a kid?
The fact that I was unknowingly living in the present at every moment throughout the day.
As an adult, I have to practice and remind myself to be truly present and live in the moment

What’s your most prized possession?
My harp and fiddle
Best advice you ever got?
My Dad regularly quotes Gary Player’s famous phrase: The harder you work, the luckier you get
Describe yourself in three words?
Musical, outdoorsy and outgoing
How do you unwind?
A walk with headphones and a podcast or watching a Netflix series with friends/family