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Harp Festival takes world by storm

Staying In

MASTER AT WORK Violin and harp maker Graham Wright’s workshop on his craft was hugely popular.

The three-day Achill International Harp Festival, which this year took place online over the October weekend, surpassed any of the organisers’ expectations. The free online events including concerts, children’s story time, harp-making film and virtual walk have clocked up a combined viewership of over 58,000 views, with the numbers still rising.
Five hundred online harp tutorials and lectures were booked by students as far away as Australia and Japan, with people still registering for these workshops on a daily basis.
Three evening concerts showcased some of the best of Irish harpers and musicians to the world stage. The festival kicked off with Friday’s concert featuring Siar, Cormac De Barra with Anne-Marie O’Farrell, and Dermot Byrne with Steve Cooney. Saturday’s concert line up included The Healy Family, Eilís Lavelle, Niall Hanna and Ursula Burns. The final concert of the festival featured music from Alfi, Richard Allen and Laoise Kelly. Performances by Laoise, TG4 Gradam Ceoil Ceoltóir na Bliana 2020, have been rare this year and the festival was proud to have her perform stunning new work as well as her much loved signature pieces.
William Jackson’s lecture, ‘Using the Small Harp in Music Therapy’ explored the possibilities of music as an alternative means of communication for students with learning difficulties. The response to William’s sensitive, thought provoking lecture was ‘extraordinary’, say the festival organisers.
Children’s story time proved to be a huge hit with children of all ages, as Úna Ní Fhlannagáin held her audience captive with her engaging presentation of the story of Labhrai Loingseach – The King with the Donkeys Ears. A wonderful tale with some important words of advice at the end. This enchanting  story, told bilingually, has been shared all over the world.
Violin and harp maker Graham Wright invited audiences into his workshop where he gave an insightful demonstration of what is involved in making a harp. The huge interest in this event has lead to many enquiries about the workshop – and a long list of names of those interested in participating the next time it goes ahead.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the virtual walk along Achill Island’s Coffin Trail with Tomás Mc Loughlin and Diarmuid Gielty. With stunning scenery, captivating harp music by Laoise Kelly and the opportunity to hear the poignant history behind this coffin trail walk by Mary Jo O’Keeffe, this event alone has been viewed over 18,500 times.
Although Achill International Harp Festival was unable to invite international artists to travel to Achill this year, many previously invited artists sent video messages of support. These greetings proved to be as popular as some of the scheduled events, with over 4,500 views, highlighting the truly international collaboration that underpins the festival.
Having touched base with old friends and having made many new friends the world over, all involved in the Achill International Harp Festival are already looking forward to 2021, when no doubt they will continue to spread the joy of this most beautiful of instruments.

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