Musical strings to island’s bow

Staying In

DUET Niall Hanna (TG4 Gradam Ceoil, Amhránaí na Bliana 2021) and Eilís Lavelle (harpist) will perform a commissioned collaboration at the Achill Harp International Festival this weekend.

The organisers of the Achill International Harp Festival (AIHF) are delighted to bring the public a weekend programme of events, with something for everyone to enjoy, from October 22 to 24. The festival weekend kicks off with the premiere of a captivating film which is the culmination of a specially commissioned AIHF project ‘Casadh na Taoide’. Earlier this year, a traditional Galway Hooker, MacDuach, visited Inishbofin, Inishturk, Clare Island, Achill Island and Arranmore. Onboard were AIHF Artistic Director, Laoise Kelly; Achill native Diarmuid Gielty and project manager Freda Hatton. Travelling between the islands the group encountered musicians, artists and storytellers, as well as many memorable island characters. They have gathered stories of shared heritage and culture, with the hope of forging new connections for a shared future. This film by Heavy Man Films captures the essence of this project, with particular focus on selected artists from each island.
Evening concerts on Saturday and Sunday feature many of Ireland’s finest singers and musicians, including Coda and Freda Hatton who, with the assistance of Steve Cooney (TG4 Gradam Ceoil, Composer of the Year 2021), have arranged a stunning collection of O’Carolan songs.
AIHF Artistic Director Laoise Kelly and piper, Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn will perform a new repertoire of tunes from the Bunting collection. Exciting young talent Aisling Lyons, along with the Ó Flatharta family and the Cafferky Crew, will also take part in these evening concerts.
Niall Hanna (TG4 Gradam Ceoil, Singer of the Year 2021) and Eilís Lavelle will perform a commissioned collaboration which was due to take place at last year’s festival. Covid restrictions prevented this from happening but recording took place on Achill this summer and this wonderful performance is certainly worth the wait. Afternoon recitals and talks feature Steve Cooney, Siobhán Armstrong, Simon Chadwick and Eilís Lavelle.

Harp tuition
As always, harp tuition is to the fore of the festival programme and this year’s tutorials provide something for students of all levels, from complete beginners all the way up to advanced level. AIHF is excited to present an exciting new teaching initiative this year. Úna Ní Fhlannagáin has created a series of harp tutorials specifically aimed at beginners. Her technique for teaching those new to the harp is unparalleled and this is the first time that an absolute beginner resource has been made available online. Alongside the harp tutorials is an online harmony workshop with Steve Cooney. This workshop is aimed at those working with children, those with difficulties reading staff notation or anyone with an interest in exploring an alternative way to understand rhythm, melody and harmony. Participants will learn how harmonies are created and work on simple systems that will help them to develop harmonies on their own.
Achill International Harp Festival, as always, is keen to provide something for everyone so, alongside the concerts, recitals, talks and tutorials there will be several other exciting events. Children can listen to the enchanting bilingual tale of The Dagda’s Harp, which will be brought to life using a beautifully illustrated crankie scroll, transporting viewers back in time to the lands of Irish chieftains. This year’s virtual walk will follow the Paul Henry Trail which showcases the stunning Achill landscape that influenced so much of Henry’s work.
The weekend promises to be a feast for the senses and while tutorials and workshops must be purchased all other events are free to view, ensuring that everyone will have the opportunity to experience the magic of the festival.

For further details of all the weekend events visit, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.