A Harper, a Queen, and the Trinity College Long Room

Trinity College, Dublin. Photo by Sue, 2009.

As you may have heard, Queen Elizabeth made a recent historic visit to Ireland.  When she visited the faculty and staff of the Trinity College Library, historical harper Siobhán Armstrong was one of the academic and cultural eminences there to meet her.  The Queen of England had the good fortune to see and hear Siobhán playing her stunning sounding replica of the Trinity College harp while seated adjacent to the original harp in its case in the Long Room of the library.

Outside the Trinity College Library, Dublin. Photo by Sue.

What makes the video clip such good viewing is the rare and welcome glimpse inside the beautiful Long Room, with its fine old collection of books, busts, and the Trinity College harp itself.  As you may be aware, photographs are not allowed in the Long Room, and when I was there last summer I saw a man escorted downstairs by security for pulling out his camera.  Therefore, if you have not had the chance to visit Ireland’s oldest harp in this magnificent library, be sure to check out this video clip before it expires on June 7, 2011.  It’s available HERE on RTÉ, the Irish national broadcasting service.

Highlights of the video include the following:

  • 51 minutes:  the Trinity College Librarian introduces the instrument, complete with a close-up view of it in its case
  • 1:05 minutes:  Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip approach Siobhán Armstrong and have a chat.  Armstrong is playing Carolan’s Farewell to Music at the time, and stops to talk with them both.
  • 1:07 minutes onward:  follow the introductions in the reception line, and learn about the many faculty and culturally prominent figures present for the occasion, from Man Booker Prize winners to famous scientists and figures in publishing and the arts.
  • It’s very worthwhile to play the video several minutes before and after the harp episode to enjoy Armstrong’s beautiful playing, and to observe the Book of Kells exhibit and conservation crew downstairs in the library in the exhibit, Turning Darkness Into Light.  I’ve visited several times, and have found the exhibit a wonderful way to learn about the history of the illuminated manuscripts held by the College, as well as the process the monks may have used to construct these manuscripts.
Special thanks to Peter Wilson from the WireHarp list for sharing the RTÉ link.

A Clear Sunrise on Beltane (May Day)

Some of Bridgetown's musicians. Photo by Sue, taken some years ago.

I moved quietly around the house at 4:15am this morning to avoid waking my partner as I set off for the pre-sunrise Beltane festivities at Washington Park in Portland.  My friend Doug and I were among the first arrivals, stamping our feet and walking the perimeter of the rose garden to warm up. To the east, the sky began to turn pink, and I could see the hazy outline of Mt. Hood edged in purple.

My favorite part of the morning is the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, always performed with great beauty.  This year there were several Morris sides, including a group from Eugene, and a cluster of young children who did a rather good job.  After the Morris dances, Doug and I tuned our harps and played for about 45 minutes in the once again quiet, sunny gardens before heading off to the eastside for breakfast.

For your enjoyment, here is a short clip of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance from the 2009 festivities at the rose garden.


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