Pale Rays of Sun at the Winter Solstice

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Entrance to Bru na Boinne. Photo by Sue, 2009.

Today I awoke to a gray morning, but within an hour the pale December sun, low in the sky, asserted itself and softened the day.  This morning in Co. Meath, Ireland, people gathered in the dark passage at Newgrange to welcome the beam of sun down the shaft of the tomb.  The sun came out in time to illuminate the interior of the passage–for the first time since 2007.

The inside of the tomb is elegantly carved and constructed.  Recently I happened upon a high quality virtual tour of the interior. at Voices from the Dawn.  While I’ve visited the actual site twice, I’d recommend the virtual tour for a closer, leisurely gaze at the features of the interior.  Here it is.  Notice that there is a clickable link to either a regular or tablet version.  You might also enjoy a post from this blog entitled Winter Solstice in the House of the Dagda.

And now for a glorious concert by Ann and Charlie Heymann, performed at the Moore Institute at NIU Galway earlier this year, where Ann enjoyed a fellowship.  The title is:  Guth Binn agus Téada Oir: Bardic Voices, Horns & Medieval Harps.  Ann and Charlie perform a number of bardic pieces, some quite experimental.  The Donegal singer, Lillis O Laoire, performs with them.  This is a highly unique and rare opportunity to see Ann perform in concert, and it is well worth watching.

With warmest solstice good wishes,

–Sue

Interview with Ann Heymann, Siobhán Armstrong, and Talitha MacKenzie on Irish Radio

The 10th annual Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny, Ireland has just ended, and why not find out more about some of its most interesting tutors and students?

Students at Scoil na gClairseach, 2009. Photo by Sue.

Here’s a link to an interview on KCLR, a radio station in Carlow/Kilkenny, Ireland.  You’ll hear Siobhán introduce the program with a brief history of the Summer School of the Early Irish Harp, with a delightful, intelligent explanation of replica harps, and how they are different in sound and materials from modern harps.  She clacks on her deliciously resonant soundbox for the benefit of the listeners, and goes on to play Eleanor Plunkett by Carolan on her Kortier Trinity College harp.  Then Talitha MacKenzie offers a brief example of puirt-a-beul, or mouth music, and the master of the instrument, Ann Heymann, closes with a short piece she learned from the fiddler James Kelly.  Check it out, as I don’t know how long the link will be active.  A special thanks to scholar Karen Loomis for pointing out the interview.

Wishing you a fine late summer,

–Sue

New Trinity College Harp

Freshly strung, on its first outdoor excursion, and not yet in tune. Photo by Sue.

It’s here! It’s here.

I’ve had a hectic week since the arrival of the new Trinity College harp on Wednesday. I had asked my luthier, David Kortier, to let me string it. Suffice it to say that several times this week I have wondered about that decision, but let me tell you, it has been a highly useful education in a very compressed period of time. I’ll write about it shortly. For now, here is a photograph of the Trinity taken just around the corner from my house, where there was a patch of shade on a warm summer afternoon.

Over the past several days friends have stopped in to visit, and to meet the new instrument. One jokingly referred to the four pieces of the unstrung clarsach as “some assembly required.” My former teacher, Doug, who had been gently harassing me for months about my decision to commission this instrument, which I suspect he thought wildly extravagant, came by yesterday, and while both the student Trinity and the new replica were out, he couldn’t keep his eyes off the new arrival. He picked it up, inspected every surface, and after a good, lengthy visit, seemed to be almost as smitten with it as I am.

I’ll post reports shortly on the process of transferring gold from one instrument to the other (so far, so good!), and will tell you how things settle in.

Now, back to tuning. The whole instrument is still 2 notes below its final tuning, and I’m bringing it up gradually.

–Sue

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