Siobhán Armstrong is one of Europe’s foremost historical harpists, performing and recording 16th-to 18th-century opera and chamber music with many of Europe’s most prestigious historical performers, and also collaborating with some of Ireland’s best traditional musicians. She plays a large collection of copies of single and multi-row harps from the Middle Ages to the baroque, including a copy of the medieval Trinity College or Brian Boru harp, and is happiest accompanying vocal music: plainchant to polyphony; sean-nós song to early opera.
Siobhán played modern harps, read Music at Trinity College Dublin in the 1980s, and was a professional choral singer, before specialising in historical harps. She founded and chairs The Historical Harp Society of Ireland. In 2014, Middlesex University, London, awarded her a three-year post-graduate research bursary to pursue PhD studies in early Irish harp performance practice.
Siobhán has embarked on a recording project, with her chamber ensemble, The Irish Consort, to present a series of recordings of music in Ireland 1500-1800. The consort’s debut recording Music, Ireland and the Sixteenth Century was released in February 2019. This project was kindly funded by the Arts Council Music Recording Scheme, managed by Music Network. Siobhán would also like to acknowledge the kind help of Music Network, Ireland, in acquiring suitable harps for her work.
Jacopo Bisagni is a lecturer in the Classics at NUI Galway. He studied Classics, Celtic linguistics and Indo-European linguistics at the University of Pisa, Italy, and was awarded a PhD in NUI, Galway in 2008 for a thesis entitled Amrae Coluimb Chille: a Critical Edition, a revised and expanded version of which was published in 2019 by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. He has taught widely in early Irish, Latin language, and historical linguistics, and his research area ranges from Celtic philology to the study of Early Medieval Irish literature (both Latin and vernacular). He has published on the terminology of music and musical instruments in Old and Middle Irish sources. His interest in medieval music and instruments includes not only research, but performance. He plays bagpipes and various whistles and fipple flutes.
Mark Duley is one of Ireland’s most well-known choral specialists, and has led workshops and masterclasses for choirs and conductors in Ireland, the UK, and continental Europe.
He founded Resurgam in 2003, with the aim of establishing it as Ireland’s premier project-based professional choir. He has directed the choir in numerous concerts and tours and over a wide range of repertoire.
Mark was born and raised in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, and came to Ireland in 1992. He has held several major posts in the country, including organist and director of music at Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, chorus master to the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, artistic director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra, and artistic director of the organ festival Pipeworks.
As conductor or organist, he has appeared with most of the major Irish ensembles, including RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Chamber Choir Ireland, the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Opera Theatre Company, and the Orchestra of St Cecilia. He has performed at many of Ireland’s premier festivals, including the Wexford Opera Festival, the Cork International Choral Festival, the Kilkenny Arts Festival, the East Cork Early Music
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens grew up in the North Carolina piedmont, where some of her formative memories include listening to her uncle’s bluegrass band and Hank Williams songs on the radio, and watching Roy Clark “picking and grinning” every Saturday night on Hee Haw. Clark’s prowess on the banjo sparked Rhiannon’s interest – but somehow felt at odds with her multi-racial background.
I’m mixed. My dad is white; my mom is black. And I constantly learned how to go back and forth between one world to the other. And so navigating that rub has made me who I am.
It was only later – after receiving a degree in Opera Theater from Oberlin Conservatory – that Rhiannon learned about the long, almost forgotten line of traditional black string bands and found her place in American music history. At the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, she studied with African-American fiddler Joe Thompson and, with fellow students Justin Robinson and Don Flemons, formed a trio that would eventually be called the Carolina Chocolate Drops – and would become the first black string band to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. Group members went their separate ways in 2014, but not before their fourth album Genuine Negro Jig (2011) won a GRAMMY.
Giddens launched her solo career in 2015 with the critically acclaimed album Tomorrow Is My Turn, blending country, blues, jazz, and gospel on songs that honored the work of African-American artists like Florence Quivar and Nina Simone. Her second solo project, Freedom Highway, featured songs (most penned by Rhiannon) that explore the lives of silenced peoples: slaves; 1960s Civil Rights murder victims; teens killed by police on inner-city streets.
Today her musical fingerprints are found on a wide rage of projects, from a collaborative Folkways album, Songs of Our Native Daughters, of original material inspired by New World slave narratives, to a theatrical production centered around the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, to composing the music for the Nashville Ballet’s adaptation of Lucy Negro, Redux – all driven by her determination to excavate the histories of forgotten and excluded people. “Music,” she said, “has a power to bring us together in ways books, lectures, and indoctrination don’t.” In 2017, she was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. Her latest album with Francesco Turrisi, There is no other, was recorded in Ireland, where she currently lives.
THE GREGORY WALKERS (Malachy Robinson, Laoise O’Brien, Eamon Sweeney)
A ‘Gregory’ was the name of a wig worn in the 16th century, said to have been invented by a barber named Gregory. A lute, viol, or fiddle was part of the furniture of a barber’s shop in the era and his customers, while waiting for a haircut or a minor operation, would amuse themselves on the instruments provided.
The Gregory Walkers brings together four of Ireland’s leading musicians. Individually the group’s members perform a wide range of genres. Together they combine their diverse experiences & talents to present an exciting & refreshing approach to old music.
(Individual bios below.)
Galway based soprano Helen Hancock is a native of Dublin. Her musical passions centre on Baroque opera and sacred music, art song and Mozart opera. A regular recitalist, Helen has performed at St Mary’s Cathedral Limerick, The Hunt Museum Limerick, Yeats Tower Thoor Ballylee in Galway as part of Heritage week 2019 and most recently at Rathfarnham Castle evening recital series in March 2020.
Helen studied singing at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and at TU Dublin while pursuing an engineering degree in University College Dublin. Since resuming vocal studies with Professor Owen Gilhooly at the Midwest Vocal Academy in Limerick in 2015, Helen has completed her ARSM and DipABRSM diplomas and undertaken training abroad including Training in Classical Voice with Janice Chapman and Dr Ron Morris in 2017, The Abingdon Summer School for Solo Singers in the UK in 2018 and 2019 and The Singer as Artist in France in September, 2019. Helen won the Todd Cup for Oratorio at the Feile Luimnigh in March 2020 and was runner-up in the Duggan Cup for lieder.
Helen continues to study with Owen Gilhooly and with UK based Christine Cairns. She has worked with collaborative pianists including Uk-based Nigel Foster, Seho Lee and Irina Dernova and Mark Keane with whom she has performed regularly. Helen has a passion for chamber music which stems from her background as a recorder ensemble player. Helen also teaches recorder and singing at Coole Music and Arts, Galway and is choral conductor of SATB choir The Marine Singers.
Galway soprano, Aisling Kenny, is a soloist and ensemble singer specialising in early music and art song. Favourite repertoire includes anything by Bach, French baroque, lute songs and Lieder. She has sung as a soloist with Irish Baroque Orchestra, Camerata Kilkenny, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Marlborough Baroque, Luminosa String Orchestra, The Orchestra of St Cecilia, Linden Baroque and the Staatskapelle. Aisling features regularly in the National Concert Hall’s Chamber Music Series, most recently with IBO for their La Donna Barocca project directed by Claire Duff. Other memorable concert experiences include Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres with Camerata Kilkenny and Sharon Carty, Venetian Splendour, a concert tour of Monteverdi with Resurgam and the English Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble and performances at many of Ireland’s festivals including Galway Early Music Festival, Sligo Baroque Festival, Ardee Baroque Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and New Music Dublin. An experienced ensemble singer, Aisling a member of Resurgam, Sestina and Crux, and also sings with Chamber Choir Ireland and Collegium Vocale Gent.
Aisling is a devoted song recitalist and loves singing with harp, lute, fortepiano and guitar. Recent recitals include Dowland’s lute songs with Thomas Dunford in Paris and Kilkenny and a concert of Clara Schumann’s Lieder with Cecily Lock at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Aisling is delighted to perform again at Galway Early Music Festival with Siobhan Armstrong for this special mid-winter edition.
Yonit Kosovske performs as a soloist and collaborative artist on harpsichord, modern piano, fortepiano and chamber organ. At home with repertoire from the Renaissance through New Music, Yonit curates, directs and co-produces projects and festivals that integrate music, text, movement, and painting, as well as her original photography and short film. Chrome Attic, Yonit’s ongoing research-recording-performance project, explores connections between musical chromaticism and chiaroscuro in Baroque painting and contemporary photography.
She recently received a 2020 Arts Council Music Commissions Award for Watershed—a song-cycle for voice and piano to be composed by Ailís Ní Ríain on poetry by Jessica Brown, to be premiered in 2021 in collaboration with contralto Julie Comparini.
Together with Vlad Smishkewych, Yonit co-founded H.I.P.S.T.E.R., an acronym for Historically Informed Performance Series, Teaching, Education and Research, as well as WAVE~LINKS, a new series of explorations in music and artisanry. Yonit is a Lecturer in Music at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick.
She has given masterclasses throughout Ireland, the United States, Israel, China, and Colombia. She is the author of “Historical Harpsichord Technique: Developing La douceur du toucher,” (Indiana University Press, 2011), and she holds a Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she studied with harpsichordist Elisabeth Wright.
Laoise O’Brien has a growing reputation as a virtuosic performer and imaginative concert programmer and has been commended in the Irish Times for her ‘mesmerising skill’. Laoise studied recorder at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and holds a Masters in Performance & Musicology from NUI Maynooth.
In repertoire from the 12th to the 18th centuries she has appeared with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Camerata Kilkenny and the Irish Consort, as well as international ensembles such as the Royal Wind Music, Amsterdam. She has released two albums conceived in collaboration with artist Lorna Donlon, How Happy for the Little Birds and Sonnets for the Cradle (assisted by the Arts Council of Ireland) which have had global radio exposure. Sonnets for the Cradle was the subject of a radio feature on RTE Lyric FM which won an award at the 2013 New York Festivals International Radio Awards. Laoise is particularly passionate about education and raising the profile of the recorder in Ireland.
She lectures at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama where she teaches students from the age of seven up to post-graduate level.
Soprano Róisín O’Grady has performed in recital and oratorio throughout Ireland and specialises in the performance of early music. Róisín studied Music and Italian at University College, Cork and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in concert singing at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow. She received a First Class Hons. M.A. in Performance at the Cork School of Music in 2008. She was a member of and a soloist with the National Chamber Choir of Ireland for over two years. She performed with the choir throughout Ireland and toured Holland and The Lebanon. In 2011 they performed for US President Barack Obama in the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.
Róisín has performed with early music ensembles, orchestras and choral societies throughout Ireland and the UK including the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Irish Baroque Orchestra and the Orchestra of St. Cecilia. She is a member of the early music duo tonos who performed in the John Field Room, National Concert Hall, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Sligo Festival of Baroque Music, and was broadcast in concert by Lyric FM. The duo has released two CDs, Songs of Identity and Belonging and Wintersong. She regularly performs with harpsichordist Malcolm Proud. Recitals include the Hugh Lane Gallery Concert Series, Dun Laoghaire Organ Concert Series, Dublin International Organ Festival and Galway Cathedral Recital Series. Festival performances include Galway Early Music Festival, East Cork Early Music Festival, Ardee Baroque Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival, West Cork Chamber Music Festival and Gŵyl Gregynog Festival.
MICHEÁL “MOLEY” Ó SUILLEABHÁIN
Mícheál ‘Moley’ Ó Súilleabháin has apprenticed himself to the repertoire of his mother, renowned Irish sacred singer Rev. Nóirín Ní Riain, as well as the artform of poetic recitation. He has recorded and travelled widely performing several genres of music with his brother, Owen. Mícheál, with his brother and mother, run tours to Ireland and present online courses on a range of Celtic, artistic and spiritual themes under the banner of Edge School and David Whyte’s Many Rivers Press has just published his poetry book Early Music. www.owenandmoley.com
Malachy Robinsonis a dedicated chamber musician, as passionate about Early Music as he is about New Music. He is a founder of the Gregory Walkers, a group performing Early Music from Ireland and beyond (in which he plays the viola da gamba) and is director of the Robinson Panoramic Quartet, a revelatory alternative to the standard string quartet. With the Far Flung Trio he explores extended roles for the double-bass in multiple genres, and they have recently released an eclectic, vivid album, Live at the Large Room. Principal double-bass with the Irish Chamber Orchestra since 1995, he is also a founder member of the cutting-edge Crash Ensemble as well as appearing with period-instrument orchestras such as The Sixteen, the English Concert, the OAE and the Academy of Ancient Music. He is involved in music education, coaching string players for the Dublin Youth Orchestras, the National Youth Orchestra, the IAYO orchestra, ICO’s sing out programme, ConCorda chamber music school, Ceol na Mara summer school and others. He has also been involved in many workshops for schools with numerous organisations, including the National Concert Hall, Music Network, Music Generation and Galway Early Music. www.malachyrobinson.com
Wolodymyr “Vlad” Smishkewych (tenor) has performed with artists as diverse as Sequentia, Theatre of Voices, Carlos Nuñez, Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI, The Harp Consort, Ars Nova Copenhagen, and Ensemble Dialogos. On the opera and concert stage he has performed as soloist under directors such as Christophe Rousset, Peter Sellars, Albert Takazauckas, Gary Thor Wedow and Andrew Lawrence-King. Vlad has recorded for Sony/BMG, Harmonia Mundi, Naxos, Norton, and Focus Records. He holds the Doctor of Music in Voice Performance from Indiana University, and has lectured and taught masterclasses and performance programmes at universities in the USA, South America, Canada, and Europe. His passion for writing and creating audio and video about music, culture, and nature, brought him to Spain as a Fulbright Fellow in 2005. In 2011 he moved to Ireland to become director of the MA in Ritual Song and Chant at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where he taught until 2014. He then returned to performing and to the world of audio broadcasting and film, in 2015 joining Ireland’s RTÉ lyric fm as an announcer and programme writer, and as the host of Ireland’s weekly early music programme, Vox Nostra. He is a co-founder of H.I.P.S.T.E.R., an acronym for Historically Informed Performance Series, Teaching, Education and Research.
Eamon Sweeney was awarded the first musicology PhD to be accredited by DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. His doctoral thesis, The Guitar and its role as an accompanying instrument in seventeenth – and early eighteenth-century France, investigated the five-course guitar’s role as a continuo instrument in the court of Louis XIV, a hitherto unexplored area of French baroque music and early guitar performance practice. Eamon has lectured and given seminars on Baroque guitar performance at Dublin, Dundee and Bath International Guitar Festivals as well as for DIT and UCD. Eamon received his BMus (1st Class) in Guitar Performance from Trinity College, Dublin and DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama and has since performed on stage, radio and television, both as a solo artist and with various ensembles including the National Symphony Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra and Opera Theatre Company. Eamon teaches music with Co Wicklow VEC and is part of the duo Tonos (with Roisin O’Grady) who perform music of the 17th century