Three hundred years of music across cultures in Ireland
The Irish Consort
Roisin O’Grady / Róisín Elsafty (singers), Sarah Groser (treble viol), Malachy Robinson (bass viol), Ed Tapceanu (bass viol), Ronan Browne (whistles), Siobhán Armstrong (Irish and Italian Renaissance harp)
This programme explores Ireland’s cultural position, in the early modern period, as an English colony, ruled by English monarchs, with periodic struggles for self-determination resulting in failure each century, until the early twentieth. It includes some of the earliest extant Irish music: monastic plainchant; ancient Irish harp compositions; 16th-century Irish songs and dances, together with music familiar to the Elizabethan colonists: lute songs by John Dowland, lively consort music by William Byrd, and European Renaissance dances composed by Cormac McDermott, a royal Irish harper at the English court. The music of the later colonial period includes Irish airs that travelled to Britain together with 17th – and 18th -century elegies for Irish heroes.
Directed by harpist, Siobhán Armstrong, The Irish Consort is a unique ensemble that fuses the passion and talent of some of Europe’s finest early music performers with that of prize-winning, traditional Irish musicians and singers, exploring the intersection of Irish and European early music.
Immediately after the concert, at our Zoom Festival Club, we will launch the CD Music, Ireland, and the Sixteenth Century (The Irish Consort).
THE IRISH CONSORT director Siobhán Armstrong
Directed by historical harpist, Siobhán Armstrong, The Irish Consort is a unique ensemble that brings together the expertise and passion of some of Europe’s finest early music performers with that of prize-winning, traditional Irish musicians and singers, revealing gems at the intersection of Irish and European early music.
Siobhán Armstrong (early Irish harp, Arpa Doppia & director)
One of Europe’s best-known harpists playing pre-1800 repertory on reconstructions of medieval to baroque instruments, Siobhán Armstrong performs and records early church-, chamber-music and opera with some of the most respected early-music directors, ensembles, orchestras and opera companies in Europe, and collaborates with significant traditional musicians in Ireland. In Irish music, she places herself where ‘historical’ meets ‘traditional’: for more than 25 years, she has been exploring the neglected repertory, playing techniques and idiom of the early Irish harp. This is also the subject of her PhD (Middlesex University London, 2021, forthcoming). In 2015, Siobhán located a ‘lost’ historic Irish harp, and in 2016 she commissioned the first ever 3D-laser scan of a musical instrument at The National Museum of Ireland. Sharing her discoveries is now at the heart of her artistic and educational work. She is the author of Singing to harp accompaniment in medieval to early modern Ireland in The Oxford Handbook of Irish Song (Oxford University Press, 2022). With her ensemble, The Irish Consort, she has begun a unique recording series to document music in Ireland 1500—1800. In 2021 Siobhán became an Occasional Lecturer at the School of Music, University College Dublin.
Róisín O’Grady (soprano) 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.
Róisín Elsafty comes from Conamara, in the west of Ireland, and grew up in a musical family. Singing came naturally, even before she learnt to speak. Her mother is the well-known singer, Treasa Ní Cheannabháin. Róisín sings in the oldest, a cappella singing style, in the Irish language, and in English. Her songs are from an ancient, oral tradition and have been handed down through the generations and from district to district. Róisín also enjoys eclectic musical collaborations: from early Irish music to jazz and works with some of the very best known mainstream Irish traditional, and historical, musicians.
Róisín has travelled widely with her art, performing, demonstrating and teaching her singing style. Memorable international concerts have included performances at Cité de la Musique in Paris; at the Palais de Beaux Arts, Brussels; and with The China/Ireland Cultural Exchange Programme performing in Beijing and Shanghai. She has also hosted TV and radio shows in English and Irish, both in Ireland and further afield.
Róisín’s first solo recording, Má Bhíonn Tú Liom Bí Liom, was released in 2007 on Vertical Records and was widely praised. Described by The Irish Times as ‘a thing of beauty from beginning to end’, it is a collection of traditional and newly composed songs, both accompanied and a cappella.
Róisín is a two-time winner of the Irish Music Awards award for Best Sean-Nós Singer 2010 and 2014. In 2019 she won the prestigious Corn na mBan trophy at the Oireachtas and was also the second prize winner there in Ireland’s most important competition for unaccompanied singing in Irish: Corn Uí Ríada. Róisín also holds a PhD in biochemistry.
Ronan Browne (whistles): Originally from Dublin, but now living in Connemara, Ronan is one of Ireland’s leading traditional musicians. He comes from a musical background: his grandmother was the famous early-twentieth century singer, Delia Murphy, and pivotal Irish traditional musicians such as Séamus Ennis, Willie Clancy and Denis Murphy were regular visitors to Ronan’s family home. He began playing the pipes at the age of seven and was quickly taken under the various wings of the old masters.
Ronan has been involved in over 100 recordings and has collaborated with many prestigious artists playing traditional Irish music, classical, pop and jazz, including Elvis Costello, Paul Brady, Sinéad O’Connor, Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest. His work ranges includes solo projects; his celebrated duet with veteran musician Peter O’Loughlin and his acclaimed collaboration with poet Louis de Paor; his trio CRAN and his trio with singer Róisín Elsafty and harpist Siobhán Armstrong; and his performances as the original piper with both the Afro-Celt Sound System and Riverdance. Ronan appears regularly on television and radio. He has toured extensively in Europe and in the USA, as well as further afield.
Ronan is also keenly interested in exploring other musical genres particularly in film, theatre and television, collaborating on the composition of soundtracks for documentaries and films such as the dramatization of Maeve Binchy’s novel, Circle of Friends. Ronan has also contributed music to many film soundtracks including of Robin of Loxely, Rob Roy, Fierce Creatures, Streets of Gold and Gangs of New York. On Angelica Huston’s Mrs. Browne, Ronan was Traditional Irish Music Director.
A gifted communicator, Ronan is a sought-after lecturer, masterclass coach and teacher, tutoring pipes, flute and whistle worldwide for the last twenty-five years. He has recently developed a unique music-listening class, which trains students in the art of forensic listening to – enabling deep comprehension of style and technique – from archive recordings of the late nineteenth century into the twentieth.
Sarah Groser (viol) first played the viol as a nine year old when her father lent her one to keep her happy while she was waiting to start on the cello. She didn’t play a viol again until her late teens when she heard a viol consort and fell in love with the sound of viols playing together. At Manchester University she was able to study both baroque cello and viol with Charles Medlam, then went on to Rotterdam Conservatorium to study baroque cello with Jaap ter Linden.
Since her studies Sarah has concentrated on the viol and more recently the violone. She has been a member of the Rose Consort of Viols for twenty years, Sonnerie for eight years and has worked with many other ensembles including Fretwork, Charivari Agreable, London Baroque, Dowland Consort and The Irish Consort.
Malachy Robinson (bass viol) is 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
Edward Tapceanu (bass viol) was born in Romania but left soon after, with his parents, for a new home in Canada. Ed is a versatile player of many bass instruments within diverse styles of music, with a penchant for early music. He plays double bass in the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland but also plays electric bass & baritone guitar in anything from old blues & jazz to soul and alternative rock & pop. In this programme he plays his bass viol.