Surprising new discoveries about Carolan’s compositional and performance idiom

Saturday 22 May, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

This is a live Zoom workshop, but if you can’t attend for any reason (such as your time zone), we will be recording the workshop and making it available to all who register.

Siobhán Armstrong (early Irish harp)

A HHSI Discovery Day event In partnership with the Historical Harp Society of IrelandI

In celebration of Turlough Carolan’s 350th birthday, Siobhán Armstrong will share her latest discoveries on Carolan’s playing style, which has largely been lost in the sources of his tunes generally available nowadays. Join her as she shares 18th-century printed sources of his music that give hints to his unique playing style. Then explore his compositions as they were copied down live, at speed, from Irish harpers in the 1790s, surviving in rare, original field transcriptions. This workshop gives a fascinating glimpse of Carolan’s surprising melodic idiom that we don’t hear any more, and also his accompaniment style: what his lower hand really played. It will also include the latest information about his playing style as remarked on by those who actually heard him play! And BTW, what’s the story with all those accidentals in Carolan melodies; true or false?! Participants are encouraged to bring their harps and try out the old-Irish way of playing that Siobhán will be describing, hoping to get you a little closer to Carolan’s music a year after his 350th birthday!

This workshop is open to intermediate+ players of all types of harps who have a curiosity about how Carolan might have played his own compositions.

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.