Harpers and historians will join forces in July to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly with five days of music and heritage in a unique cross-community series of events.
Organised by the Harps Alive partnership, the festival will bring together the finest harpers from across the island to recognise the landmark event that collected music more than two centuries ago for future harpers to learn from and perform.
The festival features three major concerts, smaller recitals, talks and workshops taking place across the city of Belfast, in addition to an exhibition in Linen Hall Library, and a new publication on the history of harping in Ireland. The event had a fantastic opening last weekend in Magilligan and Mussenden Temple, Downhill, where Denis Hempson was raised. The events will close with a commemorative service in Dublin.
Aibhlín McCrann, Chair of Cruit Éireann Harp Ireland, said that celebrating the anniversary presented a unique musical opportunity for the harping community.
“Our harping heritage transcends boundaries and has really connected the partners, north and south.
“We are looking forward to welcoming audiences across the city of Belfast to our concerts, talks and exhibitions and in Dublin later in the month.”
Here are 8 free events happening in Belfast this weekend:
1. Festival Launch
Friday 15th July – Linen Hall Library
Festival launch by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tina Black, and launch of David Byers’ seminal Gatherings of Irish Harpers 1780-1840, especially commissioned for the festival, with harpers Laoise Kelly and Adam O’Neill.
6pm | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3yzxiMN
2. Exhibition | The Harp and Its Heritage
Friday 15th – Sunday 17th July – Linen Hall Library
The Linen Hall Library is a unique institution. It was founded in 1788 by a group of artisans as the Belfast Reading Society and in 1792 became the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge. The Linen Hall Library played a significant role in the preservation of the harpers’ repertoire. Early members of the Library organised a festival of harp music in July 1792 ‘with the intention of having the music taken down and recorded for the first time’. The Library was instrumental in supporting the subsequent publishing of this music. The exhibition will also feature some of Edward Bunting’s notes and manuscripts from the Queen’s University collection which will be on display for the duration of the Festival.
3. Harp Maker’s Workshop and Concert
Saturday 16th July – Shankill Road Library
Did you ever wonder how harps are made, how the wood is chosen, how the beautiful sonorous tone emerges from a chunk of wood? Come along and discover how one of the North’s most renowned harp makers turns out instruments that are in demand worldwide. Hear the harp being played by well-known Causeway harper, Katy Bustard and you’ll appreciate the craft behind the art.
10am | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3Pq8AFy
4. Harps Are Fun! Workshop with Sharon Carroll
Saturday 16th July – Turas, East Belfast Mission, Skainos Building, Newtownards Rd
Harper Sharon Carroll delves into the magic of Irish legend and invites children to come along to be spellbound by enchanting harp sounds and intriguing stories. This is an hour out for all the family. You might even have a chance to try out a harp for yourself!
10am | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3AMBc7O
5. Citizens’ Manifestation
Saturday 16th July – Assembly Rooms, 3 Waring St, Belfast
The Assembly Rooms at the junction of North Street and Waring Street is the oldest public building in Belfast, dating back to 1769. It was here that the celebrated Assembly of Harpers took place in 1792. It lay at the centre of eighteenth century social life. It was here that the Belfast Harbour Commissioners were established, and here that Belfast’s citizens rejected a proposal to set up a slave trading company. United Irish leader, Henry Joy McCracken, was court-martialled here prior to his execution in 1798.
Now semi-derelict it stands as a reproach to the citizens of Belfast. Our Citizens’ Manifestation at 2.30pm on Saturday 16 July will make the case for Belfast City Council to acquire the building for use as a centre to celebrate our city’s enlightened 18th century era. All welcome.
2:30pm | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3ccSmRx
6. Early Harp Discovery Day: Listen, Learn, Have a Go! with Simon Chadwick and Sylvia Crawford
Saturday 16th July – Clifton House, 2 Clifton St
Would you like to learn more about, and even get your hands on a copy of an ancient Irish harp – and be taught a tune? Meet the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, hear this rare instrument played in concert, have your questions answered at an illustrated talk, and – if you sign up early enough – take one of up to eight places in a hands-on beginners’ workshop. Listen to, and ask questions, at a 45-minute illustrated talk on the fascinating history of the Early Irish Harp.
Join a 75-minute, hands-on workshop for beginners. Harps copied from medieval to 18th-century originals will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
3:30pm | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3PqhJO8
7. Seinnigí Linn le Cormac de Barra (Workshop and Concert)
Sunday 17th July – An Cultúrlann
Internationally acclaimed harper Cormac de Barra invites you to a workshop at An Cultúrlann in Belfast. No matter what your standard, come along and take part. There will be something in it for everybody. And that’s not all … Cormac rolls up his sleeves for a special family concert at 1pm, where you will hear the best of harpers’ music from one of our most renowned harpers.
12pm | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3Pa4qSj
8. Taking the Tune: ‘3 Tunes to go’ (Workshop and Concert)
Sunday 17th July – St Joseph’s, Sailortown
Come along to St Joseph’s, Sailorstown, for our ‘3 tunes to go’ challenge. See how quickly you can pick up a harp tune from Luke Webb, Eilis Lavelle and Lauren O’Neill. Relax then into your Sunday afternoon with our Harp Moments concert where Luke, Eilís and Lauren perform their favourite Bunting tunes.
12pm | Free
For more information and tickets, go to https://bit.ly/3NXtkDm
There are various paid Harps Alive events ongoing throughout the weekend including live music events- Strike Up the Harp with Lauren O’Neill & Eugene McKenna, Lunchtime Concert: Northern Stars, 230 Years a-Harping and the Gala Finale Concert.
There are also several lectures and illustrated talks including- Denis Hempson, the Harper and his Legacy and From Mayo to Belfast with Harper Hugh Higgins.
For more information or to get your tickets go to http://harpsalive.com