By Zahra Baz
Dublin-native Anne-Marie O’Farrell will be taking to the stage this weekend as one of the many harpers due to perform at the Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin festival Gala Finale Concert.
Growing up surrounded by music and with Mary O’Hara serving as an inspiration, Anne-Marie’s passion for music and the harp in particular has established her as the leading lever harpist of her generation.
Recognised for her transcriptions of the keyboard and lute, and her pedal harp repertoire for the Irish Harp, as well as a range of unique levering techniques, Anne-Marie has led the transformation of the Irish harp as a concert instrument.
With influence shaping the future of the harp-scene, Anne-Marie’s ongoing renowned work has resulted in leading harp makers Salvi Harps redesigning their level harps with concert instrumentals in mind; an accomplishment Anne-Marie considers to be her biggest achievement to date.
Alongside her many accolades, Anne-Marie is an established composer known for expanding the possibilities of the Irish harp through her dynamic ability to marry the traditional with the contemporary. With nine albums under her wing, the harper’s recent release ‘Embrace: New Directions’ has been dubbed a signature album.
“I included many groundbreaking premiere recordings of pieces never before recorded on the Irish harp. I get a great kick out of breaking perceived boundaries of the instrument,” said Anne-Marie.
“I love connecting music with sacredness and creating a really full sound.”
Bringing her talents to Belfast, Anne-Marie will be performing at the Gala Finale Concert on Sunday 17th July at St. Joseph’s Church, Sailortown at 8pm.
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 partnership between Harp Ireland and Reclaim The Enlightenment is to mark 230 years since the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast. In 1792 the Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast brought together 11 harpers, seven of which were blind and the eldest Denis Hempson was 97 at the time.
Aibhlín McCrann, Chair of Cruit Éireann Harp Ireland, said that celebrating the anniversary presented a unique musical opportunity for the harping community.
“We are delighted to bring harpers from all over Ireland together to mark 230 years since the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast” she said.
“Our harping heritage transcends boundaries and has really connected the partners, north and south.
“It is wonderful to hear the harpers’ music reflecting our living tradition and to see that there is so much interest in it. 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.”
The Gala Finale will see Anne-Marie perform alongside longtime friend and colleague Cormac De Barra.
“Our show will be a fabulous mix of harp duet, on pedal harp and Irish harp, music by O’Carolan, Handel, Tarrega and ourselves. Everyone brings different gifts to an occasion, so it’ll be a lively and cheerful programme”, shared Anne-Marie.
“I’m quite excited – I do what I love and I love what I do! It’s an honour to be taking part in this year’s festival.”
John Gray, Chair of Reclaim the Enlightenment said the Harps Alive│An Chruit Bheo│Harps Leevin festival is rooted in musical history.
“In bringing more than 50 harpers to Belfast, the festival will create the largest ever such assembly in the city,” he said.
“It will be a celebration of the heritage of the harp and the contemporary revival of harp playing, and when it concludes we hope to have created more awareness of the harp tradition with the public and leave a lasting legacy.”
For tickets to Anne-Marie’s show and for more information about the festival go to http://harpsalive.com