with Dr Janet Harbison D.Litt., MA (TCD); L.TCL., TTCT

From Court to Kitchen: 4 centuries of Irish Harping 

Although the harp has been played in Ireland since at least early Christian times, we know little about its music until the 12th century literary references and the 18th century music notations. This lecture-recital is informative and entertaining tracing the major developments in Irish harping from the time of the bardic court players through to the wandering minstrels of the 18th century, the parlour harpers of the 19th century, the cabaret players of the 20th and the concert artistes of the 21st - which includes myself!


The Irish Harp: Patriotism and Porter!

This lecture is a satirical and humorous presentation on the Irish harp, its history and symbolism, our pride and prejudices with it, and the phenomenal variety of form and style in our heritage of it. I perform something from all the “Arts of Harping” today and I trade audience special requests for discussion on what the harp means to you!


Turlough O’Carolan: Harper of His Times

This lecture-recital tells the story of O’Carolan in his own music - exploring his life against the backdrop of what was happening in Ireland at the time - with anecdotes about his compositions and the patrons for whom he composed them.

The Belfast Harpers’s Assembly 1792

The Belfast Harpers’ Assembly of 1792 was the single, most important event in Irish cultural history. Thanks to the young scribe, Edward Bunting we have an invaluable resource in not only Bunting’s 3 published collections of ‘The Ancient Music of Ireland’, but also his considerable collection of original manuscripts where we can trace the transcripts back to the harpers. This presentation ‘re-lives’ the Assembly against the political backdrop of the time, with a musical contribution from each of the ten harpers attending the festival.


Dennis Hempson, the "Aboriginal" Harper and Composer of “Danny Boy”

Hempson was 97 years old at the time of the Belfast Harpers Assembly and his music was dismissed as "strange and old fashioned" by his contemporaries. This presentation explores the importance of Hempson's music as a window to Ireland’s ancient style of harping, our ‘aboriginal’ music according to the transcriber Bunting. The presentation also discusses recent research attributing Hempson with the composition of “The Young Man’s Dream” - the piece that was to evolve to become the “Londonderry Air” and “Danny Boy” a century later.

Edward Bunting, his Life and Times

Edward Bunting was a celebrated child prodigy who learned his music as a chorister at Armagh Cathedral and became the parish organist at St.Anne’s in Belfast at the age of 11. He was aged 19 at the time of the Assembly when he was appointed to note down the harper’s music. His work with the harpers was to become his life’s passion – and his dismay when Thomas Moore built his fortune on his settings of Bunting’s melodies. This lecture presents Bunting’s case history and explores the harper’s music from the transcription’s origins to the ‘arranged’ published versions.
For the more academic presentations, Dr Harbison requests the use of an over-head projector for illustrations.


For the United Irishmen: “It is New Strung and Shall be Heard!” But for Wolfe Tone: “Strum, Strum and be Hanged!”

This famous quote from Wolfe Tone’s diary after his visit to hear the harpers at the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in 1792 was written while recovering from a hang-over - but also belies his disappointment in the harper’s music serving his political purpose. The decline of the Irish harp became the symbol of and siren call to Ireland’s young men to revolt and expel Ireland’s overlords so as to re-establish the ‘old Irish order’. This is an academic presentation examining the politics behind the Harper’s Assembly.
Dr Harbison requests the use of an over-head projector for this presentation.


The Legacy of the Belfast Harpers' Assembly

This lecture starts with an introduction to the Belfast Harpers' Assembly, the harpers and their music but focuses on the influence of the harpers' music on the popular music of the 19th and 20th centuries. This will refer substantially to the music of Thomas Moore and the later collectors, arrangers and publishers.
For the more academic presentations, Dr Harbison requests the use of an over-head projector and a CD player for illustrations.

The Rise of the 21st Centruy Harper 

Your lecturer is playing the harp since 1968 and from this time there has been a phenomenal evolution in Irish harping. This lecture-recital explores the ‘renaissance’ of Irish harping from the stardom of Mary O’Hara since the ‘Tóstal’ in 1952 to the great young ‘traditional’ players of today.
This presentation requires the use of a good CD player.


Janet Harbison, 20th Century Harper Composer – A Personal Persentation 

From modest beginnings composing arrangements for harp students in the 1970s to composing for James Galway and the BBC NI Symphony Orchestra, Derek Bell, the Chieftains and Presidents Bill Clinton and Mary McAleese in the 1990s, I present my own story as an emerging composer. This is an informal and entertaining presentation of original harp music with chat and anecdotes.
This presentation requests a screen and sound system for projecting dvd samples from my laptop PC.