Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
Siobhán is Ireland’s foremost performer of historical harp music, playing 16th-to 18th-century chamber music and opera with many of Europe's most prestigious historical and traditional performers. In a lively and informative interview from 2019, Míchael O’Caíthín captures the enthusiasm and dedication Siobhan Armstrong brings to her research into the relationship between song and harp in the ancient Irish musical tradition: “Singing is integral . . . as important as getting the right instrument and putting the right strings on it and looking at the correct hand position and the historical technique. . . Because otherwise you’ve got the right instrument . . . but you still don’t have the music, because the music is the words. Abair amhrán. Abair amhrán. Abair amhrán ar an gcláirseach, you know. Sin é. [Speak the song. Speak the song. Speak the song on the harp, you know. That’s it.]” Founder of The Historical Harp Society of Ireland and director of Scoil na gCláirseach-Festival of the Early Irish Harp, Síobhan is dedicated to reviving and expanding understanding of how the voice and the harp worked together in the past. Síobhan’s particular focus is on figuring out what the harpers played in the bass hand. Among other work, she has a solo recording of particular interest for harpers: Cláirseach na hÉireann: The Harp of Ireland that was released in 2004. The full text with O’Caíthin can be found at michealocathain.com. Siobhán is very excited about bringing the Festival of Early Irish Harp to Somerset as an add-on to our program.
Presenter website: Siobhán Armstrong
We're glad to have Erik back at his third Somerset. Fueled by his interest in medieval history and fantasy literature, Erik Ask-Upmark started playing folk music when he was a teenager and took up piano and harpsichord. His friend built a small harp and asked him to try it out and he was hooked. At the same time he took up the Swedish bagpipe. Nordic music became his passion and lead to his solo debut album "Heaven's Polska", which was critically acclaimed and the first CD in Sweden ever featuring only Nordic music on solo harp ! Erik has has earned the coveted title of "Riksspelman" (Master musician of the Realm in Sweden) and also plays the Baroque double harp with ensembles such as Concerto Copenhagen and Ensemble Mare Balticum. He performs early music and Nordic traditional music both as a soloist and with his groups Svanevit, Dråm and Falsobordone. He lives at the tip of Sweden and is just about an hour from Copenhagen and has given concerts and workshops across the Nordic countries and Europe as well as the West Coast and Rio de Janeiro, among other places.
Presenter website: Erik Ask-Upmark
Since founding Magical Strings in 1978, Pam and Philip Boulding have been sharing their love of Celtic music. They have toured far and wide, composed new melodies, taught, recorded albums (21 and counting), and built new harps and hammered dulcimers. Of one recording: It's a reviewer's job to find something to criticize in every album. Sorry, I could find nothing out of sync in Phil and Pam Boulding's well done collection. . . Whether a Boulding interpretation of a traditional tune or one of Phil's originals, each track was thoughtfully constructed and perfectly executed. When not on the road (and who is these days?) Philip and Pam treasure living and working on their farm by Puget Sound.
Presenter website: Magical Strings
“My Muse, tho' hamely in attire, May touch the heart." said Robert Burns. There is nothing ‘hamely’ about Debbie Brewin-Wilson’s artistry as a musician and singer, and the combination of these skills with her passion for Robert Burns results in music that echoes ‘the wood note wild’ as Burns describes the natural and unpretentious singing he liked best. An experienced performer and teacher, Debbie’s repertoire also includes many traditional Scots ballads and Scottish jigs, reels, and strathspeys as well. She is also an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, her current congregation being in nearby Sparta, NJ. To date, she has three solo CDs, Dream of Caledonia, Roots and Wings, and Love Came Down at Christmas, a mix of original and traditional songs. Cofounder, with Kathy DeAngelo of the Harper’s Escape, she was on staff at the Escape for all of its 24 years and co-authored the Escape tunebooks, Ten Years of Tunes, Another Ten Years of Tunes and The Parting Glass). Debbie has also published three song and harp arrangement collections: Burns for Bairns and Wood Notes Wild and her newest Harp of My King, a compilation of Celtic Tunes New & Old for Christian Worship, which also includes a CD companion. She created our Basically Beginning program in 2009. This year, she presents our fourth Beginner's Boot Camp on Thursday. This year she will also be doing the Beginner group for the Harpers' Escape at Somerset Sunday program.
Presenter website: Debbie Brewin-Wilson
At home in two cultures, Nicolas Carter was raised in Asuncion, Paraguay, where he learned to play the Paraguayan harp and later in Minnesota. His principal teacher Isidro Caballero (Father to Paraguay's harp genius Nicolasito) taught him in the traditional folk style of learning by ear, an “ideal way for me to learn, every note I have to hear and feel it.” Playing professionally since 1988 in a variety of settings, as accompanist to singer Lizza Bogado, to playing in a various trios and groups from “Son del Sur” (Song from the South, Latin-American folk music), and “Los Amigos” (traditional Mexican music) to ” Nube” (New World Fusion). As a solo harpist, Nicolas has had concerts in Europe, the United States, and Latin America. Nicolas combines his passion for music with a deep interest in theatre, and indeed, holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Direction from the University of Minnesota. His CDs, more than a dozen, reflect the several musical idioms from Latin to Fusion in which he is fluent. After living in Central America for a few years, Nicolas is now is based in White Plains NY and gigs all over the United States.
Presenter website: Nicolas Carter
An emerging and impressive South American talent, in his second Somerset appearance, Edmar hails from Bogota, Colombia and is a long-time US resident. He has electrified the jazz-fusion musical landscape with his dynamic, virtuoisic and charismatic playing of the South American harp. A reviewer writes: “Edmar’s body seemingly engulfs his Colombian harp as he crafts almost unbelievable feats of cross-rhythms, layered with chordal nuances." His first foray on stage was an act of tremendous courage: that of inviting himself on stage with his big, unusual instrument with acclaimed musicians who had not played with him before. But he was prepared and he wowed them all, musicians and audience alike and his career was launched. At the core of his improvisational preparation is connecting with a melody by playing it until the basic line is such a part of him he can move freely and naturally around it. In 2014 Camac Harps introduced its new Llanera model harp named for Edmar Castañeda.
Presenter website: Edmar Castañeda
Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
Born in the south of England, Simon has gradually moved north and westward and is now living in Armagh. While his first musical love was change-ringing, in his own words, “. . . at university, I came across the harp, and archaeology, and traditional music. These in combination have guided my musicking since then.” He has reconstructed both the ancient instruments themselves, not only harps but ““early-medieval lyres and other strange ancient things.” Simon documents his research on his informative website, earlygaelicharp.info, which is the pre-eminent published source of information on the early Gaelic harp and its traditions. He has also published a pair of tutor books outlining the historical tradition, a book on advanced playing techniques, and an often-cited article in the scholarly journal Early Music.
Presenter website: Simon Chadwick
Màiri Chaimbeul hails from the Isle of Skye in Scotland and has been living in Boston for a number of years. She graduated from the Berklee College of Music, where she had been given the American Roots Award, and in 2018 joined its faculty in the Strings Department. She has deep Gaelic traditional music roots, of course, and has been developing her own sound with a distinctive voice and improvisational playing style. As an up-and-coming young harpist, Màiri has twice been nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, and was a finalist in both the BBC Young Traditional & Jazz Musicians of the Year and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician awards. She tours regularly here in the States, the UK and in Europe and performs with fiddler Jenna Moynihan, the progressive-folk group Aerialists, the Brìghde Chaimbeul Trio, and with legendary violinist Darol Anger & the Furies.
Presenter website: Mairi Chaimbeul
Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
Sylvia Crawford although versatile with many instruments and musical traditions (with a focus on Early and Traditional Music) has made her primary focus the old Irish harp endeavoring to find a way for players to master the instruments as if from within the tradition which once involved direct oral transmission from mentor to student. From Country Armagh, she received her degree in music and ethnomusicology from Queen’s University in Belfast, then lived for many years in Galway and Brittany before returning to Armagh to focus on the eighteenth century harper Patrick Quin and to participate as both a teacher and administrator of The Historical Harp Society of Ireland. At present she is writing a book on the old Irish wire strung harp, based on her analytical study of surviving evidence of the tradition in field transcriptions and harp fingerings collected by Edward Bunting from the old harpers. Crawford is dedicated to sharing the knowledge, insights and reconstructed methods of playing the old Irish harp she has discovered with students of this tradition.
Presenter website: Sylvia Crawford
Singer and harper Dominique Dodge of Vermont and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is making her fifth appearance at Somerset. Deeply grounded in the music and song traditions of Cape Breton, Ireland, and Scotland, Dominique has a passion for melody-driven dance music and responsive, rhythmic accompaniment, as well as for songs, airs, and 18th century harp music. A former Fulbright Scholar, Dominique has an MA from the University of Limerick in Irish Music Performance and a BA Honours in Scottish Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. She is also a dedicated learner of Scottish Gaelic. As well, Dominique has extensive experience in traditional arts education and maintains a busy and vibrant teaching practice. She has been performing, recording and teaching traditional music on both sides of the Atlantic for over ten years. She has been a teacher at the New Hampshire School of Scottish Arts (NHSSA) as well as OSAS (Ohio School of Scottish Arts) and has been an instructor with the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington VT, with a guiding hand on the Young Tradition Vermont youth group. She has a new CD this year all in Scottish Gaelic called Canan nan Teud, The Language of the Strings. Under her direction, our Youth Harp Program, has really taken off and she is back for the 5th consecutive year.
Presenter website: Dominique Dodge
Sometimes a particular experience will connect with existing skills in such a way that a person will embark in an entirely new but inspired path. Such is the case for Edie Elkan, who with a strong background in music, experience as a teacher of piano, and an early grounding in playing the harp, found herself first, returning to the harp to assuage her own grief, and then discovering that the harp was being used in medical environments which in turn led her to found Bedside Harp in 2002, a New Jersey, hospital-based harp therapy program. In 2005 Elkan was recognized by the Society for the Arts in Health Care for her work at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s cancer center, where, in a research project, she discovered that patients who listened to live harp music while receiving chemotherapy were less anxious that those patients who did not. Edie has published Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (about Harp Therapy) and her master’s thesis: The Edie Elkan Method of Teaching Folk Harp as an Instrument of Healing. Also available is a 4-set CD Oodles of Noodles, a recording of a workshop on ‘noodling’ presented at Somerset.
Presenter website: Bedside Harp
From her first glimpse of the harp at age of three, Shelley Fairplay was itching to play. At nine, after time learning piano, her harp journey began. Soon she was playing in harp ensembles, regional and county orchestras, and providing music during theatre performances. From Cardiff, Shelley achieved her BMus and was invited to play a solo with the University Symphony. From the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Shelley received her Masters and soon after that her teaching diploma. Shelley is a fully qualified Primary School teacher with two years of classroom experience where she ran choirs, school orchestras, recorder groups and music workshops. She also has an on-line teaching program at StartHarp.com. where she is known as a thorough, fun and compassionate teacher. Shelley brings passion and energy to all things harp—and fun. How many other harpers do you know who have played harp at Port Lympne Zoo beside an elephant ice sculpture?
Presenter website: Shelley Fairplay
Maeve Gilchrist thrives on innovation and improvisation - what she fondly calls "my musical patchwork quilt." Steeped from an early age in both classical and traditional music, Edinburgh-born Maeve Gilchrist discovered jazz in her late teens which she pursued at Berklee School of Music in Boston where she also studied voice, percussion and Latin American music. She subsequently became Berklee's first lever harp instructor. Maeve has stretched the traditional boundaries of the harp and has been credited as an innovator of the Clarsach (Scottish Harp) due to her chromatic style of playing and improvising. Now living in New York City, Maeve is touring regularly with her own project and giving workshops worldwide. Performance highlights include the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, The World Harp Congress, and the Celtic Connections Festival. You've seen her on the Somerset stage in numerous artistic configurations with other artists, including with dancer Nic Gareiss. She collaborates and performs with so many artists across so many kinds of musical genres that we have a hard time keeping up with her! She now has four CDs out as well as several instructional books published by Hal Leonard Music.
Presenter website: Maeve Gilchrist
Joyful, centered, and a consummate musician are words that describe the presence and playing of Robbin Gordon-Cartier. Dedicated early to the study of the harp, Gordon-Cartier spent long summers as a young harpist in Ireland studying at the Royal Irish Academy. Since then she has appeared nationally and internationally everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the National Symphony of Santo Domingo, at events honoring Lord Guiness, Cicely Tyson and Sir James Galway. She plays frequently at churches and gospel events. Robbin teaches an extensive and very successful harp program in the East Orange School District's Cicely Tyson's School of the Performing Arts where she works to bring the harp to the attention of a wide variety of young people, busting stereotypes. Her Cicely Tyson harp ensemble will be playing in our Friday lunchtime concert. Robbin led our Youth Harp Program in 2014 and 2015 and led the Teacher's Symposium for 2 years. Now we have her back this year with a completely updated Teacher's Symposium. She has joined the faculty of Kean University in Union, NJ as Concert Artist/Adjunct Harp Faculty. Robbin has a CD out, Just As I Am.
Presenter website: Robbin Gordon-Cartier
As well as being an acclaimed harper and dynamic teacher, and with five cd’s and four books of music, Rachel has contributed energetically during this difficult time to promote harp music events and classes on-line. Her youtube harp workshop series HARP at HOME, won her a second nomination as Tutor of the Year in the BBC Alba Scots Trad awards. In early April 2020 Hair coordinated the move of the Edinburgh International Harp Festival online, giving harpists around the world another way to engage in concerts and workshops, earning the Festival a further nomination as Event of the Year at the BBC Alba Scots Trad awards. Hair, who grew up in the Highlands, normally divides her time between Glasgow and the bewitching Isle of Man where she is exploring the music particular to the island. In the words of an Irish Music Today review of her newest album, SPARKS (with guitarist Ron Jappy) “Rachel helped to establish a modern harp sound with her trio line-up, but on her fifth album she’s gone back to her roots, back to basics, back to the music she most loves to play. . Together with guitarist Ron Jappy, Rachel presents traditional tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man, that mysterious land of mermaids, Manx cats and millionaires.”
Presenter website: Rachel Hair
In Zen Guitar, the author talks about finding the silence between the notes. Even when playing a reel full stop, Gráinne Hambly, exhibits such poise, authority and skill that every note has its moment giving her music a depth that is hard to describe. Velvet wrapped around steel, might get close! Her style of playing and her accompaniments while firmly traditional, incorporate and celebrate contemporary rhythms with amazing dexterity and flawless taste. Her accomplishments are many. She is popular in many countries and she tours around the world, has three solo CDs, two music books and two CDs with William Jackson. With a master's degree from Queens University in Belfast and years of workshop experience, her teaching skills match her playing; she is patient, clear, and sharp-eyed. She teaches at most of the major summer schools in Ireland and is in much demand here when she's on tour. She was also on staff at You Gotta Have Harp's Harpers' Escape Weekend for 16 years. This year she is heading our Harpers' Escape at Somerset Sunday program from her home in County Mayo, Ireland. For the advancing student, eager to take on challenges, (warning: she makes it look easy!) Gráinne is a great choice.
Presenter website: Gráinne Hambly
It's always great to have Deborah Henson-Conant on our faculty to challenge you to boldly go where no harper has gone before. Since one reviewer called her the ‘wild woman of the harp,’ Deborah describes herself as being "cross-genre: jazz-pop-comedy-blues-flamenco-celtic.” During her impressive career which includes a CD that was nominated for a Grammy, Deborah has brought the harp out of the demure background and into the electric limelight! Mixing music and theatre Deborah performs solo or with a symphony with equal ease. When orchestrating her own music, she often engages symphonic musicians in unexpected ways. Writes another reviewer “her life, her shows, her instrument, her workshops, and her music are all about transformation.”As before, Deborah will be presenting an additional all-day Sunday program, which have been so well received, that we've come up with a new program to help extend your weekend at the festival. She'll do four live on Zoom workshops for us and then present her own special Sunday Play by the Numbers as an add-on.
Presenter website: Deborah Henson-Conant
When Ann Heymann first drew her finger across the wire strings of a Jay Witcher harp over 40 years ago, she was immediately enchanted by its silvery sound and intrigued by the long-forgotten pedigree of the Gaelic harp. She embarked on a quest to uncover its history and revive the playing of the instrument and has become a world-reknown expert on the wire-strung harp and its music. Being a pioneer meant she has a lot of "firsts" to her credit: developing fingernail and damping techniques from the ancient Robert ap Huw harp manuscript, adapting highly ornamented piping variations to the clairseach, interpreting and performing repertoire from several ancient harp manuscripts, creating the clairseach style in the performance of Gaelic poetry. Her music books and tutors in the wirestrung or Gaelic harp are must-haves for any aspiring player of the instrument. Since she'll be doing her wire-strung workshops direct from her home, you'll get a chane to see her historical harp recreations and we get a chance to have her husband, Charlie, be part of her workshops!
We are recognizing Ann with our Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
Presenter website: Ann Heymann
The Egan Irish Harps, on which she will base her presentation at the Historical Harp Society's conference on Sunday. She regularly publishes articles in History Ireland magazine. She performs in several Boston early music ensembles and recently played medieval harp in Hildegard’s 12th century play, Ordo Virtutum. Her CD Baletto, features early dance music, and a new ensemble recording is Turlough O’Carolan-A Life in Song. Nancy has 5 books of arrangements, including her Historical Harp Collections of early music. Take advantage of her expertise while you're here at Somerset.
Presenter website: Nancy Hurrell
Simply listing William Jackson’s achievements, as musician, performer and composer can’t come close to capturing the brilliant spirit, musical intelligence, dry wit, and sympathy that he brings to every instrument he plays, piece he composes and class he teaches. Although the harp is his primary instrument, Billy’s knowledge and experience allows him to move comfortably from the bouzouki to the tin whistle. In 1976 he was a founding member of Ossian, a breakthrough Scottish band. His richly woven and bold compositions, The Wellpark Suite, St. Mungo, Inchcolm, and A Scottish Island, reveal him as a master of orchestration with a sensitivity to contemporary tastes and the traditional idiom. In 1999 his composition 'Corryvreckan' from the album Inchcolm was included on Fiona Ritchie's favourites collection, "The Best of The Thistle & Shamrock, Volume 1." More recently he composed “Fantasia on Scottish Themes” for the Asheville Symphony Orchestra” in North Carolina. He is now living in Ireland. His CD with Grainne Hambly debuted at Somerset in 2009. Besides many CDs he also has one book, Scottish Traditional Music, complementary to the CD The Ancient Harp of Scotland. He was on staff at You Gotta Have Harp's Harpers' Escape Weekend for eight years and this year is leading our Harpers' Escape at Somserset on Sunday. He was recognized with Somerset's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
Presenter website: William Jackson
Liza Jensen has studied harp maintenance and mechanics privately under the tutelage of master harp builders Pat Dougal and John Pratt. She has worked out in California with Triplett Harps and is a warranty repair service for their company. She is the only American woman to be invited by Jakez Francois, president of Camac Harps, the most innovative harp manufacturer in the world, to become a warranty repair service for their company. When she's not working in her studio in New York City, Liza is globetrotting on her harp maintenance missions and has been all over the world.
The first time you hear Laiose Kelly play harp, you might find staying in your seat a challenge. The drive and energy of her playing style is a revelation. One reviewer for the Irish Times wrote, “Kelly’s great passion is for pushing the harp to find its outer limits—and not being afraid to go there.” In the same interview Kelly talks about playing melody with her nails and her objection that the sight of the harp image on the Irish taxation envelopes brings a bad connotation to the instrument, undermining the wonder of being the only nation with a musical instrument on the flag. In Kelly’s case it is more a matter of what she has not done, who she has not played with or what notables she not played for, and what marvelous festivals she has not participated in or invented herself (most recently the Achill International Harp Festival on her home island). Her three solo albums and those made with bands, The Bumblebees and Fiddletrees are a fine place to begin the Kelly adventure. Original, outspoken, fiery and mad for the harp, treat yourself to some time in her company.
Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
By age 17, Andrew was studying maths, voice (counter-tenor) and organ on a full scholarship at Selwyn College Cambridge. His deepening interest in early music and the baroque era led him to become an adept of Baroque performance elements: gesture, Historical Action and ‘continuo’ an accompaniment that includes a bassline and harmonies, usually keyboard, cello, or lute. When he encountered the baroque harp, little scholarship had been done and there were no teachers to turn to, and so, characteristically, he hurled himself into the task of breaking ground: researching, learning how to play, and considerably adding to understanding of baroque rhythms, “striking” and other ‘lost’ techniques. Lawrence-King has extensively performed, directed, composed, and recorded, and is also known as an especially fine teacher. Recently his group ,Harp Consort has released an album Carolan’s Harp.
Presenter website: Andrew Lawrence-King
Dynamic and versatile, Tristan Le Govic returns to the Somerset faculty to regale us with the music of his native Brittany. Tristan began playing Celtic harp at six, first near home and then further afield in Ireland and Scotland where he has often appeared playing in duos and trios with other harpers. In concert Tristan captivates through a combination of his playing style, strong rhythm, singing, and rapport with fellow musicians on stage. He is just as comfortable on an acoustic harp as on an electric, especially when playing with his trio. He can sound ultra-traditional with his Breton renditions or just as easily swing into rhythmic jazz improvisations. He has numerous CDs to his credit, featuring his own compositions as well as Breton to Scandinavian music. Tristan has published a number of music collections, including, The Breton Harp Anthology, a unique collection of three music books featuring the best harpists in Brittany. He is featured in Alain Gallet's 2003 documentary, Le Renouveau de la Harpe Celtique en Bretagne ("The Celtic Harp Revival in Brittany").
Presenter website: Tristan LeGovic
Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland and Somerset Folk Harp Festival
Karen Loomis is a specialist in musical instrument research, with expertise in historical harps. She is dedicated to helping harp builders and musicians rediscover the sound world of the historical wire-strung harps of Ireland and Scotland. For her PhD dissertation at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Loomis did groundbreaking analysis of the construction and craftsmanship of the Queen Mary and Lamont harps in the National Museum of Scotland. By using modern technology to unlock the secrets of these historical instruments she has become known a forensic harp sleuth! She also holds a BSc in Physics and an MA in Astronomy as well. Karen strives to advance our knowledge and understanding of the Irish harp, and is daily motivated in her work by all who seek to recreate its magnificent sound. We "virtually" attended her captivating presentation revealing her latest discoveries for the Festival of Early Irish Harp last summer in Kilkenny, Ireland. Her research is published in peer reviewed journals, and was featured in the 2016 BBC documentary, Scotland’s Treasures. She has a chapter in the forthcoming book, The Eglantine Table: Elizabethan Musical Instruments in Marquetry at Hardwick Hall (Boydell & Brewer), edited by Christopher Page and Michael Fleming. Karen is currently secretary of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
Presenter website: Karen Loomis
From Cape Town, South Africa Christy-Lyn Marais joins Somerset with her specialty in singing and playing harp. From an early age she was playing multiple instruments, as a young adult she trained as an Occupational Therapist and studied classical singing. However, once she discovered the harp, her life began to revolve entirely around music. She entered a national South African singing contest, called The Voice, SA and placed! After that she began to earn her way performing, making a CD (Soirée) and is now teaching by posting weekly lessons on her Youtube channel. This is Christy-Lyn’s first year as a presenter at Somerset.
Presenter website: Christy-Lyn Marais
Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
If the harp and harp players formed a bridge to the past in Irish history to the great tribal bards and also crossed the boundaries between the social classes, the uillean pipes form the heart and soul of the Irish people and the dance tradition, essential to an understanding of the tradition. A renowned piper and a scholar of the instrument, O’Brien Moran’s study of the transcriptions of one of the great pre-famine pipers, the blind Paddy O’Coneely, was the basis of his PhD thesis and also led to his fine album Take me Tender, interpreting O’Coneely’s playing. Jimmy teaches at the Willie Clancy summer school, has toured extensively and recorded solo albums, an album with the band Scullion, and has played on numerous other albums. In his own words: “My interest in the uilleann pipes came from an encounter with the group Planxty (e.g. Liam O’Flynn) in the early 1970s. I can remember the moment that I became aware of the individual sound of the pipes. The tone, the control, the articulation all combined to create a magical sound, the power of which has never diminished for me.”
Presenter website: Jimmy O’Brien Moran
Jo Morrison regards performance as an opportunity to share melodies with their stories. Her playing includes arrangements of traditional Scottish airs, medieval chants, and her own original compositions. An experienced teacher, Jo is also highly valued as an informed, impartial, and empathetic judge that she was named a Scottish Harp Society Distinguished Judge in 2015, one of only five in the USA. Also trained to play harp in hospital and bedside Jo gently provides therapeutic environment to promote healing or assist in transition. Jo plays in a scottish duo called Port Righ; their album is Na bi Gorach Jo’s most recent recording (of six) of original Celtic harp music Flights of Fantasy, “was inspired by family, dear friends, Scotland, the Northern Lights, mountains, waterfalls and dancing bison.” Books and PDF’s are available too. Most intriguingly and courageously, Jo signed up in 2003 with the Millenium Quest with a goal to play, in an impromptu manner, in public at least 25 times during the year. Must have been a success!
Presenter website: Jo Morrison
Appearing courtesy of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland
Eibhlís presents an opportunity to learn more about a facet of harp playing that is uncommon nowadays, for few others than Eibhlís have made a deep study and career of not only researching traditional singing accompanied by the harp, but reviving the practice, by performing herself . Her first studies delved into the sean-nós tradition of unaccompanied singing, but from there she ventured into studying the repertoire of the 17th and 18th centuries of the songs that were accompanied by the harp. Playing on a replica of a historic harp, using the techniques, as best can be known, of the time she sings the songs that Carolan, for example, composed and sang as he played. Before the virus made public performance impossible, Eibhlís and Siobhán Armstrong performed songs and music from the old Irish wire strung harp tradition, including material from the repertoire of nineteenth century local harper Patrick Byrne.
Cuban born Alfredo Ortiz is one the leading Paraguayan harpists and has a multi-cultural repertoire which covers the folk, classical and popular music of many countries, in addition to his own compositions. He began playing the Venezuelan folk harp at 15, four years after his family emigrated there, and he eventually used music to support his medical studies. Dr. Ortiz also has a background in music therapy and sensory motor integration, which he draws on in his body/harp workshops. His compositions and publications are used in many schools and by many harp ensembles around the world. In 2008, he was commissioned by the Tenth World Harp Congress to compose a piece, which was then performed by 232 harpists at the Congress, breaking a record in the Guinness Book of World Records. When not performing with symphonies and orchestras, doing concerts or recording, Dr. Ortiz is traveling and doing lectures and master classes. In 2011, in honor of his 50 years of contributions to the harp community, Alfredo was awarded the very first Lifetime Achievement Award by the Somerset Folk Harp Festival.
Presenter website: Alfredo Rolando Ortiz
Christa Patton, originally a classically trained oboist, was always drawn to the ancient sound of double reeds. While her brother was collecting recordings of classic rock, Christa was searching for LPs of crumhorns and shawms. A late bloomer as a harpist, Christa was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study the Baroque harp with Mara Galassi in Milan, Italy just as she was turning 40. She is a noted historical harpist and early wind specialist who has performed with many of today’s premier early music ensembles including Piffaro the Renaissance Band, Early Music New York, Boston Camerata, The King’s Noyse, Folger Consort, Newberry Consort, Apollo’s Fire, Parthenia, ARTEK and Chatham Baroque. Since one of her specialties is 17th century opera on Baroque harps, Christa has performed with New York City Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Atelier and the Opera Theater of Saint Louis. She is musical director of the Baroque Opera Workshop at Queens College, focusing on the works of early 17th century composers. Christa has been on the faculty of Rutgers University as well as the Madison Early Music Festival, Amherst Early Music Festival and Pinewoods Early Music Week, among others. She is a past president of the Historical Harp Society. She has toured throughout the Americas, Europe, and Japan. She presented as part of the Historical Harp Society's Conference held here at Somerset in 2019.
Presenter website: Christa Patton
Laurie Riley is a long-time multi-instrumentalist who has toured extensively wearing a number of musical hats. In 1981 she saw the unique music possibilities of the harp and immersed herself in that world and has the distinction of being a pioneer in two different areas of the harp realm. Laurie led in the teaching and practice of therapeutic music as a bedside service in hospitals, and founded accredited therapeutic music certification programs that train musicians for hospital work. She was a charter member of the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Music. Laurie was instrumental, literally, in the creation of the contemporary double-strung harp in 1990 and has been a leading player and teacher of this instrument, with a must-have popular instructional video and music collections. The volume of her published CDs, videos and music books on a variety of topics in her sphere of influence is astounding. Laurie will be focusing on one of key specialties at this year's festival, the double-strung harp, including a Sunday add-on. She is a leading expert on ergonomics, She received our Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
Presenter website: Laurie Riley
As one of the pioneers of the American folk harp, Kim Robertson’s style and approach to the instrument is uniquely personal and original. Trained classically on piano and orchestral harp, she brings a contemporary touch to both her original compositions and her arrangements of Celtic music. Her skill and stage presence as a performer has brought her a loyal following and she is an experienced and sensitive teacher as well. She has many CDs, among them Highland Heart, Shady Grove and Shall We Gather as well as numerous volumes of harp arrangements and several instructional videos. Though she makes her home in Wisconsin, she spends a good deal of the year touring both as a solo artist and with other performers. Kim has presented and performed at nearly every Somerset festival, and with good reason! She's got a clear style and can get everybody, seemingly effortlessly, working together and learning with humor and grace. No matter what the topic, her workshops are packed. Kim received our Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
Presenter website: Kim Robertson
Versatility and a willingness to explore—different musical genres, different types of harps and different settings in which to play, characterize Sunita Staneslow’s career. At eight Sunita was already deeply interested in music, playing flute, harp and piano. The next twenty years were spent studying mostly classical music, with such eminent harpists as Lucile Lawrence, Lily Laskine, and Judith Liber. While living in Jerusalem during the mid-'80's, Sunita began arranging various styles of Jewish music for the harp. More recently she has been working as a therapeutic musician in a children's hospital near Tel Aviv. She has participated in two studies to measure the effect of music on premature babies. Sunita has played under the baton of conductors such as Phillipe Brunelle and Claudio Abbado but her passion is traditional music. With more than a dozen recordings to choose from and many books of arrangements from classical, sacred, Celtic and Jewish music, Sunita has something to offer to every aspiring harper.
Presenter website: Sunita Staneslow
Tokyo-born Tomoko Sugawara began playing Irish harp when she was 12 and graduated from the Tokyo University of Fine Arts with concert harp as her main instrument. And in one of those wonderful life's moments that can change the musical path one is on, she discovered the ancient angular harp, called the kugo, and began her quest to revive the instrument. In 2007 The Asian Cultural Council gave her a grant to research it in New York. She plays a modern rendition of the instrument, which disappeared from the music world more than 300 years ago. She has played the kugo at major international venues, such as the World Harp Congress (in Prague and Amsterdam), Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton Universities, as well as The British Museum. She has two solo CDs of concert harp and the first ever recording of the kugo "Along the Silk Road".
Presenter website: Tomoko Sugawara
Christina Tourin has devoted her life to discovering the many dimensions of the harp, from early classical training as a young person, to the celtic tradition, composing, and using the harp for healing later, as an adult. She is the founder of both The Scottish Harp Society of America (1982) and the International Harp Therapy Program (1994). From playing to building, from history to healing, there is no aspect she has not explored. Living in different areas of New England for early years into adulthood, Tourin lived for many years in Vermont, playing with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and at the Trapp Family Lodge as well as raising children with her husband, Peter Tourin, a maker of early instruments. She has performed, taught and recorded CD’s: among them White Rose and The Emerald Harp . Dedication, experience and versatility are a few of the many words that describe Tourin’s journey with the harp.
Presenter website: Christina Tourin
Dr. Dennis Waring is passionate about all kinds of music and ethnic cultures, from all over the world. Armed with a PhD from Wesleyan University, he's an educator, ethnomusicologist, author, instrument maker, collector, performer, and arts consultant. His World Music Teacher Institutes often take him from coast to coast and he has taken two four-month journeys around the world as shipboard ethnomusicologist with the University of Virginia’s Semester At Sea program. His multi-instrumental proclivities gives him a musical range that includes classical, folk, jazz, and ethnic idioms. That wide-ranging musical passion led him to create Waring Music to provide access to a broad spectrum of musical and multicultural resources to the general public as well as educational institutions. We welcome Dennis back as a vendor as well as a presenter with his ever-popular Build-a-Harp workshop, in which he assists interested participants in building their own harps right at the festival.
Presenter website: Dennis Waring
Who doesn't know about Sylvia Woods? Even if you've just joined the harp community you've heard of Sylvia Woods. She was named one of the 45 "Most Influential Harp Forces of the 20th Century" by Harp Column magazine in 1999. There are few people in the lever harp world who have had such wide-ranging influence. Credit her with launching the folk harp renaissance that started in the 70s, not only as a performer (starting by touring with Robin Williamson and his Merry Band) and recording artist (CDs and awards too numerous to mention here!), but subsequently as a publisher and entrepreneur. Sylvia has written over 50 books and music sheets for the harp, including the best-selling tutor Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp, which has sold over 50,000 copies since its release in 1978. Sylvia has performed on stages throughout the North America and Europe, as well as on numerous recordings, radio and TV shows, and movie soundtracks such as Dead Poets Society. The Sylvia Woods Harp Center, now located in Hawaii, is a mail order catalog, publishing company, and www.harpcenter.com website monolith. Sylvia was our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2015.
Presenter website: Sylvia Woods