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26-29 Deireadh Fómhair 2018 | 26-29 October 2018 

Harping on …

And it’s a wrap! Achill International Harp Festival 2017 has come to a close, the Bretons have left the island leaving the sound of their bombarde ringing in the ears and hearts of the Achill people.

At the back of the committee’s mind this year, was whether or not this year’s festival would live up to the resounding success of last year’s inaugural event. Once the musicians were introduced at the school concerts on Friday morning in Halla Acla, there was no doubt that 2017 was going to be an unforgettable musical experience.

The festival kicked off on Friday. The young people of Achill had been eagerly awaiting the musicians from Brittany, Columbia and Scotland. They proudly displayed their diverse harp projects for the visitors. They were treated to seasonal Halloween music and song which had the students and teachers on their feet trying to avoid the spells of Scottish witches. Diego Lavarde Rojas brought the Columbian lowlands to life in Achill Sound, with a piece evoking the thundering hooves of horses in that region. The biggest cheer from the students however was his version of ‘Desposito’, a hit all round!

It is said that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. This proved the case for the AIHF, 2017. Students returned to their homes and concerts all but sold out online on Friday evening. Enthusiastic audiences delighted nightly in each and every artist. Transitions between blues, traditional, folk and jazz displayed the versatility of the harp as an instrument around the world. Of course, I may be a little biased, but our very own Achill lady Laoise Kelly along with Tiarnan Ó Duinnchinn on pipes produced one of the most magical moments of the weekend, in the intimate venue of the late night Festival Club.

Central to this year’s Achill International Harp Festival was the specially commissioned Breton – Mayo Collaboration. This special concert opened with a rousing performance by the Achill Pipe Band representing our age old piping tradition across Achill. This was followed by a brass piece, two saxophones and clarinet. Padraig Mc Caul and his students Caoilte Ó Cuanaigh and Patrick Cafferkey performed and enchanting number on instruments not usually associated with music in Achill, and in doing so set the scene for the weekend. Up next were the students of Coláiste Pobail Acla under the direction of Phil Duffy. With a set that ranged through Irish traditional and Breton pieces, these young musicians astonished the audience with their musicianship and composure before a packed Wavecrest. Concertinas, guitar, uileann pipes, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, tin whistles and vocalists combined to produce a truly moving musical experience. The youngsters made sure that the audience was suitably warmed up for the big event itself.

Representing Brittany; musicians Jean-Michel Veillion (flute, Bombard), Clotilde Trouillard (harp), Erwan Bérenguer (guitar), Erwan Menguy (flute, biniou) and Antonin Volson (double bass). In the Mayo corner, maestros Laoise Kelly (harp), Julie Langan (fiddle), Diarmuid Gielty (fiddle) and Liam Dever (bagpipes). Together these legends took us on an unforgettable musical voyage that explored and merged the traditions of Breton and Irish traditional music. The collaboration was so successfully received that the ensemble was unable to leave the stage until giving the audience a lengthy, powerful, pulsating encore.

And so, the tone was set for the weekend. Even the weather seemed to be joining in the celebrations. Morning mists bathed the island, as though pre-empting the harping magic that would be experienced later in the day. Unseasonal sunshine then nudged away the mists, ensuring that visitors were able to appreciate the full glorious spectacle of our island to the strains of the harp.

-Doreen O’Connor.

Don’t miss AIHF 2018 – 26-29th October!

Bígí ann.





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