THE Magilligan man who helped organise Harps Alive/An Chruit Bheo/Harps Leevin festival, has said that the launch at the graveside of a renowned Irish musician was 'the perfect start' to the three week programme of events.
The festival opened at the grave of Gaelic harper Denis Hempson at St Aidan’s Church, Magilligan, near Limavady, on Saturday July 9, moving to Mussenden Temple later the same day.
Events involving 50 harpers continued all last week in Belfast and the festival will conclude this Sunday, in Dublin.
Harps Alive group secretary, Stephen McCracken, brought up just a few fields away from St Aidan's, said:
“The launch of the whole festival at St Aidan's and the Mussenden Temple was fantastic, the perfect way to start the three week Harps Alive festival.
“To have a replica of Denis Hempson's Harp being played next to his grave by Aoibheann Uí Dhoibhlín, was certainly a highlight, and thanks to her.”
The festival celebrates the 230th anniversary of the Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast in 1792, which had been organised by the Ulster-Scots Presbyterian businessmen in the town, as part of the French Revolution commemoration taking place at that time.
These early democrats wanted a radical reform of the corrupt parliament in Dublin and Catholic Emancipation.
Organisations behind the present festival include Cruit Éireann Harp Ireland and Reclaim the Enlightenment.
Later on that Saturday, people filling Mussenden Temple, Downhill were treated to a fantastic three-hour programme of harp music interwoven with fascinating historical accounts.
‘Denis Hempson: The Harper & His Legacy’ was presented by historian Mark Doherty and genealogist Fiona Pegrum.
Harper Aoibheann Uí Dhoibhlín joined members of the Causeway Harp Ensemble led by Katy Bustard and the Scoil Ruaidhri Dall harp ensemble led by harper Nodlaig Brolly.
“The Temple's acoustics were just perfect for the harpers and accompanied narrative provided by Mark and Fiona,” he said.
“All credit goes to them and to Katy and Nolaigh for bringing some of their pupils to perform!”
Stephen also gave a big thanks to National Trust, who own Mussenden Temple, for all their help and who allowed them the use of the iconic monument at very favourable rates.”
Organist at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast Mr Edward 'Atty' Bunting attended the Harp Festival in 1992.
He had a passionate interest in the tradition of Gaelic music and saved many tunes for posterity.
Events this Sunday in Dublin, where he is buried, will commemorate his role in this regard.
Concluding, Stephen said: “Maybe next year the council will get involved and come on as a sponsor to recognize one of the country’s greatest musicians."