Achill Island will be alive and buzzing with the rich and vibrant sounds of harps from around the world over the October Bank Holiday weekend. The inaugural Achill International Harp Festival aligns itself with ancient harping traditions by gathering harpers at Samhain to explore, develop, and perhaps challenge this beautiful musical form. The festival is not only celebrating the harp as our national instrument, and our national emblem, it is showcasing the instrument in its international context, with harpers from other parts of Europe and South America.
Nightly concerts during the festival will give audiences an opportunity to hear some of the finest international exponents of the harp and other traditional instruments, with Ismael Ledesma (Paraguay ), Rodrigo Romani (Galicia ), Mary MacMaster (Scotland ), Laoise Kelly (Mayo ), and Gráinne Hambly (Mayo ). For the opening concert on Friday October 28 Scottish music legend, Allan MacDonald, will premiere his specially commissioned "Sraith Oileán Acla - Achill Island Suite", an exciting new music commission for harp, pipes, and traditional ensemble, the first to incorporate the vibrant indigenous piping tradition of Achill. The combination of these two iconic instruments is rarely heard.
The festival also features wonderful opportunities to engage with the harp, both as a player and a maker. Various styles and levels of harp workshops, from complete beginners through intermediate to advanced, will be taught by the visiting international harpers. And a first for an Irish festival, an opportunity for potential harp makers or those with a curiosity to try, a harp-making workshop led by master craftsmen Graham Wright (Ireland ) and Charles Perpoil (France ). You can go away with your very own harp.
In addition, AIHF, in conjunction with Harp Ireland-Fóram Cruite na hÉireann, will present legendary harpist and soprano Mary O’Hara with a lifetime achievement award for her outstanding career and promotion of the Irish harp on Sunday October 30.
Achill is preparing to welcome music lovers from all over the world to the island over October Bank Holiday weekend. And not only will you experience the best of music, you will also be immersed in culturally rich and beautiful surroundings of the island situated on the Wild Atlantic Way.