Tag Archives: harp

Artist Profiles: Catrin Finch

Catrin Finch – Photo by Rhys Frampton

Welsh harpist and composer Catrin Ana Finch was born in Llanon, Ceredigion, UK in 1960. She started learning the harp at six. By nine, she had passed her Grade VIII harp exam. She was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the age of ten and became the youngest of its members to play at The Proms, a summer season classical music series in London.

Catrin studied harp with Elinor Bennett and later attended the Purcell School, an academic institution for children in Hertfordshire. She continued her music studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London where she studied harp with Skaila Kanga.

During the 1990s, Finch won several competitions for young harp players, including the Nansi Richards Prize and the Blue Riband at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

She has performed with many of the world’s top orchestras. She has collaborated with numerous classical and world music acts, including Colombian group Cimarrón and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita.

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita

Catrin is devoted to promoting the harp and classical music in general to a new and broader audience, through her annual Academi Catrin Finch Academy Summer Harp School, an Annual Harp Fun Day and her ‘Classical Café’ evenings.


Carnaval de Venise (Sain, 2001)
From Coast to Coast (Kissan Productions, 2002)
Crossing the Stone (Sony Music, 2003)
The Harpist (Sony Classical, 2004)
Barddoniaeth Daear / Poetry Of Earth, with Jeremy Huw Williams (Sain, 2005)
Live – Byw (Kissan Productions, 2006)
Unexpected Songs, with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber (2006)
String Theory (Kissan Productions, 2007)
Little Angels (Kissan Productions, 2007)
Bach: Goldberg Variations (Deutsche Grammophon, 2009)
Annwn ‎(Kissan Productions, 2011)
Blessing, with John Rutter (Deutsche Grammophon, 2012)
Clychau Dibon, with Seckou Keita (Astar Artes Recordings, 2013)
Lullabies (Deutsche Grammophon, 2013)
Tides (Kissan Productions, 2015)
Soar, with Seckou Keita (Bendigedig, 2018)


Irish harping Added to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

National Harp Day with Clodagh, Oisín and Alva at the Lexicon Cultural Centre, Dún Laoghaire. Co Dublin, Ireland – Photo by Tom Honan Photography, 2017

Irish harping has been added to UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The harp is Ireland’s national symbol and has been played for over 1,000 years. Its captivating bell-like sound celebrates Irish mythology, folklore and literature.

Contemporary gut-strung harpers have maintained the ancient repertoire and safeguarded its continuity while responding to evolving styles.

There has been a major resurgence of interest in harp playing over the past 60 years thanks to a growing appreciation of the harp’s role in Irish culture, language and identity.

International Festival for Irish Harp, brothers Éamon and Cormac de Bara (harp) – Photo by Kieran Cummins, 2017

Some of the best known harpers in Ireland include Cormac de Barra, Moya Brennan (Máire Brennan), Janet Harbison, Mary O’Hara and Gráinne Hambly.


Glamorous recital from Canadian Singer and Harper Loreena McKennitt in San Sebastian

The “Lost Souls Tour”, an extensive tour of Europe, also ended up in Spain (Valencia, Murcia, Granada, Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and finally in San Sebastian). And, after Thessaloniki, Athens, Izmir, Ankara, Istanbul, Abenberg, Munich, Berlin, Freiburg, Mainz, Florence, Milan, Udine, Macerata, Rome, Molfettá, Cervere and Lyon, Canada’s Loreena Mckennitt will have completed one of her more clamorous and also “glamorous” European tours. Elegance is not only in fashion shows, but also in some theatrical scenes, such as the Victoria Eugenia venue.

Loreena has nearly forty years of professional activity, and it seems as if time had not passed through her, especially her music. And the voice, that incredible voice, is, next to her inseparable Celtic harp, hallmark of one of the most personal and unmistakable artists of the broad contemporary musical spectrum.

She doesn’t know about labels or upstart commitments: she started, and continues to do so, from an unequivocal musical and literary tradition anchored in Ireland and Shakespeare in equal parts, but she has managed to expand her borders until she reaches the sensual East, the torrid Morocco, the canonical Hellenic civilizations, and has even set its sights on the Spanish mysticism of the literary Golden Age and has sung to the asceticism taken from San Juan de la Cruz, just to mention a few ports in which she has landed.

Loreena McKennitt – Photo by Richard Haughton

Her current tour, based on the themes of her latest published CD, “Lost Souls“, is protected and supported by the rocking chair of a phenomenal instrumental quintet: Brian Hughes (guitars, bouzouki), Caroline Lavelle (cello, recorder, vocals), Dudley Phillips (electric bass), Robert Brian (drums, percussion) and the sensational violinist Hugh Mash, true virtuoso, builder and vehicle of the loudness displayed by the ensemble.

Loreena, on the other hand, launched, more than ever, her arsenal of exhibits and possibilities: not only the well-known and already cited harp (less used than in the past), but also, the very “folkie” accordion, the gliding synthesizers and, the wonder, her latest “discovery”, the piano, not so much with classical connotations as close to jazz “pathos”. Thus, the creator of “Santiago” and “Bonny Portmore” has approached an increasingly globalizing and, in any case, always creative sound.

Cast aside this time, some sounds frequently used in other times not too far away: the medieval hurdy gurdy and those deeply rooted in Celtic culture, the “uileann pipes”. Particularly, I miss those telluric gadgets, always supplanted in modernity by the versatile keyboards. Yes, a shame.

But, despite that, the provision of Loreena McKennitt live always elevates you near the seventh heaven. Prodigy of diction, elegance, lyrical intensity, expressive emotion, the voice and music of the incomparable artist (because there is no other that does what she does, although outstanding and personal approaches have emerged: in some passages, the Gaelic Enya In others, the Guipuzcoan Olatz Zugasti) is one of the most rewarding experiences that the ear, so often punished, can perceive of the listener conducive to receiving flashes of beauty without a story.

The repertoire did not miss the opportunity to approach some of her “great hits.” “Lady of Shalott”, based on a poem by Lord Tennyson, with its more than ten minutes of brilliant poetic display, was, without a doubt, a high point in the recital. Her Arabic, turquoise and Mediterranean melodies also made an appropriate act of presence. Gaelic references and Marrakesh-ish were not lacking, nor was the (and above all) the captivating, almost dreamlike, always bucolic world of Irish legends and essences. W.B. Yeats did not walk very far, but now the singer is very determined to recreate her own literary world, with songs from her harvest.

Musically, the proposal balanced between the admirable, renovated “folk” of the 21st century, and winks to almost hard rock and jazz, not improvised but very measured instrumental moment. Above all and all, a sublime voice, between soprano and the sharp outbursts of a texture unattainable by other vocalists. Only Joan Baez would be up to it in this regard. Or Nina Simone.


Artist Profiles: Harriet Earis

Harriet Earis – Photo by Mike Peters

Harriet Earis was classically trained on concert pedal harp, but now specializes in the Celtic harp. She was the ‘Harper of All Britain’ in 2000 and 2002.

Harriet studied Irish, Scots Gaelic and Welsh and has a degree in Celtic Studies from Trinity College, Cambridge. She is a member of Siansa, a six-piece, London-based traditional Irish band that includes several All Ireland Champions.

Harriet’s first solo recording was Jumping Ahead, released in 2003. It featured Irish and Scottish harp music with backing from a variety of world music instruments.

Her second album, From the Crooked Tree (2007), featured The Harriet Earis Trio (harp, bass and drums). Another trio album, Alignments was released in May 2016.

Harriet has recorded on various other albums, including the London Irish group Siansa’s debut album (2001), two CDs titled “Through These Eyes” (1999) and “A Hundred Thousand Angels” (2000) by pop singer Luce Drayton and “Shake the Blossom Early” (2004) by London Irish singer Helen Roche. Other collaborations include “Craic of Dawn” by the German-Irish band An Tor (2006), “Ear to Ere”, an American-Welsh crossover album produced by Red Kite Records (2007), “Dragons” (2007) with Welsh trio Triban.


Artist Profiles: Rodrigo Romaní

Rodrigo Romaní

Rodrigo Romero, better known as Rodrigo Romaní, was born in Noia, Spain in 1957. He was involved in the Galician folk song movement in the second half of the 1970s. He formed a duo with fellow musician Antón Seoane.

Together with Seoane and with the traditional music group, Faíscas del Xiabre, Rodrigo founded the seminal folk group Milladoiro in 1979.

With Milladoiro he won several international awards, toured the world folk scene and recorded several albums. In 2001 he left the group to devote himself to other artistic and educational activities.


Milladoiro (Ruada 1978)
A Galicia de Maeloc (Ruada 1979)
O Berro Seco (Ruada 1980)
Milladoiro 3 (CBS 1982)
Solfafria (CBS 1984)
Galicia no Pais das Maravillas (CBS 1986)
Divinas Palabras ( ION 1987)
Castellum Honesti (Ariola/Green Linnet 1989)
Galicia no Tempo (Discmedi/Green Linnet 1991)
A Via Lactea (Cormoran 1993)
A Xeometria da alma (Cormoran 1993)
Iacobus Magnus (Discmedi 1994)
Gallaecia Fulget (Cormoran 1995)
As Fadas de Estraño Nome (Discmedi 1995)
No Confin dos Verdes Castros (1999)
Auga De Maio (Discmedi 1999)
Cabana de Bergantiños (1999)


Artist Profiles: Emilio Cao

Emilio Cao

Emilio Cao is one of the central figures of the Galician Folk music scene. He recovered the use of the harp in Spanish folk music and has had a long and successful career as a harpist, composer and singer. Poetry is very important in Emilio Cao’s work. This is clear in his recordings. He collaborates with current Galician poets such as Suso De Toro, Uxio Novoneira and Anxo Ballesteros.

Cao also adapts pieces from classic Galician authors such as Rosalía Castro and Manuel Antonio. Cao’s 1977 album A Lenda da pedra do destiño (The Legend of the Stone of Destiny) is considered a classic of Galician Celtic music. Most of the music is based on Galician sounds and rhythms, although there is also a medieval Welsh piece, where Cao is accompanied by Cromlech.


Fonte Do Araño (Novola, 1977)
Lenda Do Pedra Do Destiño (Guimbarda, 1979)
No Manto Da Auga (Guimbarda, 1981)
Amiga Alba E Delgada (Edigal, 1986)
Cartas Mariñas (Lyricon, 1992)
Sinbad En Galicia (Do Fol Edicións, 1996)


Artist Profiles: Laoise Kelly

Laoise Kelly

One of the new generation of Irish traditional musicians, harpist Laoise Kelly was born in 1973 in the town of Westport in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. She studied music at Maynooth College and University College Cork and picked up first prize in the All Ireland Harp Competition. Later, having completed her studies, Laoise began to tour extensively, traveling to places as diverse as Africa, the UK, USA, Canada, Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

Laoise has collaborated on projects such as Mícheál ? S?illeabh?in’s Lumen, which was performed at the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest, “Africa I Remember”, the title track on the River of Sound series for BBC/RTE and on the orchestral piece Famine Suite, composed by Charlie Lennon to commemorate the Great Famine of the 1840s. Ireland Europe


Just Harp ‎(1999)
Irish Aires (Kunduru Music, 2001)
Live At The Dock ‎(2010)
Ceis ‎(Kunduru Music, 2010)
Failte Ui Ceallaig ‎(2015)


Artist Profiles: Emer Kenny

Emer Kenny

Emer Kenny started playing harp at the age of nine. While still in her teens, she won an Alfred Byte Scholarship to study composition and harp at the College of Music, Dublin and Trinity College of Music London. While firmly rooted in the myriad traditions of her Irish homeland, Ms. Kenny has cultivated a unique style all her own, calling on many genres of influences.

Her critically and commercially successful first album Emer Kenny (1997) showcased her original haunting vocal style and songwriting talents. Emer’s celebrated cover of The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ was re-mixed by Junior Vasquez and brought Emer to the attention of a broader audience while the track ‘Heaven’ was used in commercials, television and film on both sides of the Atlantic. The video for ‘Heaven’ garnered airplay on MTV, M2 and other video channels. Her second album Fades into Day (2000) found Emer stretching into more of a pop direction.

Emer’s 2005, Parting Glass, was an album full of tradition, modernity and passion. While the rich traditions of Ireland were celebrated in such airs as ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, ‘Sally Garden’ and the title track, innovation abounds. There are Moorish and Spanish influences, readily apparent on ‘Moll Dubh’ (pronounced ‘moll dove’) and in the handclap rhythms of ‘Breton Dance’. Along the way, listeners were treated to Emer’s take on English folk (‘Scarborough Fair’), the music of Brittany (‘An Hini a Garan’), and ‘Rambling Boys Of Pleasure’, a lost Irish ballad rediscovered in the United States in the 1800s and sent back home – all recast with touches of jazz, African and European flourishes.


Emer Kenny (Triloka, 1997)
Fades into Day (Triloka, 2001)
Parting Glass (Triloka, 2004)


Artist Profiles: Derek Bell

Derek Bell with The Chieftains

A native of Belfast (born October 21, 1935), Derek Bell was The Chieftains‘ virtuoso harpist who originally performed with the Belfast Symphony Orchestra. He also played piano, oboe and tiompán (a stringed instrument with 120-130 strings dating from fourth-century Ireland, similar to a hammered dulcimer). Bell first played with The Chieftains in 1972 as a regular guest and joined the band as a full-fledged member in 1974. His first recording with the band was The Chieftains 4 (1974).

A child prodigy, Bell started his musical career on piano at the age of nine and he composed his first concerto at 11. He became a regular on the BBC radio program Children’s Hour, often composing new material for the show. He later earned a scholarship to study composition at London’s Royal College of Music and then studied piano in Colorado. He went on to be a soloist appearing with symphony orchestras in Berlin, Moscow, Budapest, Dublin and London.

While he studied harp in Salzburg, Austria, he did not begin playing it seriously until he was 30 and managing the Belfast Symphony Orchestra. Prior to his Chieftains tenure, he recorded five solo albums, four on harp and one on piano.

Derek Bell died on October 17, 2002 in Phoenix, Arizona.



Carolan’s Receipt (Claddagh Records CC18 1975)
Carolan’s Favourite (Claddagh Records CC28 198)
Derek Bell Plays With Himself (Claddagh Records CSM51 1981)
Musical Ireland (Claddagh Records CC35 1982)
Ancient Music For The Irish Harp (Claddagh Records CC59 1989)
Mystic Harp (Crystal Clarity Publishers 1996)
A Celtic Evening with Derek Bell (Clarity Sound & Light CLS 12 1997)
Mystic Harp II (Clarity Sound & Light 1999

With The Chieftains:

The Chieftains 4 (1973)
The Chieftains 5 (1975)
The Chieftains 6: Bonaparte’s Retreat (1976)
The Chieftains 7 (1977)
The Chieftains Live! (1977)
The Chieftains 8 (1978)
The Chieftains 9: Boil the Breakfast Early (1979)
The Chieftains 1: Cotton-Eyed Joe (198)
The Year of the French (1981)
The Grey Fox (1982) soundtrack to The Grey Fox
Concert Orchestra (1983)
The Chieftains in China (1985)
Ballad of the Irish Horse (1986)
Celtic Wedding (1987)
In Ireland with James Galway (1987)
Irish Heartbeat with Van Morrison (1988)
The Tailor Of Gloucester (1988)
A Chieftains Celebration (1989)
Over the Sea To Skye: The Celtic Connection (199)
The Bells of Dublin (1991)
Another Country (1992)
An Irish Evening (1992)
The Celtic Harp: A Tribute To Edward Bunting (1993)
The Long Black Veil (1995)
Film Cuts (1996)
Santiago (1996)
Long Journey Home (1998)
Fire in the Kitchen (1998)
Silent Night: A Christmas in Rome (1998)
Tears of Stone (1999)
Water From the Well (2000)


Golden Harps of Galicia

Rodrigo Romaní Trío – Fios de ouro no ár (Altafonte, 2018)

Spanish musician Rodrigo Romaní is one of the leading harp players in Galicia. He’s one of the pioneers of contemporary Galician folk music, who co-founded the seminal band Milladoiro. On this occasion, he appears with a trio that includes fellow harp player Beatriz Martinez and Xulia Feixoo on percussion.

The album Fios de ouro no ár (Golden strings in the air) features original pieces and traditional songs as well. It’s a superb melodic album where folk harp meets classical music and contemporary acoustic music.

The exquisite chamber string quartet Cuarteto Novecento appears on two of the musical pieces.

Although the majority of the album is instrumental, two guest vocalists appear on two tracks: Inés Lorenzo and Guillerme Ignacio Costa.

Fios de ouro no ár is beautifully-constructed recording by one of leading composers in the Galician folk music scene.