Festival director, speaker, workshop leader, tutor, concert artist
Siobhán Armstrong is a coach, mentor, academic and Ireland’s most versatile performer of medieval to 18th-century church and chamber music, and opera. She performs and records with many of Europe's prestigious historical and traditional musicians, directors, orchestras and baroque opera companies. Siobhán is unusual in placing herself at the confluence where ‘historical’ meets ‘traditional’ performance practice. For more than 25 years, she has been exploring the lost repertory, playing techniques and idiom of the early Irish harp. This is also the subject of her PhD (Middlesex University, London). In 2015, Siobhán located a lost historic Irish harp, and in 2016 she commissioned the first ever 3D laser scan of a musical instrument at The National Museum. Sharing her discoveries is now at the heart of her artistic and educational work. Siobhán is an Occasional Lecturer at the School of Music, University College Dublin. With her ensemble, The Irish Consort, she has released Music, Ireland and the Sixteenth Century on Destino Classics, UK, shedding light on a neglected century in Irish music. This was one of The Irish Times’ top five international Classical Music picks of 2021. Building community, supporting artists, and encouraging research is at the core of the HHSI’s work under her direction.
Festival assistant director, speaker, workshop leader, museum field-trip leader
Karen is one of the world’s foremost experts in the study of the construction and craftsmanship of early Irish harps. She conducts scientific analysis of historical instruments, uncovering the wealth of information they hold in order to help musical instrument makers, musicians, and museums. She has led groundbreaking work studying the harps of Ireland and Scotland, and in 2020 led an HHSI project funded by the Arts Council of Ireland to undertake analysis of the 18th-century Hollybrook harp at the National Museum of Ireland. Karen’s expertise is in non-invasive techniques, utilizing extensive experience in scientific imaging, and an interdisciplinary background in STEM and music. She studied at the University of Edinburgh, earning a MMus in musical instrument research followed by a PhD in music (organology). She also has a BSc degree in physics from the University of Connecticut, and an MA in astronomy from Wesleyan University.
Speaker, workshop leader, museum field-trip leader
Simon is widely acknowledged to be one of the most significant experts on the history and traditions of the old Irish harp, helping to spearhead the current revival. In mid 2018, he relocated from Scotland and now lives in Armagh in the north of Ireland, where he researches, teaches and performs the ancient native music traditions of Scotland, Ireland and neighbouring countries. As well as giving talks and presentations, Simon documents his research on his information 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.
Sylvia is a professional musician, teacher and author. Her recent work has specialised in the old Irish wire-strung harp. Since returning to her native County Armagh in 2013, Sylvia has collaborated with award-winning singer, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin; Sylvia's research and videos are featured on the Oriel Arts website project (orielarts.com). In 2019, she was awarded a Masters in ethnomusicology for her research, which focused on the eighteenth-century Armagh harper, Patrick Quin. Sylvia's ongoing study of fragmentary written evidence about the lost oral tradition, along with her knowledge of Irish traditional music, have led her to new interpretations of the evidence, and new insights into traditional harp playing techniques, fingering and style. Her book, An Introduction to Old Irish Harp Playing Techniques, was published in 2021. Sylvia is currently working on a second book of arrangements of old Irish harp airs, using her reconstructed playing techniques and fingering.
Tutor, concert artist
Eibhlís is from Fermoy, Co. Cork in the south of Ireland. Her deep interest in Irish heritage and Irish music has led her to research and perform the songs from the sean-nós (unaccompanied) song repertoire of the Waterford Déise, in the south-east of Ireland, for which she has won first prizes at the Oireachtas and the Fleadh (the two most important competitions in Ireland for traditional singing). Eibhlís is almost unique in researching and performing 17th- and 18th-century Irish harp songs: the much-neglected, seminal repertory normally now only heard as instrumental melodies, which she performs to her own accompaniment on a replica of a historic Irish harp, using historical harping techniques. Eibhlís’s understanding of the Irish language, her love of Irish traditional singing, and her expertise in early Irish harping makes her a unique resource for those interested in exploring evocative old Irish harp songs by Carolan and others. She is a music graduate of University College Cork, holds a Licentiate in Piano Teaching from Trinity College London and also holds a first-class honours MA in Women’s Studies.