Traditional Music and Song

july, 2022

tue26jul8:00 pmTribute to the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792Belfast Tradfest8:00 pm Áras Mhic Reachtain, Antrim Road, Belfast

Event Details

The Belfast Harp Festival, called by contemporary writers “The Belfast Harpers Assembly”, was a four-day event running from July 11 to July 14, 1792, organised by merchant class Presbyterians Dr. James McDonnell, Robert Bradshaw and Henry Joy, (proprietor of the Belfast News-Letter and uncle to Henry Joy McCracken). Its purpose was to revive an interest in harp music and to collect the music of the harpers and note their style of playing for future generations. But what was hoped to be a revival, proved to be a farewell to the old tradition.

Of the eleven harpers who attended, seven were blind. The eldest, Denis Hempson (1695 -1807) from Derry, was 97. He was the only one to use the ancient way of playing with the fingernails. Yet the festival bequeathed one major enduring legacy. A young man from Armagh named Edward Bunting(1773-1843), was employed to write down the music of the harpers, and to make notes on their instrumental techniques. He dedicated the rest of his life to collecting and preserving Irish music. He published three volumes of music, collectively known as the Ancient Music of Ireland.

This concert will pay tribute to that event and to the Bunting Collection. The artists performing tonight are:

  • Máire Ní Chathasaigh (harp)
  • Steve Cooney (guitar)
  • Brìghde Chaimbeul (small pipes)
  • Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (flute and vocals)
  • Edwina Guckian (dance)
  • Doireann Ní Ghlacain (bean a’tí)

Doors open from 7.30pm.

Tickets, each costing £15, are available from


(Tuesday) 8:00 pm


Áras Mhic Reachtain

Antrim Road, Belfast

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