The Wales Harp Festival held on the 12 & 13 April 2017 at Galeri Caernarfon celebrated the harps of Wales and Ireland.
A two day harp course for harpists of all ages and abilities took place, and leading harpists from Ireland, Denise Kelly and Cliona Doris joined Festival Director, Elinor Bennett, Catrin Morris-Jones, and Elfair Grug Dyer from Wales, to teach and celebrate the long history of the harp in both Celtic countries.
Visiting students from the DIT Conservatoire in Dublin also taught Irish tunes to the course participants which were performed during the ‘Galleries of Galeri’ concert held in the public spaces of the arts centre.
The first day of the Festival included a fascinating lecture from Dr Sally Harper entitled: ‘Creating a tradition together: Welsh and Irish Harpists at the medieval council of Glyn Achlach, Co. Leinster’
Dr Sally Harper, the leading authority internationally on early Welsh music recounted how Gruffydd ap Cynan (c.1055 – 1137) known as “The Prince of Wales” brought Irish musicians to Wales with him, and is said to have organised a great congress or eisteddfod for Welsh and Irish musicians in Caerwys, Flintshire.
Following the lecture, at 6.30pm, the festival featured the 2017 Nansi Richards Scholarship Competition which was organised by the Nansi Richards Trust.
The Festival Concert “Harps of the Celtic Sea” featured performances of traditional and classical music from Wales and Ireland given by some of the most talented young harpists from both countries.
Two distinguished Irish harpists, Denise Kelly and Cliona Doris and ten students from the DIT Convservatory of Music, Dublin performed alongside Welsh harpists in a varied and lively programme of music from both sides of the Irish sea.
One of Wales’ leading traditional singers, Gwenan Gibbard performed, along with her new choir – “Côr yr Heli” – to make its concert debut before they crossed the Irish Sea to compete at the Pan-Celtic Festival in Carlow, Ireland the following week, as well as two of Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias’ alumni students, Elfair and Rhiain Dyer and the William Mathias School Service’s Senior Harp Consort.