Music of the Harpers at Mussenden Temple

Mussenden Temple, Downhill

When Claire O’Kane from Mussenden Sea Salt invited me to provide harp music for bespoke dining experiences at A Taste of Mussenden, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit the breathtaking Mussenden Temple with my harp.

My particular area of interest is the music of the old Irish harpers, as collected by Edward Bunting at the Belfast Harp Assembly in 1792 and subsequently as he travelled around the country collecting the old harp music. Mussenden Temple is of huge significance to the history of the Irish harp as it became home to the famous Downhill Harp, as played by last of the ancient Irish harpers, Denis O Hampsey of Magilligan.

MS 4/29 Manuscript book of Irish airs, QUB Special Collections

This is an example of the manuscripts from which I work. These old manuscripts and notebooks of Edward Bunting’s are fascinating to me and I love the process of piecing together a tune and arranging it for the modern lever harp. It is my particular joy to then pass on this unique musical heritage to my young pupils.

Inside Mussenden Temple

The atmosphere inside the temple on these evenings was nothing less than magical. Steeped in history and perched on the very edge of the cliff, being in this temple takes your breath away. I loved the opportunity to play my favourite ancient harp airs in this historic setting.

In addition to the music of the ancient harpers, I also enjoy playing music from the traditional repertoire, including original compositions by contemporary musicians from the locale.

It would of course be remiss of me not to mention the amazing dining experience on these evenings, featuring Paula McIntyre of BBC’s Hamely Kitchen and Alison Williams of Old Schoolhouse Dinners . A truly sumptuous dining experience on every level!

I’m so grateful to the National Trust and to Mussenden Sea Salt/ A Taste of Mussenden for the opportunity to play harp at Mussenden Temple. I’m very much looking forward to visiting again.

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