Ireland is the only country in the world that has a musical instrument – the harp – as its national symbol. Join us for live music and a lecture with Mairéad Loughnane Doherty who will discuss Ireland’s national instrument, describing the harp’s unique place in Irish musical and cultural life. She will also describe the history of the pieces she will perform. The harp’s presence in Ireland dates back over a thousand years. It can be seen on manuscripts and Christian stone crosses, which date back to the 8th century. Harpers often studied for decades and were at the center of Gaelic social life, but after the Norman invasion of Ireland, this all began to change. By the end of the 17th century, harpers had to rely on Protestant patrons to earn a wage. Talented musicians, like Turlough O’Carolan, travelled from town to town entertaining wealthy families in their homes. Since the 13th century, the harp had been considered the heraldic symbol of Ireland. In the centuries that followed, the harp was used alongside other symbols to communicate different visions of Ireland’s future.
Mairéad Loughnane Doherty was born in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. She graduated with honors in Irish Harp studies from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and has been a lifelong member of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. Mairéad and her husband moved to Boston, MA in the 70's. Mairéad has performed with the Chieftains, provided meditation music at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1993, and presented concerts at many universities and other institutions. Mairéad continues to draw audiences for concerts and lectures on Irish Music and the history of the Harp, it’s development in the world and it’s adoption by the Irish as their national symbol and instrument.