Music Ireland and the Sixteenth Century: The Irish Consort – Enchanting harp

Fri, Jun 4, 2021, 05:00


Music, Ireland and the Sixteenth Century

The Irish Consort, Crux

DC 1801


This recording, launched at last month’s Galway Early Music Festival, offers a nuanced view of a century not much celebrated in Irish musical life. It moves from plainchant through Irish songs and dances, Tudor and Elizabethan music to works written in London by the harper Cormac Mac Dermott “in a European Renaissance idiom”.

It is the brainchild of harpist Siobhán Armstrong, whose introductory note makes clear her personal connection to both the Irish and English sides of the repertoire – Protestant and royalist arrivals to Ireland on one side of the family, land dispossessions on the other. And she also links her musical choices to the areas in Tipperary and Kilkenny where she has lived.

There’s not a weak link in the performing line-up, which includes singers Áine Ní Chroigheáin, Róisin O’Grady and John Elwes, as well as the vocal quartet Crux. The nail-plucked, metal-strung Irish harp displays, in the hands of a player such as Armstrong, all the ethereal magic that made it so celebrated in its heyday.

She plays a copy of Trinity College Dublin’s Brian Boru harp, and if you’re at all partial to its uniquely enchanting sound, or just want to sample some rarely heard music, this album is not to be missed.