Monday, October 1, 2007

The Familiarity of Bones

Monday, October 1, 2007
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

The view of the sea again, the entrancement of the wind, and the passage of time over the grassy hills, these things have brought me back to this land that surely I once knew with the familiarity of bones.

Last night’s musical adventure in The House of McConnell in Ballycastle followed on the heels of the previous evening in the Smuggler’s Inn Hotel, near Giant’s Causeway, a few scant hours after our arrival here. It amazes me the way the music surfaces yet again after a full day of driving, but it does! But last night was its own phenomenon and as such, needs more preface:

We had driven from Shannon to Dublin and back on Friday and for all those 12 hours I got my 30 seconds worth of playing a slow air to and for the Trinity (ada Brian Boru) harp in the Long Room of the Library of Trinity College (renamed Dublin University). The slow air, one of my favorites, is Oidche Mbath Leibb or Goodbye to You…recorded on cd#2, Full Hearts, Empty Mind ( This was the heart of my musical pilgrimage to Ireland…to pay homage to a harp from the 13th or 14th Century, although it was romantically and incorrectly attributed to Ireland’s 11th C first High King, Brian Boru. My overt romanticism didn’t go so far as to imagine that the ancient harp would resonate with mine, but there was something deep and compelling about just being there and letting the modern harp strings sound out toward to the ancient instrument behind glass. The officials in the library were taken aback by my request to play, but enjoyed it anyway, and perhaps it won’t be an isolated event…I know I’ll go back to play there again.

Saturday morning we picked up Ted at Shannon Airport and after another 8-9 hours driving arrived at Giants' Causeway where we went harpubbing (or is it pubarping?) before we even unpacked, and for the first time in 3 weeks there was a harper there! She was playing a 22 string lap harp with great energy and skill! Ted and I went out again last night to meet up with Sabine and Dick (harper and does that make him a harphubby?) who is also a fine fiddler and hammered dulcimer player. But the real treat for me last night was to learn of Sabine’s knowledge and passion for geology, paleontology, and archeology, and as a result we talked shop longer than we played harps! So I will be taking her up on her offer to prowl the nearby beaches for fossils, and in return will give her my 2nd copy of the Geology of Ireland map from the Geological Survey of Ireland office in Dublin (thanks to Frank Fagan there).

The morning scoots away from me now on a brisk sea breeze, and the sky is clouding over towards noon…so, more sooner dear friends! We go off now to hop around on the 60 million year old (born yesterday!) basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway…they point toward Scotland, a mere 20 miles across the water.


katia said...

ohh, please tell me you have a photograph of you playing your tribute to the ancient harp.

and wow... what a wondrous experience that must have been for you
and everyone else lucky enough to be there.

oceana vox said...

ah no, sorry to say, the 'no photography' signs were everywhere, and though I was tempted to record the sound with my mini-disk, it was only a temptation. I have recorded the harp in the wind at a stone circle in Co. Kerry though...picture coming soon!