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Brian Boru Lion of Ireland



“Plucking at the Harp Strings and Making Music with them”
Brian Boru Lion of Ireland Musical Extravaganza, part of the
Brian Boru Millennium Harp Festival!

Not only is 2014 is the 1000th anniversary of the death of Brian Boru, one of Ireland’s most renowned historically heroic figures, it is also the year in which Limerick celebrates as a national ‘City of Culture’.

Culminating both anniversaries, Dr. Janet Harbison of the Irish Harp Centre in Castleconnell, Co. Limerick created the Brian Boru Millennium Harp Festival, which runs from Monday 18th to Sunday 24th of August. It is a celebration of Brian Boru, his harp and his legacy.

Over one hundred harpers from all over the world will converge in Castleconnell to rejoice in this wonderful story. Castleconnell, which ironically, is where the original Brian Boru Harp, now housed in Trinity College, Dublin, was discovered in the 1770’s and restrung by Tyrone harper, Arthur O’Neill,



As part of the festival, Dr. Harbison has composed a musical extravaganza – ‘Brian Boru, Lion of Ireland’, that premieres in St. Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday 21st August at 8pm, with concerts each evening until Saturday 23rd, including a special family matinee performance on Saturday at 3pm.

Members of the Irish Harp Orchestra are busily ‘plucking away at their harp strings’ rehearsing for this 50-minute massed harp, choral – with 120 voices, and bagpipes production. Dr. Harbison has done an extraordinary job in pulling all this wonderful talent together, bringing this unique one-off event to the people of Limerick and the region.

Talking about how Dr. Harbison was inspired to do this, “I was shocked, delighted and determined to inform the world of our very local role in Irish harp history!  I wanted to celebrate the story, inspire my students, inform the community and the nation at large and bring harpers world-wide to Limerick to celebrate Brian Boru, the man himself in his millennium year.”

Dr Harbison is delighted to be working with not only performers from neighbouring counties, Clare and Tipperary but also the Agen-Bordeaux Harp Ensemble, France; the New England Irish Harp Orchestra, USA; Irish and National Harp Orchestras; the combined voices of the Irish Chamber Orchestra Chorus, the Seoda Adult Choir, the County Limerick Youth Choir and the Cantette Children’s Choir under the direction of Maire Keary-Scanlan; along with soloists Ann Heyman, (USA) on the wire harp; Shane Lillis on the bagpipes, with  pipers and drummers from the Limerick Pipe Band.

The music of Brian Boru’s March is also iconic – it is known to all players of all types of harp universally, as it is the first ‘real’ tune learned by Irish, i.e. Celtic, Folk, small or Lever harp players the world over.

In collaboration with Larry De Cleir and Dr. Harbison, the ‘Ballad of Brian’, with its rousing chorus of ‘the eagle will soar, the lion will roar…’ has been written and “is sure to raise the spirits of young and old and bring our mighty High King into vibrant focus in this, his millennium year.”

The Irish Harp Centre will also host a one-day Conference on Friday 22nd August – “Brian Boru, his Harp and Legacy”, discussing the significance of Brian Boru to Irish life, which promises to be informative and provocative. The conference opens with renowned speaker Dr. Pat Wallace, retired Irish Museum’s Director and Dublin’s leading expert on the city’s Viking, whom is also an avid ‘Brian Boru’ enthusiast.

Following Dr. Wallace, Dr. Rosemary Power, also an expert on Viking culture and influence on the Irish diaspora will speak on the legend of Brian Boru from a Viking perspective. Dr Cathy Swift will elaborate on the cult of our hero, the myths and legends.

Friday’s conference will also feature the Brian Boru Replica Harp that was built by the late Reverend Chris Warren in consultation with Sean O’Riada, an expert ‘harping quartet’ and finally, Dr. Harbison will lead everyone on a walk along the Shannon riverbank to Doonass House, where the only known portrait of Carolan was painted.

An additional concert featuring the American, French and Italian Harp Ensembles and soloists will take place, also in St. Mary’s Cathedral on Wednesday evening at 8pm and Tickets are priced at €20.00.

Tickets for the three evening concerts of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 21st to 23rd are €25.00. The matinee performance tickets on Saturday 23rd at 3.00pm are €15 and €10 for those under 16 years, and family tickets at €35 for 2adults+2children or 1adult+3children. All tickets are available from FSV – Future Sound & Vision, Upper William Street, Limerick or


Late Gigs featuring solo players and small ensembles will be held in ‘The Loft’ upstairs in the Locke Bar every night Monday to Saturday from 11.00pm, with the Festival Club taking place in the adjoining bar upstairs. For full details of the Festival, check out the website: or contact the Irish Harp Centre on 061 372 777


Read more about the Harp Festival here!

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.