Strings of Heaven is an original composition released by local harp players to celebrate 1500 years since the birth of Colmcille. The ‘Colmcille 1500’ project, supported by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Museum Services, highlights the significant connection between the life of the revered early Christian saint and the Causeway Coast & Glens area.
Also known as St Columba, Colmcille left his mark on the landscape in the North West and is remembered in Ireland and Scotland as a unifying figure for his love of Gaelic culture and the natural world. The video and composition collectively capture the beautiful landscape and significant landmarks associated with his life alongside the harping heritage of the area which can be traced back to when this ancient art was central to Gaelic society and ecclesiastical ceremonies.
Fittingly, the first performance of ‘Strings of Heaven’ was recorded at St Aidan’s Church in Magilligan, the site of a church originally founded by Colmcille in the middle of the 6th Century. St Aidan’s is also the burial place of Dennis Hempson, the last of the great harpers. Dennis lived in Magilligan and performed at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792 before his death at the remarkable age of 112 in 1807. He played the famous ‘Downhill Harp’ made by Cormac Ó Ceallaigh of Ballinascreen and sponsored by the Earl Bishop, Fredrick Hervey. The Earl Bishop’s estate, Downhill Demesne also features in the video.
Composed by harper, Nodlaig Ní Bhrollaigh with vocal soloist, Aoife Nig Uiginn of Scoil Ruaidhrí Dall, this new creative community initiative led by Glór Dhún Geimhin, brings together harpers from Scoil Ruaidhrí Dall, Dungiven, Hempsey Harp School, Garvagh, the Causeway Harp School, and Ballycastle Harp School. This artistic piece showcases our shared heritage and the remarkable harping revival witnessed across Causeway Coast and Glens in recent times.
Read more and watch the video here: https://niarchive.org/projectitems/colmcille-1500-strings-of-heaven/