|“The Sexy Six” (aka Grupa Cholaiste na Coiribe) 17/03/99
||Andre Deutsch, London, 2003
|World Music Hall, Wesleyan University, USA 30/10/04
||The Missourian, “Vox” Magazine, 08/07/04
||Columbia Tribune, “Ovation” magazine, 11/07/04
|Ebony Singers’ Winter Concert 6/12/04
||a card, 2004
|Anthony Braxton Small Ensemble, 8/12/04
||Sunday Independent, “LIFE” Magazine, November 2005
|Gamelan and Konakkol Performance 25/05/05
||The Irish Times, 19/08/06
|Corfheile Inis Oirr, 17/03/06
||Confetti Magazine, Autumn 2006
|“The Magic of Ireland” Autumn European Tour, 03/10/06
Andre Deutsch, London, 2003
One day, through a bizarre turn of events, I found out that my picture was on the back of a book. A travelogue, no less; called “In Search Of The Craic” (!) it documents the travels and tourismo of a Rolling Stone music journalist all around Ireland.
I bought the book, but the craic didn’t end there – I started reading, and found out I was in it. Read on, read on, my friends...
"I decided to jog to the Cliffs of Moher...Climb the path to the cliff top and any number of buskers are there to entertain you. Johnny Teran, for one, a pan piper from Ecuador, fresh from the Ballybunion Busking Festival. There's an old guy with a penny whistle who plays three notes and then spends 15 minutes trying to chat up a group of teenage girls from Denmark. And there's a girl playing the harp. I vaguely wonder it it's the same harp that caused a gridlock while it was being pushed along the middle of the road just outside Limerick and have half a mind to give her a lecture on road manners, but she's otherwise engaged with a Japanese coach party.
The genteel sound of the harp scarcely suits the aggressive backdrop of cliffs, hills and ocean, but the girl looks good against the skyline and the crowd around her multiplies. Today's winner of the Cliffs of Moher busking competition by a mile. The Japanese politely queue to take it in turns to take exactly the same photograph of her in front of the hills. "All Irish music is about sex or death," I hear her telling the shocked Japanese photographers. Which is a nice line, if not entirely true....
..On the cliff itself there's a sign saying 'DANGER! DO NOT PASS THIS POINT!". Obviously nobody takes a blind bit of notice. Masses of people clamber past it and venture to the very edge of 200-metre-high cliffs with a sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean without care in the world. A couple of hardy/sick souls are actually perched on the cliff's very edge, dangling their legs over the side. I start feeling queasy and seek refuge on the safer slopes with Johnny, my pan piper from Ecuador, consoling him over having his basking ass whupped by a harpist who can't stop talking about sex and murder."
Colin Irwin, "In Search of the Craic - One Man's Pub Crawl Through Irish Music" Andre Deutsch, London, 2004, P. 167-168
And there you have it - it's official. I'm a whupping, morbid, busking harpist-nymphaniac who just won't shut up. ;)
The Missourian, “Vox” Magazine, 08/07/04
PLUCK OF THE IRISH: AN ARTIST BRINGS CELTIC TRADITION TO MID-MISSOURI
About one month ago, Una Ni Fhlannagain stepped off the plane from Galway, Ireland, with her handcrafted, brightly painted harp case and went straight to her first gig at the Columbia Art League’s Art in the Park. It was her first time in Columbia and her first time in the United States.
The Central Missouri Celtic Arts Association (CMCAA) wanted to bring the musical traditions of what it teaches a little closer to home, so it invited the Irish musician to Columbia for the summer.
Una, 21, is in her second year at University College Cork in Ireland, where she studies art with music as her concentration. The dean of the school posted a position that would grant a student the opportunity to teach in the United States, so she applied.
The CMCAA covered the cost of her ticket and room and board. She is teaching classes for the general public and also will teach at CMCAA’s second annual Irish Arts Camp at the end of July.
“Our community of musicians benefits because Una brings her authentic knowledge of the way Irish traditional music is played in Ireland, and the wider community benefits because it adds to the great diversity and variety of arts in Columbia,” says Kate Akers, president of the association’s board of directors. “We’re offering a creative way for Irish-Americans and their kids to learn about their cultural heritage.”
Una has taken music lessons for the past 17 years and after lots of practice, she says that she has found teaching to be relatively easy. Una teaches the Irish traditions of playing music with the Irish fiddle, harp and tin whistle and Sean Nos dancing and singing. Although there are students enrolled in all her classes, the most popular is the harp class.
Some students find learning the harp more difficult than learning classical music because the Irish music tradition is oral, meaning there is no printed music involved. This oral tradition, which includes dancing and singing, is passed down by ear, leaving room for subtle interpretation.
For American students who are used to reading music, the method takes some getting used to. Una says she is willing to modify her lessons by incorporating notation if the traditional way is too much for a student to handle.
“If Irish music was written down precisely and literally, there would be so many performance directions that it would be illegible,” Una says.
Tiffany Lee, a member of the CMCAA, began playing Irish music as a child and says she is thrilled to have another opportunity.
“The Irish music that Una teaches is very upbeat and fun to play,” Tiffany says.
Not only is Una teaching music in Columbia, but she is also teaching Gaelic, the language of Ireland, which can be difficult to master.
Columbia Tribune, “Ovation” magazine, 11/07/04
NICHE: A WEEKLY PEEK AT AN EMERGING ARTIST
In the beginning, Una ni Fhlannagain didn’t understand her parent’s urgency in making her a musician. She was 3 and viewed their insistence as an imposition on her childhood.
Heritage meant little to a headstrong Irish girl who was more interested in watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than playing her fiddle or blowing her tin whistle.
"I hated it so much," Fhlannagain, 21, said. "But my parents forced me to play."
Looking back, Fhlannagain is grateful her parents proved to be as determined as their redheaded daughter.
Today, music has become Fhlannagain’s favorite way of expressing herself and her strongest tie to family and homeland. She not only plays the fiddle and tin whistle but also has mastered the piano, guitar and her favorite instrument: the Irish harp.
"You get a real tangible sense of your heritage when you inherit the music from a member of your family," she said.
Last month, Fhlannagain left her home in Galway, Ireland, and arrived in Columbia for a three-month stint as an artist in residence with the Central Missouri Celtic Arts Association.
In addition to performing, Fhlannagain is spending her time in Columbia teaching Irish fiddle, harp and tin whistle as well as Sean Nos dancing and singing. In her free time, she is taking beginning ballet lessons, something rarely offered to adults in Ireland.
"I was so excited when I discovered I could take ballet," she said. "I’m taking two classes a week."
Fhlannagain heard about the CMCAA’s residency program while studying at the University College Cork in Ireland, where she is a second-year student in music. She seized upon an opportunity to visit the United States for the first time.
When she stepped off the plane in June, Fhlannagain was overwhelmed with the size of the United States, a phenomenon to which she still is adjusting. For example, Fhlannagain said her hometown of 60,000 people easily would fit into an area one-tenth the size of Columbia. Walking into a Super Wal-Mart was mind-boggling.
"I’d never seen anything like it," she said.
So Fhlannagain isn’t surprised that an Irish harp - which stands about 4 feet tall and has 34 strings - dwarfs in comparison to the much larger classical harp, with more than 40 strings, commonly used in the United States. An Irish harp is not only more portable but also uses levers rather than a pedal to adjust pitch.
Surprisingly, Fhlannagain said there are far more Irish harp makers in the United States than in Ireland, where the makers number fewer than six.
Fhlannagain’s fascination with the harp happened more by accident than design. She was 10, and her parents had taken her to Fleadh Cheoil, a large music festival at which musicians from all over Ireland congregated each year to show off their talents and wares.
Fhlannagain’s parents hoped their daughter might happen upon an instrument she wanted to play. She did, but it wasn’t at the festival.
a card, 2004
I got this rather scrummy thank-you card from my Missouri group harp class. Methinks they may have watched “Mr. Holland’s Opus” more than the recommended 53 times.
I have been so enriched by you! Thank you for teaching me. I loved it.
Love, Linda Seale.
Thank you for teaching us Jessica
It has been such a treat to take harp lessons from you. The classes and even the practicing have been a joy. May your time in CT be as wonderful as you made our classes! Many blessings to you. Carol
Thank you for sharing your love of the harp with us! We will miss you! Carol Buckels, Linda Seals, Jessica Seals
Sunday Independent, “LIFE” Magazine, November 2005
I was a runner-up in a competition called “Beyond The Obvious” organised by Jameson’s Whiskey and the Sunday Independent. They wanted to find people who were doing something a bit weird, commercially or artistically. I’m proud of getting so far in what was, essentially, the Quirky Olympics. ;)
UNA NI FHLANNAGAIN
Una Ni Fhlannagain first started playing music when she was three years old, and says that when she first picked up the harp at the age of 11, ‘All the music that came in through my ears came out my fingers.” Until 2001, she was a confirmed and committed devotee to trad music. But that all changed when she took an electronic music class two years ago. It was to be the start of something completely original, a trad-electro hybrid style of music that is completely Una’s. She started working on her own compositions, which she describes as ‘trad-influenced, minimalist, rocky, topical sound art”. It was only once she had started honing her style that she realised she was charting musical territory that had never before been explored.
Not only are her compositions completely original, but they are also highly acclaimed. This year, her piece Two Lies won the World Harp Congress Young Composers’ Competition, and last year she was awarded the 2004 UCC Westleyan University scholarship to the United States. She’s making waves in the jazz world too, and has performed live, improvising on harp, with free jazz legend Anthony Braxton.
The Irish Times, 19/08/06
I’m never going to be allowed to forget this one – whenever they want to rise me, my family call me “our little national treasure”. Aaaaahh!!
Confetti Magazine, Autumn 2006
In 2006 I played music for the scrummalicious wedding of an exceptionally scrummalicious couple, Eugene O’Connor and Jacqui McGovern. They had a great day, involving white wellies and beaches, which was recorded for posterity in ‘Confetti’ Magazine…*and* they send me a thank-you card. Aww. Bless.
Una – thank you so much for the beautiful music you played at our wedding – we really had exactly the right atmosphere for our big day. And thanks for your help beforehand choosing the most appropriate pieces – it really was the first time that I got a real taste of how the big day would be.
Dear Una – thanks for doing such a magnificent performance on our wedding day – your wonderful talent brought so much to our Mass, and between yourself, Deirdre and Tammy, you created the perfect atmosphere! Thank you thank you thank you ? Am I harping on? .. he he!