CD A0234: Double Strung

Double Strung
Anne-Marie O'Farrell and Cormac de Barra

CD coverContemporary duos performing erudite repertoires on the Irish harp are a rarity. Loitering in their company for an entire album is akin to navigating a path back in time, but with one foot still firmly planted in the present. Cormac De Barra and Anne-Marie O’Farrell have let enough grass grow beneath their feet to ensure they’re keenly attuned to one another’s stylistic idiosyncrasies. They’ve chosen to stretch what could have been a cosy Carolan repertoire to embrace the European classical tradition, all the while mining the nethermost regions of their instruments, so that their reading of Carlos Salzedo’s Chanson dans la Nuit is a revelatory melding of creative energy and lateral thinking. A collection that promises to lure classical, traditional and contemporary music lovers harpwards. Siobhán Long, The Irish Times 29-7-2005

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Please click here for Anne-Marie O'Farrell profile & discography
Please click here for Cormac de Barra profile & discography

Track Listing & Audio Samples


  1. George Brabazon and Planxty Hewlett
  2. Recuerdos de la Alhambra
  3. An dTiocfaidh Tú Abhaile Liom & Pot Chúil Aodha
  4. Passacaglia for Two Harps
  5. The Humours of Ballyconnell & The Graf Spey
  6. Caisleán Uí Néill
  7. Song of the Chanter & Allistrum’s March
  8. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
  9. Chanson de la Nuit
  10. Miss McDermott & Lady Gethin
  11. The Gander in the Pratie Hole & The Queen of the Rushes
  12. Farewell to Music
  13. The Tailor’s Twist & The Spey in Spate

CD Notes

Sleeve Notes

1. George Brabazon & Planxty Hewlett. T.O.Carolan ,arr A.M.O'Farrell/De Barra
Two musical toasts reflecting Carolan's fondness for enjoying whiskey in the company of his friends and patrons.

2. Recuerdos de la Alhambra- Francisco Tarrega, transcribed by A.M.O'Farrell
This well-known guitar piece transcribes well for the harp and evokes a memory of the 14th century Moorish Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain.

3. An dTiocfaidh Tu Abhaile Liom? & Port Chuil Aodha, trad,arr. O'Farrell/De Barra
Cormac learned this pair of jigs from his brother, flute player Eamonn De Barra. The title of the first tune means' Will You Come Home with me?' and Cuil Aodha is a town in the West Cork Gaeltacht.

4. Passacaglia for two harps .A.M.O'Farrell
Bach's Passacaglia in C minor for organ BWV582 inspired this treatment of a ground bass by the French composer Raison, performed here on two Irish harps.

5. The Humours of Ballyconnell & The Graf Spey. trad,arr.O'Farrell/De Barra
Cormac learned the first of these two reels from the eminent harper Janet Harbison, and the second from Maire Ni Chathasaigh. It shows our indebtedness to the oral tradition of dance music on the Irish harp initiated by these two fine musicians.

6. Caislean Ui Neill. trad, arr C.De Barra (Solo by Cormac)
A song of unrequited love and broken promises often sung by Cormac's grandmother and harp teacher, Roisin Ni Sheghdha, to whom this track is dedicated.

7. Song of the Chanter & Allistrum's March. trad. arr.O'Farrell/De Barra
These marches are both originally from the Bunting Collection. Allistrum's March was composed in 1647 for the Scottish highlander Alasdair MacAllistrum who fought the English alongside the Irish at the Battle of Knockinoss.

8. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. G.F.Handel. arr. A.M.O'Farrell
This is an arrangement for two Irish harps of the lively orchestral sinfonia which announces the arrival of the Queen of Sheba in Handel's oratorio Solomon(1748). The main theme is borrowed from an aria in Giovanni Porta's opera Numitore.

9. Chanson dans la Nuit. Carlos Salzedo
Better known as a solo piece, this setting as a duet by the composer illustrates the many colourful effects which he pioneered in his harp writing. It is in three parts which describe awakening from a dream, the apparition of a Spanish dancer in the middle section, and slowly falling asleep once more. With characteristic attention to detail, the composer opens the piece with a bar's rest.

10. Miss MacDermott & Lady Gethin. T.O'Carolan arr. O'Farrell/De Barra
The first of these airs is also known as the Princess Royal and is found in the Bunting collection. Little is certain about the second tune but it is attributed to Carolan.

11. The Gander in the Pratie Hole & The Queen of the Rushes. trad .arr O'Farrell/De Barra
We learned these two jigs from the inspirational harper Mairie Ni Chathasaigh. Go raibh maith agat, a Mhaire!

12. Farewell to Music. T.O'Carolan. arr O'Farrell(solo by Anne-Marie)
This arrangement explores the harmonic possibilities in this beautiful melody, and is a musical reflection on loss. In its original form, it is said to have been Carolan's final composition.

13. The Tailor's Twist and the Spey in Spate. trad. arr O'Farrell/De Barra.
The first of these tunes is a hornpipe passed onto Cormac by his uncle Sean O Tuama and the second is a Scottish tune which Anne-Marie learned from the wonderful harpist Catriona McKay. The third part of this melody was composed by Anne-Marie.


CD Credits


Engineered and mastered by Fionan de Barra
Recorded in Dublin December 2004 to May 2005 except tracks 1&11 taken from Barco and track 7 from Le Peuple Magique (Francoise Cornwell of Coop Briz)
Anne-Marie plays a 38-string Salvi Livia Irish harp and Salvi Diana pedal harp.
Cormac plays a 38-string Salvi Egan Irish harp (supplied by Holywell Music Ltd, London),
Salvi Aurora pedal harp and Salvi Aida Irish harp.
Photography & sleeve design by Tim Jarvis.

Our warmest thanks to : Moya Brennan, Maureen Simpson, Ray Comiskey, Fionan de Barra, Ruairi de Barra, Tim Jarvis, Rev. Ted Woods and Rathfarnham Parish, Salvi Harps & The Victor Salvi Foundation, Raymond Hickey, Yoshi Izumi.

Album Information

Instruments: Harp
Genre: Classical
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0234
MCPS: -------
Label: Anne-Marie O'Farrell / Cormac de Barra
Year: 2005
Origin: Ireland

Duo profile

As Ireland's foremost harp duo Cormac and Anne-Marie have been playing together for over a decade. Their presentations reflect the marriage of Ireland's oral musical heritage and the classical tradition. Highlights of their Irish performances include an appearance at the Beo Festival in the National Concert Hall and the World Harp Congress in Dublin. International performances include recitals at the European Harp Symposium in Amsterdam and Lyon, and the inaugural concert of the Irish Cultural Centre, Paris. They have made numerous appearances on radio and television in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.

Dublin born Anne-Marie O'Farrell studied harp with Nancy Calthorpe, Helen Davies, Sheila Larchet Cuthbert and Mercedes Garvey. She holds diplomas in many instruments and a first class honours MA in composition. She also teaches harp at Kylemore College Music Centre in Dublin. Her unique levering techniques on the Irish harp and her commitment to the development of its repertoire have led to performances throughout Europe, the USA, Scandinavia and Japan. As harpist, composer and pedagogue she is regularly invited to present at international festivals.

Cormac De Barra comes from a family of traditional Irish musicians and singers and first studied harp with his grandmother in Dublin. He also studied concert harp in the USA leading to performances and radio/TV appearances in Ireland,France and as far away as Japan and Australia. He is currently touring with Moya Brennan, the voice of the world-famous group, Clannad, and with Barco, a family trio of Cormac and his brothers Fionan and Eamonn. He has also been touring with singer and actress Hazel O'Connor since 1998.