SM169: Travels With My Harp Volume 5

Travels With My Harp Volume 5 by Mary O'Hara

Cover Image: Travels With My Harp by Mary O'Hara

This songbook is the last of five volumes of harp accompaniments entitled Travels With My Harp that emerged as a result of a presentation Mary was invited to give at the World Harp Congress held at University College Dublin in the summer of 2005. Each volume is accompanied by a CD (Vol.2 by a DVD).

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Also by Mary O'Hara

Contents & Audio Clips from CD


A HEBRIDEAN MILKING SONG (A flat major) (Bò Lurach Thù)
A HEBRIDEAN MILKING SONG (E fiat major) (Bò Lurach Thù)
I KNOW WHERE I’M GOIN’ (A fiat major)
AMONG SILENCE (A flat major)
(For Ireland I’d Not Tell Who She Is)
DÉIRIN DÉ (Lullaby) (F minor)
DÉIRIN DÉ (D minor)
THE MINSTREL BOY (E flat major)
ANNIE LAURIE (B flat major)

Composers Notes

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Travels with My Harp Volume 5

In 1996 Mary O’Hara packed in her music and, two years later, she crated her harp and, with her husband Pat, took off for Africa. She felt life had been good to her and that it was now time to do something different with her time. Her African sojourn lasted six years.

This was not the first time Mary OHara hung up her harp supposedly for good. She did the same almost 32 years previously after the premature death of her young husband. At that time she entered a strict Benedictine order of nuns and stayed there for 121.4 years till eventually ill-health forced her to leave.

When, in 1974, she emerged from the monastery, she had no idea how she would go about earning a living. Before entering Stanbrook Abbey she had been a very successful singer but In life one is seldom given a second chance. Now aged 39, her options were limited and Mary knew that resurrecting her singing career was a longshot.
Nobody was more surprised than
Mary herself when her singing career took off again where it left off, adding twelve more long playing albums (and CDs) to the seven she had recorded before embracing monastic silence. In due course she went on to even wider success and acclaim with her own TV series on the BBC and on TV in the UK. She toured extensively, collecting plaudits wherever she went and giving concerts in places as diverse as the ancient Herod Atticus Theatre in Athens and the major concert halls of the English-speaking world — Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall, The Sydney Opera House.... She has had a play, The Harp on the Willow, based on her autobiography, written about her. It played for ten weeks to packed audiences in Sydney, Australia and, later, for five weeks at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. She also found time to write three best­selling books.

Mary OHara has now retired from the concert platform but since her sojourn in Africa, she still continues to delight her audiences with stories and reminiscences from her days of Travelling With Her Harp. Her presentation, punctuated with short video clips from the past, traverses the significant events of her life’s story. In retrospect she can now identify
and comment upon the invisible plan’ that gave meaning and unity to the different phases of her life and in her own inimitable way she captivates her audiences just as she once did in the concert halls of Europe, Australia and North America.

In her presentation, Mary O’Hara talks about her upbringing in Ireland in the 1950s — how she took up playing the harp at school becoming a successful stage, radio and TV personality not just in her native Ireland but also in the United Kingdom.

She refers to her marriage to the young American poet Richard Selig, then a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford
— their life together in New York and her devastation at his premature death. This decided her to leave the world of music and enter a strict enclosed order of Benedictine nuns for what she believed to be for
the rest of her life. She touches on what life in the monastery was like and how eventually she left her monastic seclusion to a renewed and even more successful singing career. She reflects on the trappings of show business and the spiritual and commercial forces that shaped her music and her view of life.

In 1985 the Eire Society of Boston presented Mary O’Hara with their gold medal for her contribution to the promotion of Irish music and culture. The Burns Library at Boston College stores Mary OHara’s Papers while, across the river, Harvard stores the Papers of her first husband, the young poet Richard Selig. It may be only fitting therefore that the ‘Talking Phase’ of Mary’s life concludes with a reception in her honour at Boston College, October 11 2009.

This songbook is the last of five volumes of harp accompaniments entitled Travels With My Harp that emerged as a result of a presentation Mary was invited to give at the World Harp Congress held at University College Dublin in the summer of 2005. Each volume is accompanied by a CD (Vol.2 by a DVD) More information:


In this fifth and final volume of Travels WIth My Harp, as with the other four volumes, the accompaniments are suitable for piano and for pedal or lever harp but they were specifically written or adapted for the latter. Since making my first singing radio broadcast in Ireland at the age of sixteen, I accompanied myself on the Irish harp. Over the years my repertoire expanded to include songs from other parts of the world. This volume offers a sprinkling of my favourite songs - songs I have performed many times in concert, on radio and on television, recorded on LP, CD and DVD-video.

It has been said that the Irish harp is the closest of all instruments to the human voice and I only ever used the harp as an accompanying instrument The harp’s role for the self-accompanist is to enhance the singing without drawing undue attention to itself. All along, my aim had been to keep my harp accompaniments simple without being dull, interesting without being fussy or drawing attention away from the actual song. I memorised my harp accompaniments and never wrote them down. Now at last I’m committing them to paper.

Over many years of performing on stage and on television, as any professional singer will tell you, one’s interpretation of songs evolves and likewise the accompaniments. My recordings of the songs in this book were made at different times, sometimes part of live performances, and what is on the various recordings may not always in every detail accord exactly with what appears on paper hare. I’ve avoided over-burdening the user with too many directions. Singing and the interpretation of songs is a personal matter, best left to the individual singer to work out on
his or her own. My own interpretation can be heard on my recordings or on the CDs and DVDs that accompany these volumes. I’m including a contemporary song in each volume but most are traditional, now also available on a new (double CD) compilation entitled Mary O’Hara — 40 Traditional Songs.

Of the hundreds of songs I have recorded, fewer than a third are with harp accompaniment only. Most are with harp, piano and flute — my regular concert line-up — and many with orchestra. For this book, I’ve selected a cross section of the songs I sang with the harp only.

To help you understand these songs more fully, knowledge of the songs’ backgrounds or my own connection with them may be helpful (not reproduced on this web site but are in the book).

I have now been retired from singing for some years and I have hung up my harp for good but I hope these harp accompaniments of mine will give you some pleasure and that you’ll find them useful in your work.

A word about accidentals and enharmonics:

All Irish harps are tuned to either Eb or Ab. I choose to tune mine to the key of Ab major (4 flats) and all my instructions regarding the accompaniments stem from that. In the key of Ab major (a key I was comfortable with, having a high voice), all the levers (blades) are in the neutral position and thus the tone of the harp is at its best — when a lever is engaged, the tone of the string is slightly affected. I have indicated how to get accidentals in a way that I see to be easiest for the player of the Irish and similar lever harps. Incidentally, the next much favoured key for me was Eb. To get from the key of Ab to Eb, simply engage the D lever.

Library Information

Title: Travels with my harp Vol. 5
Composer/Arranger: Traditional & Various / All arranged Mary O'Hara
Instrumentation: Irish Harp / Voice
Level: Intermediate
Format: Sprial Bound + CD of tunes in the book
Size: A4
Total Pages: 36
Weight: 195gm
ISMN: Not issued
Our Ref: SM169
Publisher: Mary O'Hara
Edition/Year: First Edition 2009
Origin: UK

Sample page

Sample of the music