26 Jan 2022

Award-winning Dundalk harpist makes appearance on RTÉ's Nationwide

Award-winning Dundalk harpist makes appearance on RTÉ's Nationwide

Award-winning harpist Fionnuala Donlon

Award-winning Dundalk harpist, Fionnuala Donlon, made an appearance on RTÉ’s Nationwide last Friday to show her skills as a traditional musician.

The programme was broadcast at 7pm on Friday, after the Six One News.

Donlon won the Seán Ó Riada Gold Medal traditional music award earlier this year, which was broadcast live on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.

Speaking on the programme, Ms Donlon said that 

“It was such an honour to win it because I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would win… It’s a long enough process as competitions go.”

According to Donlon, contestants need to send in videos, with 45 contestants entering to then narrow it down to just 15 finalists, who travelled to Cork to perform on Raidió Na Gaeltachta.

“It was an absolute honour because it’s such a prestigious award and I’m just so delighted to be added to the list of winners who’ve won before me.”

The competition this year was focused on pipes and harp, with different instruments being featured each year.

Donlon, 22, first began playing the harp when she was nine years old and has won numerous other awards including the Senior Harp trophy at the Fleadh Ceoil in Drogheda in 2019.

Donlon says that she doesn’t really remember learning how to play, but seeing students try to learn it makes her realize that harpists need to put in a lot of effort to learn

“There’s not really shortcuts that you can take in learning it.. Even now if I’m trying to learn a trickier tune I sometimes get stumped and get in my head, you know, it’s so annoying you can’t figure out how it works.”

“It’s a tricky enough instrument,” says Ms Donlon, saying that getting used to using two hands was very difficult.

“Once you get there it’s a lovely instrument to play, it’s very enjoyable.”

Fionnuala’s father, Padraig Donlon, said that he’s always enjoyed the harp and that he originally asked Fionnuala’s sister if she would be interested in learning, but she declined and learned the fiddle instead

“I got her a harp and from then on it was great music all the way,” said Mr Donlon, laughing that his job is to carry the harp sometimes.

“I’m just amazed at anybody who can play a harp, because you’ve all these strings, I think maybe 15 millimetres apart and to hit the right string every single time when you’re playing a reel at speed or whatever, I just think it’s amazing.”

The programme is currently available on the RTÉ Player, with the report being done by Eamon Horan.

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