O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 45

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 45
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periodical Publisher
Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
periodical Editor
periodical Title
O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
volume Number
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88 Irish i/f instrels and MusiciansWhen ONeill received from Dr. James MacDonnell the invitation to attendthe Belfast Harp Meeting, in 1792, he was visiting Philip OReilly of Muliagh,County Cavan, at whose hospitable home he had spent the Christmas hohdaysfor eighteen successive years. Suffering as he was with rheumatism in thetwo principal fingers of his left hand, he would have declined had not his friendand host insisted upon his attendance. Handicapped as he was in consequenceof this affliction, he won second prize, the first being accorded to the incoin-Parable Denis Hempson, who plucked the strings with crooked finger-nails, in tileancient style.During the succeeding ten years of his life he made his headquarters atCastle Hamilton in County Cavan, the residence of Colonel Southwell, whotreated him as a friend and companion.On the formation of tile Belfast Harp Society, in 1807, Arthur ONeillwas unanimously chosen to conduct the Harp School, which he did so creditablythat on its decline in 1813, for lack of funds, he was provided with a pension ofthirty pounds a year for life, by a few generous and musical enthusiasts ofBelfast. He returned to his native district in County Tyrone, to pass the fewremaining years of his life. An ideal minstrel, he never married, and passedaway in peace in i8i8, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, at Maydown, CountyArmagh, being the last of the old line of harpers.DENIS HEMPSONOf the ten harpers who competed at the Belfast Harp Meeting in 1792,Denis OHempsey, or Hempson, then ninety-seven years oid, was the only onewho literally played the harp with long, crooked nails, as described by tile oidwriters. In piaying he caught the strings between the flesh and the finger-nail,while the other harpers puiled the strings by the fleshy part of the finger alone.Bunting teils us he had an admirable method of playing Staccato and Legato.in which he could run through rapid divisions in an astonishing style. Tileintricacy and peculiarity of his piaying often amazed Bunting, who could notavoid perceiving in it a vestige of a noble system of practice, that had existecifor many centuries; strengthening the opinion that the Irish were at a veryearly period superior to the other nations of Europe both in composition and per-formance of music. In fact, Bunting adds, Hempsons Staccato and Legatopassages, double slurs, shakes, turns, graces, etc., comprised as great a range ofexecution as has ever been devised by the most modern improvers.Ilempson was born in 1695, at Craigmore, near Garvagh, Londonderry. Atthe eariy age of three years he was deprived of sight by an attack of smallpox,and when twelve he began to learn the harp under the tuition of Bridget OCahan.In those days. women as well as men were taught the harp in the best families.He studied under John C. Garraglier. a bl 1 nd traveling harper, Loughhn Fan-ning. and Patrick Conner, successively. au hailing from the Province of Connachtthe prohfic mother of musicians.At the age of eighteen he began his professional career, being provided witha harp by the generosity of Councillor Canning. Squire Gage, and Dr. Bacon, ofhis native place. A tour of Ireland and Scotland. iasting ten years, furnishedhim with a fund of anecdotes and experiences, which rendereci his conversationas entertaining as his music was entrancing.He was liftv years old when a second trip to Scotland was undertaken, in1745. Prince Charlie. the Pretender, being in Edinburgh when HenipsonDENTS HEMPSOX OR OHEMPSEYS9
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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