Interview: Aoibhe Kettle (Member of Harp Ensemble)

Interview to Aoibhe Kettle on 23 July 2020.
Aoibhe is 16 years old and the member of Music Generation Laois Harp Ensemble. She got many awards and became 3 time All Ireland Medalist on harp at Fleadh Cheoil Na hÉireann.

➖ Could you tell us how you got into playing a harp, and what brought you to learn a harp at Music generation Laois?

I joined my local Comhaltas branch at the age of 11 and began on fiddle. A year later I was introduced to the harp at the Sligo Fleadh in 2015 and was utterly inspired to begin learning the instrument.

➖ Could you tell us what kind of lessons you’re taking, the contents of lessons and your feelings and opinions about the lessons at Music Generation Laois? How do you think about Music Generation Laois as a whole?

I am taking Irish Tradition harp lessons with my teacher, Siobhan Buckley at Music Generation Laois. Throughout my lessons, Siobhan and I work together on a wide array of traditional tunes and experiment with various ideas and arrangements. Music Generation Laois is an inspiring place to learn music and has allowed me the opportunity to interact with likeminded musicians of all ages and backgrounds.

➖ What music do you like the best? What is the content of the piece? Why do you like it?

My favourite style of tune would be a jig.
In my opinion, the 6/8 rhythm of a jig is very enjoyable to play on the harp especially I feel that the jig suits the nature of the harp as an instrument. I also enjoy composing my own!

➖ Could you tell us how to compose music and introduce some examples of your composition in detail?

I don’t ever intentionally set out to compose a tune. However, I will sit for hours experimenting with different chord structures and progressions. When I have found a nice chord sequence I find that the tune becomes then becomes more obvious to me. I like to experiment with all different types of keys and modes and each sequence will depict a different mood.

About ‘Emigration Suite’
In 2018 I composed a suite of tunes Called the ‘Emigration Suite’ to commemorate those who left Ireland during the Great Famine 1845-1849. It consists of one traditional slow air called ‘Sailing to America’ followed by a jig called ‘Ellis Island’ into a reel “New Beginnings’. The mood set by the chord structures in this suite is one of hope as opposed to the sadness and misery of these times – hope, in search of a better life.

About ‘The Stranger At The Door’
In a remote part of the countryside where I live in a traditional farm cottage that is 350 years old, late one winters evening, there was a knock at the door. I was in the kitchen playing my harp when I heard the knock, I opened the door to find a mysterious lost and confused old woman standing there. She told me she knew me and had been to this house many years ago. She invited me to have dinner with her the following evening. When I enquired as to where she lived she described an old cottage at the top of Wolfhill that I know to be disused and derelict. The next morning I checked out this old house and a nearby neighbour explained to me that no one had lived there for over 50 years. The strange lady hasn’t been seen since! This then influenced me to compose the tune ‘The Stranger At The Door’.

➖ What do you like to do apart from playing a harp?

As well as my passion for harp, I also play classical violin to a high standard and I am currently a first violinist in the prestigious National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. I also enjoy training as part of the athletics team at St. Abbans Athletics Club.

➖ I hear that ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ was composed by Michael Rooney collaborating young harpers including you. You discussed about Laois and Michael composed the suite based on it. Where are your favorite places to visit in County Laois? Could you share the attraction of ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ you think? Can you tell me what it was like to work with Michael?

Having been born and bred in Laois all my life, I am extremely proud to call this wonderful county my home. In my opinion, Michael’s compositional style throughout ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ beautifully captures the true feel of the county and all it has to offer. Even if one has never been to Laois itself, ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ paints a stunning picture for the listener. Michael is utterly inspiring to work with and I have found every minute of the process engaging and fun.
Honestly, it is extremely hard for me to choose my favourite place in Laois. However, I do enjoy visiting Heywood Gardens near Abbeyleix.

➖ Could you share the most memorable stories of domestic and overseas performances in each with photo or movie at Music Generation Laois?

Every year I really look forward to playing as part of MGL annual three- day Tionól festival in Portlaoise.
In October of 2019, MGL Trad Orchestra got the opportunity to travel to Sitges, Barcelona to perform at Creative Connections. I was very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be part of such a great trip.

➖ I hear that you keep learning a harp on zoom since the lockdown. Please tell us your feeling and opinions the lessons on zoom.

As one would expect, learning on Zoom can be challenging at times.  However, in an ever-developing world with many challenges, it is possible that this may become normality. I have found the experience of learning online to be extremely valuable and engaging. I have also enjoyed being able to continue to work alongside my friends and tutors from the comfort of my own home.

➖ I hear that about 50 young musicians among 70 orchestra members in total have joined during the pandemic and lockdown and they met other members only online. What are you discussing about Colonel James Fitzmaurice and what are you learning apart from him? Do you have interesting episodes about this project? Could you tell us the feelings and opinions about it?

As well as learning about Colonel James Fitzmaurice and his life during WWI, we are also learning about Ireland during this time and the impact of the war on the music that originated from that period in history. 
We are delving deep into the emotion that Colonel James Fitzmaurice might have felt before, during and after the war. Using the information we have found, we are compiling our ideas together to compose movements of music that might reflect Fitzmaurice’s emotions. Overall, I have found this process to be engaging and highly informative.

➖ What is your dream in the future?

Now at the age of 16, I am still exploring many of my interests which may take me in many directions over the coming years. However, at the moment, I aspire to have a future career in music with an emphasis on composition and hope to study this at 3rd level in Ireland.

➖ What do you want to do in Japan apart from the concerts? Would you mind sharing your expectation to the concerts in Japan and message to Japanese audience?

I very much look forward to visiting Japan not only for its sights and culture but also to try Japanese cuisine.
We have put a lot of work in to preparing for this trip and I’m very excited to share what we have put together. I hope the concerts will give an insight into the Irish culture and hopefully encourage some Japanese musicians to visit Ireland in the future.

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