Interview: Lily Breslin (Member of Harp Ensemble)

Interview to Lily Breslin on 24 July & 20 October 2020.
Lily is 16 years old and the member of Music Generation Laois Harp Ensemble. She became Under 15 harp champion at the ESB Feis Ceoil in 2019.

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

I knew that I wanted to play the harp after seeing a performance at an open day event organized by Music Generation Laois. This was the first time I had heard a live performance of the harp and loved the sound of it. I then knew that it was an instrument I wanted to play and asked my parents to sign me up for lessons.

➖ 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?

Normally, I have a single lesson and I also take part in Harp ensemble once a week. I really enjoy my lessons and always have a great time. From my lessons I learn how to perform on my own and with others. I am very lucky to be a part of Music Generation Laois. I have had many once in a lifetime experiences because of Music Generation and have learned many things from professional musicians. Music Generation also gives us a chance to perform and showcase the things we have learned.

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

I like traditional Irish style music. There is many different types of Irish tunes such as jigs, reels, slow airs and many more. I like Irish music as you have a lot of freedom with how you play it and can interpret it how you like. I like to play fast tunes as they are very energetic and fun as they were intended to be dances. I always have a great time playing this music with my friends in groups.

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

I like to play other instruments like the piano and the violin. I play the violin in a quartet. I also like to play basketball. I play with basketball on a team in school. I enjoy this because I play basketball with my friends. I also like Irish dancing and have been learning it since I was five years old. I have competed in many Irish dancing competitions.

➖ 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?

One of my favourite places in Laois is the Glenbarrow waterfall. I like it here because it is a mixture of a forest walk that ends with a beautiful waterfall. It’s also a nice place to have a picnic on the flat rocks beside the river. You can also go swimming in the river. I also love the Sleive Bloom Mountains. I like to go walking here with my family. Here you can see beautiful views of Laois. I really enjoyed working with Michael. It gave us an opportunity to be creative and learn about composing music. It was a great experience to work with a professional musician and I gained a greater understanding and insight into the creative process of composing music.

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

My favourite performance was when the Harp ensemble supported Chris Stout and Catriona McKay at Edinburgh Harp Festival. This was an amazing experience for me as Chris and Catriona are two of my favourite musicians. Another one of my favourite performances was when the harp orchestra performed ‘White Horses’ with Maeve Gilchrist. I loved performing this as I was very proud if all the work we had done with Maeve to prepare for this performance. I also liked performing ‘The Spirit of Laois Suite’ with Michael Rooney as I loved the music he had composed for us.

➖ I hear that you keep learning a harp on zoom since the lockdown. Please tell us your feeling and opinions the lessons on zoom. You have started face-to-face weekly harp lessons. How do you feel them?

I enjoyed doing lessons on zoom and I found that it worked well for me. It was a new experience. I had a lesson one day a week and continued to learn new music over lockdown. I liked the lessons because it gave me something to do over lockdown. It was a way to distract myself with something that I enjoy doing.

I’m really happy to have restarted face to face lessons. Although I enjoyed zoom lessons, I find that it is easier to learn the music in face to face lessons. I think that the zoom lessons were a good experience, but I’m glad that we are able to have lessons in person.

The video below was recorded after face-to-face lessons have restarted. Siobhan Buckley, Aoibhe Kettle & Lily Breslin played ‘Between Worlds’ composed by Micheal O Suilleabhain.
➖ 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? You have started practices to play for the project “The Impossible Dream”. How do you feel about the new composition? How is the practices with other young people for the project?
You have started practices to play for the project “The Impossible Dream”. How do you feel about the new composition? How is the practices with other young people for the project?

We learned a lot about composing music and the process behind it. I really enjoyed the zoom meetings and found them very interesting and fun. We worked together to come up with how we could express emotion and life experiences through music. We looked at how different changes in the music could make the audience feel. I really enjoyed the way that we were very involved in the creative process. I am very excited to see how the finished product will turn out. We have put a lot of work into it and I am very hopeful for the final result.

I am so happy to be part of “The Impossible Dream”. It has been a great experience getting to be involved in the composition process of this piece. It is a once in a lifetime experience getting to work on this piece and I am very grateful to have this opportunity. It is also very fun to work with other people my age and see their different perspectives of the music. The practices are going well so far and I can’t wait to perform this piece.

➖ What is your dream in the future?

I hope to continue music throughout my life as it is very important to me. I do not know what form this will take but it is exciting to think that I will continue composing and playing music throughout my life. I am very grateful to Music Generation for providing me with the tools to have a career in music.

➖ 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?

Apart from playing music, I cannot wait to explore Japan and learn about Japanese culture and music. I also look forward to meeting new people. I am very excited to perform in Japan and I am hopeful that people will enjoy our music. I am excited to play Irish music and to hear Japanese music in return. I think that I will really enjoy this trip and hopefully I will gain many new experiences from it.

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