Post Primary Notes March 1st 2018

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On behalf of the Cork Pops Orchestra, thank you for your support of our Concerts for Schools Series.

This year, we feature the harp very prominently. This instrument has a special significance in Irish history, culture and folk music. We chart the development of the concert harp through the music of Handel and Mozart into 19th century, when it reached its golden era of performer/composers.

Jean Kelly (Photo with Padraig Pearse Harp), our soloist, will demonstrate the fascinating mechanism of the harp, and show how the seven pedals operate like the ‘black notes’ on the piano keyboard, making it a fully chromatic instrument. A wonderful feat of engineering! Our music technology item is always a huge hit, and this year DJ Dashka performs on Saxophone with Jean on electric harp, and the ever-popular Keith Hanley on vocals.


As the harp is our national emblem, and inspired by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald, who has been encouraging schools to learn and perform the Amhráin na bhFiann, we will begin the concert this year with the National Anthem.

YouTube links related to the various pieces of music can be found on our website, on   Internet links to Jean Kelly’s interesting and varied work as a professional harpist in London are also available there.

I hope you will find the CD and notes useful in familiarising the students with the programme in advance of the concert, or in reflecting on it afterwards.

We hope the students will enjoy the live-music experience and that they may, perhaps, begin a life-long connection to the wonderfully diverse world of orchestral music.


Evelyn Grant                                                   Gerry Kelly

Amhráin na bhFiann was composed in 1907 by Peadar Kearney, who wrote the lyrics and also collaborated with Patrick Heeney on the music. It was known then as The Sodlier’s Song and became popular as a marching song. It was often sung by The Irish Volunteers, and by the rebels in the G.P.O. in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. After the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the song remained popular with the Irish Army. The Irish language translation was produced in 1923 by Liam’ O’Rinn, who was an official tranlator in the Oireachtas, and it is the chorus of that translation that we now sing at all important national and local events.





















Jean Kelly is based in London and is delighted to be returning to her native-city for the concerts. Her work as a professional harpist is very varied, from concerto performances with the Locrian Ensemble, to performing on film scores – most recently on Dario Marianelli’s ‘Paddington’ movie. She also performs in a range of genres, for example, with the folk-group Ranagri, with Paloma Faith on the BBC Proms, and with the innovative medieval music ensemble, The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments. She also works in healthcare settings, in hospitals and with elderly patients suffering from dementia. Jean is artistic director of Irish Heritage, an organisation that supports emerging young musicians in London. Internet links to Jean’s work can be accessed via the Cork Pops Orchestra website, where the attached notes can also be found. Jean will perform on the Concert Harp and the electric in this series.



 George Frederick Handel   – Harp Concerto in Bflat

Born   : Hallé, Germany in 1685         Died : London, England in 1759

Recommended listening : Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah; Music for the Royal Fireworks; The Water Music Suite; Zadok, the Priest.

Handel was born in Germany, but spent much of his life in London. There was always a close link between the royal house of England and Germany, and Handel’s patron and employer, Prince Georg Louis became King George the First of England. In 1727, shortly after the death of the first King George, Handel became an English citizen. He composed four anthems for the coronation of King George, the Second. He was also very involved in producing operas in London.

When the craze for opera performances faded, he turned to oratorio as his new format. These were entertainments based on biblical themes, but with no acting involved. However, Handel used to perform pieces on the organ to break up the different choral and vocal pieces. It is in one of these oratorios that the Harp Concerto was placed – ‘Alexander’s Feast’, based on an ode written by the English poet, John Dryden. The ode tells of the celebrations following Alexander’s conquest of Persia. The harp concerto was meant to signify Timotheus’ power on the lyre. The concerto worked equally well on the organ, so Handel ‘re-cycled’ it later as the sixth concerto in his Op. 4 set of works for the organ and orchestra.

Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey. His most famous oratorio, ‘The Messiah’ was premiered in Dublin in 1742.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born : Salzburg, Austria in 1756        Died : Vienna, Austria in 1791

Recommended listening : The Violin Concertos 1-5; The Piano Concertos No. 9; No.21; No. 26; The Clarinet Concerto; Sinfonia Concertante in E flat (vln & vla)

We know a lot about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the many letters he wrote to his father, Leopold – for example, how excited or frustrated he was about his compositions. He was never especially happy having to give music lessons or accepting commissions to write music, in order to pay his rent. The flute and harp concerto came about through his teaching. He was in Paris in 1778, and gave composition lessons to the daughter of the Duc de Guines, who played the harp. Her father was a good, amateur flute-player, and he commissioned Mozart to write a double-concerto for their two instruments. It was a very unusual combination, and we must remember that the concert harp, as we know it, was only in the early stages of development. So Mozart probably composed for the harp as if it were a piano, with no glissandi or effects we hear in 19th century harp music. Carl Reinecke (1824 – 1910) introduced some of these effects into the cadenzas he wrote, which are frequently performed. The slow movement is especially popular. Sadly, it seems that the Duc may not have paid up for the concerto. Mozart wrote to his father four months after it was completed, that he still had not been paid.

Turlough O’Carolan

Born : Co. Meath, Ireland in 1670 Died : Co. Roscommon, Ireland in 1738

Recommended listening : Planxty Irwin; Madame Maxwell; Sí Beag, Sí Mór

Turlough O’Carolan was 18 when he became blind as a result of small-pox. His family had moved from Meath to Roscommon a few years earlier, and were fortunate to have been befriended by Mrs. Máire MacDermot-Roe. Because it was she who organised harp lessons for Turlough after his illness, and when he was 21, bought him a horse on which he could travel around the country, performing and composing. The generousity of his wealthy patrons was very important to him, and as a ‘thank-you’ to them, he composed many pieces – or ‘planxties’ – which he named after them. This was after the Battle of the Boyne, in 1690, in which the forces of the Catholic King James of England, were beaten by the Protestant King William of Orange, who had taken over the crown from James. After this time, the English monarchs tried to get rid of the Irish harpers and their strong position in Irish society. O’Carolan is often called ‘The Last of the Great Bards.’ He is said to have met composers from Europe at the home of his friend, Dean Jonathan Swift, in Dublin. The famous Carolan’s Concerto is said to have resulted from a challenge he was given, when he met the Italian composer, Francesco Geminiani, to write a concerto in the Baroque style. But, most of his tunes were not published during his lifetime. The harp music from this time might well have disappeared forever, if not for the interest of Edward Bunting, from Northern Ireland, who organised a Harp Festival in Belfast in 1792. He was only able to gather 11 harpists, but he began writing down many, many tunes, including the music of O’Carolan, which were later published in The Bunting Collection.


Camille Saint-Saens

Born : 1835 in Paris, France   Died : 1921 in Algiers, Algeria

Recommended listening : Symphony No.3 (The Organ Symphony); Carnival of the Animals; Danse Macabre; Cello Concerto No. 1

One of Saint-Saens most famous works is his Carnival of Animals. It was a fun idea of his to write a ‘Grand Zoological Fantasy’, for a ‘salon’ party evening to be given by a friend of his for Mardi Gras at the end of the Carnival festivities. These musical evenings were very popular in the pre-television 19th century, when friends gathered to perform and listen to light music – hence the term ‘salon music’. However, he didn’t want it to become too popular, in case people would not take his compositions seriously. So, he made sure it was not published during his lifetime, except for The Swan. He did, finally, agree to have the whole work published after his death. There are 14 sections in all, including one called ‘Pianists’, another little in-joke between Saint-Saens and his friends. But, the most beautiful melody was given to the instrument played by his friend and host, Charles Lebouc, who played the cello solo of The Swan at the Carnival party. It is ironic that The Carnival of Animals was written when he was meant to be finishing The Organ Symphony. The main theme from that work went on to become very famous when it was used in a film about about another animal, a lovable pig called ‘Babe’.

Alphonse Hasselmans

Born : Liège, Belgium in 1845     Died : Paris, France in 1912

Recommended listening : Reverie; Chanson de Mai (see YouTube links)

Adolphe Hasselmans was born in Belgium. He studied in Germany, and became the professor of Harp at the Paris Conservatoire in 1884, a position he held until his death in 1912. He was one of the great performers on the Double-action Harp which had been invented in 1810. There had been many different attempts to create a harp that could play in every key. This was finally achieved when the double-action pedal harp was patented in which the seven pedals could be depressed twice and each string passed through two pronged discs instead of just one. When a pedal was depressed into the first notch, the upper disc turned partially and firmly held the string so that it sharpened a semitone while the bottom disc turned partially but did not touch the string. To sharpen another semitone, the pedal was depressed again into a lower notch and the bottom disc turned further to grip the string even more. Aside from mechanical improvements, this system is still used today. Harpists like Hasselmans wrote music to demonstrate the capabilities of the instrument, and their own virtuosity. He taught many famous harpists and firmly established the school of French harp-playing.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Born : Votkinsk, Russia in 1840       Died : St. Petersburg, Russia in 1893

Recommended listening : Nutcracker Suite; 1812 Overture; Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bflat minor; Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 4; Capriccio Italien.

The Nutcracker Suite actually premiered before the ballet, when Tchaikovsky chose some of the main pieces for an orchestral performance in 1892. The ballet is an adaptation of a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, (whose Tales of Hoffmann became an operetta by Jacques Offenbach). It tells the story of a young girl called Clara, and her love for her “ugly” nutcracker. There’s a growing Christmas tree, a battle between the toys and mice, an enchanted prince, and a journey through the snow to the kingdom of sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy reigns as Queen. For the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Tchaikovsky had a new instrument brought in, specially, from Paris. It was the Celeste – (an instrument made of metal bars played from a keyboard) – which had just been patented in 1886. He desperately wanted to keep this a secret, in case Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov discovered the instrument, as he would be sure to use it in his orchestrations. The ballet has become a regular Christmas favourite, and the music has never lost its popularity. The sections Tchaikovsky chose for the Suite are as follows :

The Overture, which invites us to enter the magical world of the fairy tale. Immediately following that is the March, introducing the Christmas party scene. The remaining pieces are all second act characteristic dances, which take place in the Kingdom of Sweets, illustrated by appropriate orchestral colours. 1) Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy; 2) Russian Dance (Trepak); 3) Arabian Dance(Coffee); 4) Chinese Dance (Tea); 5) Dance of the Mirlitons ( or reedpipes, played by flute trio); 6) Waltz of the Flowers brings the suite to a grand conclusion with a lovely harp introduction, leading the way to the dance.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Born : near Novgorod, Russia in 1844 Died : St. Petersburg, Russia in 1893

Recommended Listening : The Flight of the Bumble Bee ; Scheherazade; Capriccio Español.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is most famous for his flair in colourful orchestral writing. He really pioneered new techniques in colour, texture, and sonority – mixing instruments cleverly and producing new orchestral sounds that inspired many other composers. It was no wonder that Tchaikvsky wanted to keep the Celeste a secret until he used it himself in the Nutcracker Ballet. His orchestral work, based on the Thousand and One Nights ‘Scheherazade’ is one of the great pieces of ‘programme’ music, telling the stories in full orchestral technicolour. His operas also produced some of his finest writing. The Snow Maiden, like many Russian operas, is based on a folk-tale. It was originally a play by Alexander Ostrovsky, for which Tchaikovsky had written incidental music. Like Tchaikovsky and The Nutcracker, Rimsky-Korsakoff made a suite of some of the music from the opera, and that is what is mostly performed nowadays.

The fairy-tale depicts the opposing forces of King Frost (winter) and the Sun God (spring). As the snow melts and the long winter finishes, there are great celebrations to welcome the arrival of spring, and the Tsar calls for one more dance. The jesters rush on to perform the ‘Dance of the Tumblers.’

A.J. (Archie) Potter

Born : Belfast, N. Ireland in 1918      Died : Greystones, Co. Wicklow in 1980

Recommended listening : Fantasy for Clarinet and Strings (RTE lyric fm CD 124 – with John Finucane and RTE National Symphony Orchestra); Overture to a Kitchen Comedy; Sinfonia ‘De Profundis’ (Marco Polo ‘Irish Composers Series’ CD)

Archibald James (Archie) Potter was the son of a blind Belfast piano tuner. Brought up by relatives in Kent, he ‘got the only education then open to penniless boys – choir school followed by public school’. He also won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music where he studied composition with Vaughan Williams. After colourful wartime service he settled in Dublin and gained his Doctorate in Music from Trinity College Dublin in 1953. From 1955 to 1973 he was Professor of Composition at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He was a very prolific composer, whose eclectic style encompassed a wide range of techniques which were used to suit the style of a work to its purpose. His orchestration in particular is outstanding. The sensitivity that lay behind the ebullience of his personality, and his passionate concern about injustice and intolerance, are all evident in his best works. (Biographical notes from the Contemporary Music Centre.)

‘Finnegan’s Wake’ was a street ballad in America from the 1860s. It tells the story of Tom Finnegan, an Irish labourer who had a fondness for whiskey, who falls off a ladder at work one day, and is presumed to be dead. A wake is held, at which a fight breaks out, during which a naggin of whiskey hits the ‘corpse’. Finnegan is miraculously revived and chides the assembled mourners for wasting good whiskey. The name provided the inspiration for the title of James Joyce’s celebrated novel.

YouTube Links   – available on the website :

Jean Kelly – Harp

 Performing Debussy ‘Danses Sacré et Profane’ at the Boyne Music Festival


Breathe Arts Health Research (Jean Kelly excerpt)

Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments – fascinating project on the science experiments of Francis Bacon. Jean Kelly on medieval harp.

Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ – cover version with Alison Arnopp (vocals)

Sad Songs – Ranagri   (Jean Kelly on Electric Harp)

 Handel Harp Concerto in B flat (performed by Jean Kelly on the audio CD)

 Performed as a solo piece

Performed by a 6-year Russian prodigy (1993)

Turlough O’Carolan

The Chieftains O’Carolan Medley

Sí Beag, sí mór – performed by Planxty

O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music – performed by Martin Hayes & Denis Cahill


Mozart – Flute and Harp Concerto

 1st Movt. Allegro – with images

 2nd Movt. Andante – performed by the famous French harpist (and pupil of Adolphe Hasselmans) Lily Laskine, with Jean-Pierre Rampal.

3rd Movt. Rondo   – orchestra video

Jean Kelly & Fiona Kelly rehearsing the Carl Reinecke cadenza for the first movement


Sull’ aria clip from The Shawshank Redemption



 Chanson de Mai

Saint-Saens   – The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals

’cello and harp performance

‘The Dying Swan’ ballet performance

Rimsky Korsakov

Evgeny Kissin – Flight of the Bumble Bee

Flight of the Bumble Bee – ’cello Duet

Flight of the Bumble Bee – Orchestra

 Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden

Listen to the recording ;

See the orchestra play

arrangement for Concert Band


Tchaikovsky – Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker Ballet

Details of Tchaikovsky’s life and compositions included in the video

1812 Overture – illustrated with images

Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bflat minor   – soloist Lang Lang


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