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Composition

“[Janet’s] composition is considered as important in musical terms as the late Sean O Riada’s works” Irish Independent 1984
”As Riverdance popularised Irish dancing and Brendan Voyage brought the uilleann pipes to a wider public, so the Belfast Harp Orchestra is animating a huge interest in the Irish harp.  And it’s almost entirely due to Janet and her modern mix with tradition….” Anne Hailes, The Irish News 1994
“Although best known as a traditional harper, Janet Harbison considers herself first and foremost a creative musician – with a significant body of original composition as well as arranged works now standard in the Irish choral repertoire as well as Irish ensembles, harp solos and harp ensembles with some piano and organ solo and ensemble pieces in her body of work to date. While she studied composition for a number of years with James Wilson, Eric Sweeney and Dr Joseph Groocock; and in her piano studies became particularly specialized in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (and there would be very little of his considerable mass of work she would not know), Janet’s style also belies the influence of her love of pop music (which she played every day as resident pianist in the Shelbourne Hotel to fund her studies) and jazz (she was also the Friday night resident pianist at Connolly’s Jazz Club). Exerpt from: “A Portrait of Janet Harbison” Fiona Tucker 2003:

Large Scale Works

Colmcille – A Columban Suite (70 minutes. 1997)
Oratorio for Soprano, Chorus and Harp Orchestra; (80 mins) narrative follows the life and times of the 6th century Irish saint, including some of St.Colmcille’s own poetry. Also arranged with visual projections. (Published on BHO CD: Colmcille).

A Christmas Cantata (80 minutes. 1993)
Suite for Soprano, Alto and Baritone solos, full chorus and harp orchestra (70 mins). 12 old Irish Christmas songs (including 2 Wexford Carols) and 3 original songs in Irish, English and Latin (some Macoronic). Available on commercial video.

Aifreann d’Arainn (Mass for Aran, 40 minutes. 1983)
Mass for voice, harp, uilleann pipes, fiddle, flute & piano (40 mins), adapted for RTE film music of ‘Posadh in Inis Oirr’ (producer: Eamonn De Butlir, directed Daith Connaughtan)

Smaller Scale Works

Battle of Alasdair (1991)
(17 mins) for multiple harps (min.12 parts) with solos: uilleann pipes (on BHO CD: Carillon) based on the epic harp composition on the death of Alasdair McDonnell (17th century), Lord of the Isles, at the Battle of Cnoc na nOs. (on BHO 001, Belfast Harp Orchestra 1792-1992)

Sacred Place (1999)
(16 mins) for multiple harps (min.4 parts)

Ulster Symphony (1994)
(15 mins) for multiple harps (min.8 parts) with solos: lambeg drum, fife, fiddle. Music includes themes of ‘The Boyne Water’ and ‘The Foggy Dew’ and presents the ‘story of the troubles’ in music (optimistically!).

St.John’s March (1984)
(12 mins) for multiple harps (min.3 parts) originally composed as harp solo for wedding of Thomas and Anne Donaghy at St.John’s Abbey, Kilkenny (on BHO: 006)

Saoire Samhraidh (1983)
(12 mins) Based on the poem by Maire Mhac an tSaoi, for unaccompanied SSA choir, won Oireachtas prize for new works for choirs, 1983.

Earth Water Wind & Fire (1992)
(11 mins) Composition for multiple harps (min.8 parts) celebrating the celtic spirits of nature’s elements.

Bright New Morning (1995)
(10 mins) for multiple harps, uilleann pipes and other trad instruments (on Polygram: Celtic Harpestry)

Liurach Padraig (1979)
(9 mins) for solo voice and harp, or choir and multiple harps (on BHO 003, Live in Downpatrick, BHO 008, Prayer)

Walk on Belfast (1999)
(7 mins) originally titled Walk on Cave Hill, the mountain overlooking Belfast Harps (on Polygram: Celtic Harpestry)

Laganside Reverie (1997)
(7 mins) for multiple harps (min.4 parts) composed for opening of Belfast Waterfront Hall

Fanfare (1999)
(7 mins) for multiple harps (min.3 parts) composed for reopening of Magee College, Derry. Also arranged for harp solo.

Carillon (1992)
(7 mins) Composition for multiple harps (min.4 parts), dedicated to Derek Bell (of the Chieftains) based on the idea of a peal of bells. Also arranged for harp duo, and harp solo (Title track of BHO CD: Carillon)

Tribute to O’Neill (1985)
(6 mins) Composition for multiple harps (min 2 parts) also arranged as harp solo. Won the Awen Trophy, Festival Internationale de la Harpe Celtique 1985 (on BHO 002, O’Neill’s Harper) Published Coup Briez, France.

Mo Mhathairin (1984)
(4 mins) Composition dedicated to Janet’s mother, harp solo (on BHO 002, O’Neill’s Harper).

Absent Friends (1985)
(4 mins) Dedicated to Prof. Basil Wilson (RIP) (on BHO 006, The Wedding Album).

Suantrai (for Daniel, 1998)
(4 mins) Lullaby for the comforting of Janet’s brother and his wife on the death of their son Daniel. For multiple harps (min 2 parts) also harp solo (on BHO 007, Colmcille with BHO and BHO 008, Prayer).

Love’s Comfort (1991)
(4 mins) Composed when homesick on tour in the US (on Polygram, Harpestry).