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Live Performance: The Melodies and Myths of the Vikings and Gaels

A unique music and storytelling event to mark the millennium of the battle of Clontarf 1014.

When? Easter Saturday, 19th April at 3pm

The National Museum of Ireland has planned a unique once-off music and storytelling event to mark the millennium of the battle of Clontarf 1014. We will be welcoming storytellers and musicians from Denmark and Ireland for this special commemoration, which will be held at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology on Kildare Street on Easter Saturday, 19th April at 3pm.

Storyteller Nuala Hayes, with harpists Anne-Marie O’Farrell and Helen Davies, will join wind player Poul Høxbro to journey one millennium into the time of Brian Boru, in a celebratory commemoration of the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Using the ancient music of the harp associated in legend with Brian Boru, together with ethereal traditional Norse sounds of bone flutes and cow horns, this flagship performance will feature stories from the sagas from both Ireland and Scandinavia, recapturing the soundworld of Ireland’s Viking era.

The narrative is inspired by the many versions of the battle and the era that were noted in the Irish annals and manuscripts and Viking Sagas. This specially written show will tell the story of some of the key people who were alive in 1014 at the time of the battle of Clontarf. Nuala Hayes explains she and her fellow participants,

‘hope to create something very original in bringing together the Sagas with Music, old and new, of both Vikings and Gael, to reflect the complexities and drama of the story behind the Battle of Clontarf. The figure of Gormlaith, who was both mother and wife to many of the protagonists, and who outlived them all, comes to the fore in our version of the story.’

Gormlaith had been married to Brian Boru, but was also closely related to two of his main opponents at the battle – being the mother of Sitric, king of Dublin in 1014, and sister of Máel Mórda, king of Leinster. Prior to marrying Brian married she had already married twice, to a king of Dublin and the King of Tara. By the time of the battle itself in 1014 Gormlaith had divorced Brian and may even have been promised in marriage by Sitric to Sigurdr of Orkney, one of Sitric’s Viking allies. Later texts and manuscripts portrayed her as a villain and an instigator of the clash.

This free event has been planned in association with the Embassy of Denmark in Ireland and with the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Event details

Located in the Ceramics Room, National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Suitable for all Age 10plus. Free Admission. Not wheelchair accessible. Places are limited. Booking is essential. To book, contact the Education Department by phone 01 648 6339 or by email

About the artists

Nuala Hayes

Nuala Hayes is an actor and storyteller. She has a broad repertoire of folktales, legends and myths, connected mainly but not exclusively with Ireland. She has adapted suitable stories from literature, including stories by Mary Lavin. She frequently works with musicians, including Harpist, Anne Marie O’Farrell and Clarinet player, Paul Roe. She has devised programmes of stories and music for all ages, such as “The Wilder Wisdom of Auld Ones’, based on the stories of the Cailleach. She has produced CD of Irish traditional stories; The Brewery of Eggshells and other Stories, with Kate Corkery. She also collaborates with visual artist, Rita Duffy on an interactive storytelling event called Shirt Tales. Nuala tells in both the English and Irish language.

Nuala is an actor, storyteller and broadcaster. She was founder/director of Scéalta Shamhna, Dublin’s Storytelling Festival, which she ran for 10 years.

She has performed at many arts and storytelling festivals throughout Ireland and the UK, in Spain, Denmark, USA and at the Toronto Storytelling Festival in Canada.

She was Artist-in-Residence in Co Laois in 2003 and produced the RTE Radio One Series, 'Tales at the Crossroads', celebrating the oral traditions of the Midlands.

In 2005 she was awarded a Cork 2005/Credit Union Residency to work with the older generation on Cape Clear Island. A book, 'Bóithrín na Smaointe', a miscellany of Cape Clear memories, was published as a result of that collaboration.

Find out more about Nuala Hayes at Storytellers of IrelandLinks to external website

Poul Høxbro

Poul Høxbro is a true pioneer in the field of music. He has been called ”the great man of small instruments” and it is true that he is quite unique in the way he has taken the medieval instrument of pipe and tabor – played simultaneously by one person – out of the shadows and into the full glare of concert platforms all over the world.

He has performed in intimate chamber music settings, as a soloist in a contemporary Danish opera at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, on traditional music stages, at medieval markets, and as a theatre musician. Poul Høxbro has amazed and delighted audiences with his virtuosity and lively musicality, crossing the borders of what might be expected from his ”small” instruments – instruments which, apart from pipe and tabor, include all types of historical percussion and traditional flutes. When Poul Høxbro received the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra´s Emil Holm Scholarship the citation read: ”for his work as an ambassador for medieval music”, but his repertoire actually spans a much wider horizon in time and style. He is also an ambassador for Scandinavian folk music, English country dances, French baroque suites and Danish roccoco music.

Poul Høxbro is also a much sought-after storyteller. He has received outstanding reviews for his dramatic and utterly magic way of drawing an audience into the world of myth and legend – be it in Danish, Swedish, German or English! His outstanding performing skills and his depth of knowledge in his field has led to invitations for Poul Høxbro to give concerts, lectures and courses in USA, Australia and throughout Europe.

He has recorded 4 CDs with Medieval Ensemble ALBA and a solo-CD for the Danish record company Classico. In addition to this he has taken part in recordings for ABC Classics, Move Records, BIS, Exlibris, Sony Music, Chandos and Naxos.

Find out more about Poul Høxbro on his websiteLinks to external website

Helen Davies

Helen studied harp in her native Wales, and holds the degree of Bachelor of Music from the University of Birmingham. She has held the post of solo harpist with orchestras in Sweden (Operan, Göteborg) and Ireland (RTE, Dublin), and from 1983-1989 she taught both classical and Irish harp at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. As secretary of CaÌrde na CruÌte (the Irish Harp Society) she was one of the instigators of the highly successful Irish harp summer school which takes place in Termonfechin (Ireland) every year.

Now based in Copenhagen, Helen's main work is in the field of contemporary improvised music, blending acoustic and electronic sounds, with trumpet player/composer Palle Mikkelborg. They have appeared throughout Scandinavia, Australia, the Far East and China. Helen returns regularly to Ireland as a guest teacher and performer and has been particularly associated with the work of Irish composer Shaun Davey. She has worked and recorded with several of Ireland's leading traditional musicians, most recently singer PádragÌn ni Uallach'in. Helen Davies' solo CD "Open the Door Softly" was released autumn 2000, and was nominated for a Danish Music Award (folk music) 2001.

Find out more about Helen Davies on her websiteLinks to external website

Anne-Marie O’Farrell

Anne-Marie O’Farrell is the leading exponent of the Irish or lever harp as a recital instrument. Her development and expansion of its repertoire have led to performances and recordings for TV and radio throughout Europe, the USA, Scandinavia, Japan, Russia and Africa. Anne-Marie is especially noted for her transcriptions of keyboard, lute and pedal harp repertoire for the Irish harp, and also for the unique levering techniques which she continues to develop on this instrument. As a result of her innovations in this area, she was consultant to Salvi harpmakers on the design of their Irish harp, the Livia.

A prolific recording artist, she has released her sixth CD, Just So Bach while her previous albums include Heads & Harps, Harping Bach to Carolan, The Jig’s Up, My Lagan Love and Double Strung with Cormac De Barra. She has also recorded with The Chieftains in Abbey Road Studios, London and has performed internationally with Moya Brennan of Clannad. Her new album with harpist Cormac De Barra, Duopoly will be launched in May this year.

She holds professional diplomas in many instruments along with national awards for original composition. An honours graduate of UCD, she has been awarded a first class honours MA in Composition from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and has composed for a variety of instrumental media. She lectures in composition at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama and is regularly invited to give lecture recitals, workshops and masterclasses at international conferences and festivals. Anne-Marie has recently been appointed composer in residence at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.

Find out more about Anne-Marie O'Farrell on her websiteLinks to external website

Further Information

For further press information, please contact:

Maureen Gaule, Marketing Executive, Marketing Department, National Museum of Ireland

Tel: 01 648 6429 Mob: 087 9031690


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