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  • ursulaburns2

When did you start to play?


I came down to earth with a bump after my recient trip to the Paraguayan Harp festival in Asuncion.

The festival glimmers like a marage in my mind

In September i had never ever met a Paraguayan harpist and now

I feel like i know their community,their masters and makers, their language, their trees and their music

It was love at first sight and sound

2 weeks of constant harps and gigs and a beautiful window into their joyful culture.


I was enticed into playing harp by my mother who was a free style celtic harpist with a passion for setting WB Yeats to music.

Mum offered me 60 quid in 1994 to come to the basement of Belfast Castle with a Paraguayan harp she bought of a chemist on the falls road.

I was just back from walking Europe with Horse and Bamboo and the money was the incentive.



We sat in that basement for a year every saturday night and played music for the people at the restaurant.

My mum had a philosophy "People like what they know"

She would stream of coniousness play modern tunes mixed in with her repoitoire and my grandfaterhers donegal bluestack mountain fiddle tunes.

She would flow and I would follow finding base and harmony.

Harmony came naturally to me. The Paraguayan harp had a deep base and my unique style begin to develop right from the very first notes.........


I had no desire to learn Irish music but a desire to compose my own. Classical was not accessable I could not read music due to sever dyslexia and failed even the most basic music exams at school.


Yes I had a gift. I could flow along. I could play effortlessly and within a couple of months I had my first hour long solo gig in the architextrue buildings at queens. I played into the stereotype aware of my urge to break it.


I played harp comercially for the next 10- 30 years to fund my creative songwriting albums. When my son came along it got more difficult to pour money into my creative output but I kept going.

The creative side was ALWAYS my driver.


Perhaps it was the accidental nature of a paraguayan harp arriving on the falls road destined for my hands that ignighted my love for paraguayan harping culture.

When I finnaly arrived in Paraguay for the first time last month - the illusive mystery of how it all happened baffeled me even more. Before the trip i used to say

"I play a hybrid style paraguayan and celtic with a focus on self expression"






Now I am not sure i play either - its just a gift.

The complex difference in tuning means i fit in Europe with my tuning and Paraguay with my flamboyuant style. A foot in each culture but no home.

On the cusp of 30 years devoting myself to all aspects of harp, I am even more baffeled at the journey and the trip to Paraguay has given me a laser focus about my backround in Belfast, the difficulties I experienced and my role in the world of harp.




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