Fiona Gryson

Multi-award winning harpist and Nissan Generation Next Select 2016

Fiona is a young professional harpist who has won numerous competitions, including the John Vallery Memorial prize for 'the best performance by a string player', and the Dublin Feis Ceoil Senior Harp Cup Winner. Fiona wants to travel the world with her harp and become an ambassador for the instrument that is the national symbol of Ireland.

Harpist Fiona Gryson has cut back on her performance schedule to concentrate on her Masters in Music Performance but still got to enjoy being part of two memorable performances in Dublin and Wexford.
February 20, 2017

I’ve cut back on how much I am playing right now as I am preparing for my Masters in Music Performance at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that I am in final year, but I’ve to be very focused right now with assessments coming up in February, May and my dissertation due in September.

I played a lot in the run up to Christmas, so it was nice to enjoy a quiet January. I really enjoyed performing for the DIT opera production of Handel’s Susanna in Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin earlier in February. The harp was not originally written in the score, but the director liked the idea of having a harp in it and I was delighted to oblige.

Last week I joined six other pedal harpists from the DIT Harp Ensemble for a performance of Wagner’s Die Walküre in the National Opera House, Wexford with the Wexford Sinfonia, conducted by Fergus Sheil.

That was an amazing experience! We don’t get the opportunity to play Wagner too often in Ireland, particularly with six harps! The orchestra, joined by vocal soloists, performed a scene rather than the whole opera. In it, the harps play a part known as the magic ‘fire music’ where one of the characters is encircled by fire to protect her.

It is quite unusual to have six pedal harpists studying at one college in Ireland but we all get on fantastically well with each other and the experience of playing together in Wexford was an early highlight of the new year for us all.

January Update
January 28, 2017

Things were a bit quieter this month in terms of performances but Fiona was kept busy with work for her Masters degree. In this vlog, she mostly reflects on how grateful she is to be a musician. Exciting times to come over the next few months!

December cheer and reflecting on 2016!
January 9, 2017

December was a very festive month and full of highlights of the year! In this vlog Fiona shares some of the performances and key moments of December including; performing in Christmas concerts with, the Culwick Choral society conducted by Bernie Sherlock, the Greystones orchestra conducted by Alan Duff, Cantemus Choir conducted by Tony Morrison and the Ulster Orchestra with conductor Christopher Bell! As well as her own student’s Christmas concert, a radio recording for RTE and lots of other events and occasions. ​

December 9, 2016

Harpist Fiona Gryson has been much in demand this month joining orchestras for performances to commemorate the 1916 Rising and to celebrate new music commissioned by Music Network.

I’m just back from London after a busy month which began at the Basilica Church in Knock where I performed as part of an orchestra of musicians from around the country who performed a Requiem by Odhrán O’Casaide to commemorate the 1916 Rising.

The Requiem has kept me busy this month. I recorded the sections featuring the Irish lever harp in DIT Rathmines with Ben Rawlins and Laoise O’Brien before the performance in Knock. My trip to London was to play the harp in the Requiem as part of a mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Soho.

One of the most enjoyable events of the month for me was a masterclass with Annaleen Lenaerts who is the principal harpist with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It was amazing and I learned a lot from it! It was a truly eye-opening experience!

I also performed at Belfast City Hall for the first time as part of the IRFU Women’s Rugby World Cup draw. My fellow Nissan Generation Next ambassador, Sophie Spence also attended but our respective commitments on the day meant that we had to settle for a wave across the room rather than a chat.

My schedule also took in DIT graduations, long service awards and remembrance services. It was really lovely too to perform at a wedding in the beautiful St. Andrew’s Church in Malahide and at a corporate event in the Teelings Whisky Distillery in Dublin.

Another project I really enjoyed was participating in a project organised by Music Network called ‘Avoca – A Celtic Journey’. Music Network commissioned Philip Martin to compose a piece including pieces collected by Edward Bunting which was performed at Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Bunting in renowned for having been inspired to collect music from around Ireland having attended the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. He published three volumes of music and some of this music was included in Philip Martin’s piece which I performed as part of a harp ensemble, conducted by David Brophy, one of the country’s leading conductors. I filmed a piece with other harpists from DIT and the RIAM for RTE News in the Irish Architectural Archive to raise awareness for the event.

I also joined the Dublin Symphony Orchestra for a wonderful concert in St. Mary’s church on Haddington Road.

Recording, performances and lots of travelling!
December 1, 2016

November was another busy month and in this vlog Fiona shows some of the highlights including; a few performances across the country and in London of ‘Marbhna 1916’ by Odhran O’Casaide (a piece composed for the 1916 commemorations), a masterclass with Annaleen Lenaerts and a big harping event organised by Music Network, showcasing the Irish harp with a newly-commissioned work by Philip Martin called ‘Avoca:  A Celtic Journey’.

Non stop October for Fiona!
November 1, 2016

In this vlog Fiona talks about playing at DIT Graduations in St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as performances at Leopardsown Racecourse, Newgrange Hotel, Christ Church Cathedral with the City of Dublin Chamber Orchestra and the Hibernian Orchestra. She also shares videos and photos of the various activities during the month including a weekend spent at a residential recording studio called Grouse Lodge in Co. Westmeath!

October 9, 2016

Harpist Fiona Gryson likes being busy, which is just as well given the demands of attending to a full schedule of performances around the country and returning to college to complete the final year of her Masters in Music Performance.

September was a busy month. It got underway for me at the café in the Kilkenny Design shop on Nassau Street in Dublin where I played during breakfast. The performance was hosted as part of the celebrations surrounding the Aer Lingus College Football Classic so there was a great buzz in the city that weekend and the occasion was enjoyed by all those stopping by for breakfast.

We had two family weddings in September and I performed at both. I played with my sister Róisín, who sings and plays the guitar and flute, at our cousin’s wedding in the Dunboyne Castle Hotel and Spa.  My uncle Aidan got married the following weekend in City Hall in Dublin which is a spectacular venue. It was wonderful to play there alongside my uncle Dermot who sang and played guitar and the flute on the day.

I am back at college now and in my final year of a Masters in Music Performance at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. In our first week back, the Conservatory hosted an excellent workshop with Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist. We also got to enjoy her inspiring performance at a concert in the Sugar Club presented by Music Network where she played alongside dancer Colin Dunne, fiddler Tola Custy, and uilleann piper David Power.

I played with the DIT Harp Ensemble at St. Werburgh’s Church in Dublin to celebrate Culture Night. The church is situated close to the famous Burdock’s Fish and Chip shop so we didn’t let the opportunity pass to pay it a visit after the performance.

I teach harp and piano and it was lovely to return to teaching in September, to meet continuing and new students alike and to make plans for the year ahead.

The Dunshaughlin Harvest Festival is always a great family day out and I performed at that before heading to a wedding showcase in the Newgrange Hotel in Navan.

October began with the O’Carolan Harp Festival which included concerts, workshops, competitions and expos by harp markers.  I remember participating and competing at the festival as a student so it was interesting to attend as a teacher and have my students be involved.

I also performed at a school graduation at Leopardstown Race Course and at some of the DIT Graduations in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is always a privilege to perform at the graduations and it is something that I am looking forward to doing again soon.

Cultural roadtrip
October 6, 2016

In September Fiona played during breakfast in Kilkenny Design on Nassau Street, played at 2 family weddings, went back to college for the 2nd year of her Masters and plays at DIT Harp ensemble on Culture Night.

On the road with NV200
September 6, 2016

In her August vlog Fiona collects her NV200, reflects on her visit to Switzerland, volunteers at the Boyne festival, plays at a couple of weddings and enjoys some well deserved days off in Kerry.

Recordings, summer camps and Áras an Uachtaráin.
August 24, 2016

Harpist Fiona Gryson has spent the summer attending a harp course in Switzerland and recording a version of Lukas Graham’s chart topping hit ‘7 years’ which was so impressive that he decided to share it with his fanbase.

This summer has been great fun and really busy! It got off to an exciting start, performing with my friend, Katie Hyland as part of the Aurora Duo at wonderful Garden Parties hosted by President Michael D. Higgins and Mrs Sabina Higgins for their esteemed guests at Áras an Uachtaráin.

July began with a summer camp for children aged 8 to 12 years at DIT in Grangegorman called the ‘Idea Camp’. I was a student facilitator at the camp which promotes and encourages creativity.

The first week involved helping children to complete activities in five areas; music, drama, food, audio and art and design. The second week I helped the music facilitator, Paula Hughes with the music module. It focused on creativity in music where the children composed, listened to, engaged and responded to music. The focus was on being creative around music. It was a really great learning experience for me and a lot of fun too!

I also spent two weeks in Switzerland where I participated in the Harp Masters Summer Academy hosted by Irina Zingg, Milda Agazarian and Petra Van der Heide who are renowned as some the world’s greatest harpists and teachers. Their Academy promotes excellence in harp performance through workshops, lectures and concerts. The first few days were focused on preparing and training for auditions followed by a series of masterclasses and workshops. It was absolutely amazing!

One of the projects I really enjoyed was performing with the second and third class students at Scoil Cholmcille, Skryne in Tara where my mam, Fionnuala, is a teacher. The school were recently awarded their third Green Flag for water and they had a Green Day to celebrate raising the flag with local MEP, Mairead McGuinness.

The students wrote their own lyrics about the environment and conservation and put them to the music of Lukas Graham’s hit ‘7 Years’, facilitated by their teacher, Kieran Fanning. The school’s bodhran teacher Aimee Farrell-Courtney and I heard it, and agreed that it was a really special performance and it deserved to be shared. We worked on it with the students and recorded it with sound engineer, Stuart Gray from Jealoustown Studios, Skryne. I accompanied them on the harp and feel very proud to be involved in such a project. Lukas Graham loved our version and even shared it himself, so the children and their teachers had more than one reason to celebrate.