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Performance Shares Story of Irish Harpist

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Patrick Ball describes his stage presentation “O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music” as a theater piece about the legendary Irish harpist and composer Turlough O’Carolan.

In the piece, Ball assumes the character of O’Carolan’s best friend Charles MacCabe.

“I have a master’s in Irish history from Dominican College. I studied the period he lived in but O’Carolan was virtually unmentioned in all my studies,” Ball said in a phone interview from his home in Sebastopol, Calif.

If you go
WHAT: Patrick Ball
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12
WHERE: Historic Old San Ysidro Church, 966 Old Church Road, Corrales
HOW MUCH: $22 in advance at or at Frame-n-Art or $25 at the door.

O’Carolan lived from the late-17th century to the mid-18th century.

His music has been important to musicians through the years, but in a larger sense O’Carolan was just a footnote in Irish history, Ball said.

“The time he lived in was probably as depressing and dismal as any nation lived through. It was a time when the English got their mitts into the Irish in a brutal way,” he said.

Like many other Catholic families, O’Carolan’s was uprooted from their farm and forcibly relocated to the rocky, infertile land of western Ireland.

That was about the time that the teenage O’Carolan went blind from smallpox.

“So he had this whole darkness to deal with at many different levels,” Ball said.

“When he started on the harp he wasn’t considered very good but he discovered he had marvelous powers of composition. The pieces he composed were incredibly light and uplifting.”

O’Carolan wrote some 200 tunes.

Ball will perform 17 of O’Carolan’s instrumental compositions in the theater piece Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church. It is part of the Music in Corrales series.

Ball’s harp playing is interspersed with the story.

“A lot of the tunes had specific stories behind them. You listen to the tune and the story behind the tune,” Ball said.

Ball said his presentation has its own overreaching storyline that is based on O’Carolan’s friendship with MacCabe.

“He was O’Carolan’s best friend and traveling companion for most of O’Carolan’s life. MacCabe is the person telling the story. … So it’s not a simple recounting of things that happened to O’Carolan. It’s a story of a friendship,” he said.