I am a harpist, a musician, a conjurer of creative things, a bringer-together of people, a dreamer, an optimist. A mother of three young children. Every day I walk the tight rope. As a mother who makes art, an artist who mothers, I try (impossibly) to engage and connect with that quiet and artistic inner voice without impeding the endless needs of the tiny people I’ve made.
This is a recent endeavour - to be conscious enough of that inner artist that I fight daily to maintain an active connection with it. The pandemic, for all its woes and challenges, gave me the space to go inward, to banish the ‘dancing monkey’ of my gigging life and to rediscover my own personal connection with my craft. When the diary went blank and the noise of all those cancelled gigs subsided, when I was left with just me and an idle monkey, I finally blew away the dust and there, in the corner of the attic of myself, beneath a flurry of sequin dresses, high heeled shoes, lipstick and the shells of a thousand peanuts, was the source of my artistic curiosity and my deep love of music. These gems had been dismissed by the rest of me for quite some time.
Initially, during the first lockdown of 2020, when I would sit behind the harp I did not have any desire to play even one note. I felt empty. Numb. Finished. No gigs, no audiences, no deadlines - there was no point.
I continued to ignore the harp, and baked bread instead. I grew food, I ran, I wrote, I mothered. Eventually though, bit by bit my feelings of apathy started to shift and in September 2020 I started a weekly online concert series called Harp O’Clock. This was a requests concert series with the audience choosing the programme. I was inspired by my fellow harpist and pal Olivia Jageurs who started her Zoom concert series in March 2020 in the Uk. Although I had no desire to play music for myself it was deeply moving to play requests that helped isolated people feel connected again. I felt of service. The love of practice, the feel of the harp on my shoulder, the tension of those strings in my hand – brought me back to my own musical journey.
You see, for the longest time, the inner perfectionist voice had ruled court in my head. The mess and noise of making art is far too risky for a perfectionist. So, I got busy gigging instead. I did not listen to the quiet inner voice that simply wants to curiously play, share, connect, inspire and wonder.
I didn't realise that for me, the inner artist and the inner perfectionist hold hands.
So now, I maintain my inner committee as I move through life as an artist who mothers, walking my own personal tightrope. I unceasingly muse, question and wonder as I work, as I breastfeed the baby, as I make dinner and the myriad tasks that fill my mothering days. My inner committee and I debate endlessly. The dancing monkey, the constant questioning, the quiet inner intuiting, and the rest of me. The inner committee is always there. It’s there as I concoct programmes on school drop offs, it’s there when I practice. It’s there throughout every stage of my artistic process.
As I look back over the arc of the last two years, I can see that although I had no master plan, no fancy strategy, I managed to steer a course. I navigated my way here.
‘Here’ (now) looks a lot like ’there’ (before). I make arty things that involve harps. But now, I am more confident to steer my own path. I share the joy and deep connection I feel for music and stories.
The universe is utterly ambivalent so do the thing. Who knows where it might lead?
Aisling Ennis is highly regarded as a harpist both at home in Ireland and internationally. A passionate performer, arranger and educator, she enjoys a varied career as a solo, chamber, orchestral harpist and educator. A former student of the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Royal Irish Academy of Music and holds a first class Master’s degree in Arts Management and Cultural Policy from UCD as well as a PGCE in Primary Education. Aisling is known for her evocative playing across a broad spectrum of genres, her ongoing experimental collaborations and innovative approaches to programming.
Upcoming work includes ongoing performances of her new adaptation of Mozart's Magic Flute, solo appearances with Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Irish Chamber Orchestra Celtic Connections Festival, the release of her debut solo album of compositions and ongoing recitals with Trio Tain who will guide a cohort of Wicklow musicians through Music Network’s residency scheme. Aisling will continue her series of experimental collaborations with three international female artists (Imogen-Blue Hinojosa, Shiva R Joyce and Una Palliser) on the subject of ‘Mother’.
Thanks to Strategic Project Funding from Wicklow Arts Office, 2023 will also see Aisling bring her lecture recital ‘Ceol Sí: Fairy Music to every library in county Wicklow. Aisling is a 2022 member of Wicklow Artists Panel and works to support and enrich the arts in her beloved home, Wicklow.
Aisling performs on a Salvi Minerva concert harp, Tomás Mac Uileagóid 'Eala' Irish harps and Camac electric harps. Aisling's work is supported by Arts Council Ireland and Wicklow County Council.
List to Aisling's album HERE