It’s one thing to hear an evening’s worth of beautiful harp playing and vocals. It’s another to hear the stories that lie within the music.
That’s precisely what Mary Murphy will share on Feb. 13.
Mary is an accomplished harpist and a gifted teacher. Born in Sligo, Ireland, she took up the harp at age eleven. She was awarded scholarships from the Irish Academy of Music prior to studying with renowned harpists in London and New York.
Her talent and love for music allowed her to captivate audiences around the world for decades.
For the past several years, however, she’s only performed on rare occasions.
She was peering into the windows of the Vineyard Centre in downtown Chilliwack in the fall when she saw a vision of herself on the stage. Immediately, she knew it was an insight she had to bring to reality.
She began to riffle through the songs that she’d written during every extraordinary, compelling, or even tumultuous experience of her life.
“I’ve gone through a fair bit,” Mary said. “But I’m really thankful for it.”
Through those experiences came a lifetime of writing material.
As she and her harp grace Chilliwack’s stage once again, she plans to play music and tell stories that will make up two parts.
The first half of which will narrate Mary’s own experiences with love and loss, youthfulness and growth, disappointment and change, to name a few themes.
Essentially, it’s an exploration of various relationships. Striving for forgiveness with those who have wronged you, accepting even the worst of your past, and asking yourself – and God – the toughest of questions.
She’ll share what she’s learned, and what she’s still trying to figure out.
“It’s been years and years of growing up. Gettin’ older and gettin’ wiser,” she said with a smile. “But I never veered from who I was.”
At her core lies Mary’s Irish culture.
In the latter part of her show, she’ll take the audience on a journey of parallel stories of immigration, stemming from her own journey to Canada.
Broadening her experiences, she drew inspiration from the 1990 novel Under the Hawthorn Tree, by Marita Conlon-McKenna. It tells the story of three Irish siblings who lose their parents during the Great Famine, and set off on a journey across the ocean to find care from distant relatives.
Mary grew close to these young characters, and wrote songs that told the parts of their story that weren’t written in the novel.
“The Hawthorn Tree story is the same story for any immigrant under similar tragic circumstances,” she said, finding commonalities with the modern-day refugee crises.
“They’re all trying to get away from something – with integrity and dignity – to a new life. Some make it and some don’t,” she continued.
For her, the songs she’s written aren’t simply based on the novel or the characters, but on the resilience of all people who have have been displaced, taking with them only what they can carry.
She explores the question, “Do you die taking a chance with hope and belief? Or do you die never knowing what could have happened?”
Each of the stories and songs that Mary will share portray a representation of true struggle and genuine hope.
Throughout her career, Mary has performed to prestigious crowds in the Lincoln Center and the Whitehouse.
But she says that it was in the small places that she saw the real faces, and really connected with her audiences.
“When I was little, I’d listen to records and the radio, and I wanted to be the music,” Mary explained. “I wanted to be the orchestra, the arranger, the producer, the conductor…”
And that’s what she’ll be on stage this Saturday.
“I’m excited. It takes guts to spill your guts,” she laughed. “So for me, this is huge.”
Connect with Mary Murphy’s stories and songs in her show entitled ‘For the Love of a Child.’
She performs at the Vineyard Centre (also the Acoustic Emporium: 45892 Wellington Ave) on Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10 at the door.