Together or apart, friends make beautiful music

Celtic Music

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Harpist Kirk Kupensky and vocalist Colleen McNally-Harris perform the traditional Celtic song "The Castle of Dromore".


Harpist Kirk Kupensky and vocalist Colleen McNally-Harris perform Celtic music.

By Linda Linonis

GIRARD — Singer Colleen McNally-Harris and harpist Kirk Kupensky are in perfect harmony. So much so that when they perform together, their breathing falls into the same rhythm.

They’re performing separately today for St. Patrick’s Day, but each will be wishing the other the luck of the Irish.

She will sing at the National Shrine of St. Patrick in St. Patrick, Mo. He will perform at noon during the Lenten series at St. John Episcopal Church, Sharon, Pa.

They’ll be together in a service at 11 a.m. Sunday as part of a monthlong tribute to Celtic music at Unity Church Centre, 1226 Naylor Lloyd Road, where he is music director.

They met about a decade ago at St. Columba Cathedral in Youngstown, where both participated musically in the Easter vigil. Kupensky has played harp on McNally-Harris’ two CDs — “Celtic Grace” and “Christmas Tapestry.”

Maybe a little leprechaun orchestrated a chance meeting McNally-Harris had with a childhood friend, Linda Iaderosa Wilson of Canfield, who is involved in producing. Wilson connected McNally-Harris with Mike Talanca at Tune Town Recording in Newton Falls, where she recorded her CDs.

A wee bit of the luck brought about McNally-Harris’ engagement at the National Shrine of St. Patrick. A woman bought a CD online and suggested to her aunt, a member of the shrine council, that McNally-Harris would be the perfect choice for St. Patrick’s Day.

Kupensky and McNally-Harris describe each other as a world-class musician; their careers are centered on love of music and sharing it.

It’s family that’s kept McNally-Harris in the Mahoning Valley, having grown up in Youngstown’s South Side. She and her husband, David Harris, an aspiring guitarist, have three children and three grandchildren. Her sister, Sharyn McNally Chrystal, sings on her CDs, and her brother, Mike McNally, is her business manager.

Kupensky, originally of Masury, returned to the Mahoning Valley in 1996 to be near family. “I had a great corporate job as a language operator for MCI” in Arizona, said Kupensky, who used his fluency in Italian to place calls.

Both point out the richness of music of all kinds in the Valley.

“We have an amazing choir that sings at the 4 p.m. Mass Sunday at St. Columba,” McNally-Harris said of an example of sacred music. She also credits Dr. Daniel Laginya, cathedral music director, with singing on her CDs and offering support.

Kupensky said the Valley has many offerings, including Youngstown Symphony, ethnic bands and a variety of art venues.

McNally-Harris describes herself as a church musician following a legacy. Her mother, Mary Shea McNally, 88, was choir director and her father, Jack, now deceased, was a cantor at St. Dominic Church in Youngstown. McNally-Harris participates in Chant Schola, singing traditional chants, at 8:30 a.m. Sundays at St. Dominic’s. She also is one of four cantors at St. Columba, singing at the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass.

She has no formal music training. “I feel I learned from everyone I came in contact with,” McNally-Harris said. She credited her mother with giving her daily voice training.

McNally-Harris, a Catholic of Irish heritage, notes on her Web site,, “I truly believe that God is directing me to pursue my dream at this time in my life. I am most grateful to Him for the gift of my parents who instilled in me the love of God and music.”

McNally-Harris said she appreciates the talent, generosity and ingenuity of Kupensky, a classically trained musician.

He graduated from Youngstown State University Dana School of Music. “It was wonderful there,” he said of the studies and latitude the school allowed so he could major in harp. He also studied harp at the Cleveland Institute of Music, with the first chair harp of Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, and in England. His background has allowed him to play all over the world.

A multifaceted musician, he also plays the piano and guitar. Kupensky said he was drawn to the harp because of its uniqueness.

“I wanted to be the one who made that sound,” he said. He plays a Celtic harp and a larger pedal harp.

Kupensky noted people are rediscovering the beauty of traditional, bluegrass and ethnic sounds. “We want to go back to something simple, something we know,” he said. “I think it is tied to the economy. We’re proud to be Americans ... a melting pot ... and we want to go back to those roots and a simpler time.”

“I believe music is an escape in troubled times,” Kupensky said.

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