In the early hours of last Tuesday morning (the 25th of July), the welcome news began to slowly filter through that 24 year old Siobhan Brady from Castletroy in County Limerick had successfully completed her quest to reach the 5,895 metre summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Siobhan’s ambitious and imaginative challenge is part of a Guinness World Record attempt to host a unique concert on Africa’s highest peak titled, the ‘Highest Harp Concert’. The current Guinness World Record for the highest altitude harp performance at 4,954m / 16,253ft. was set by Siobhan in the Himalayan region of India in 2018.
Lasting 20 minutes, the concert took place in a moment of almost-perfect stillness above the clouds, and consisted of an array of traditional and more recent compositions from Ireland and also included a Tanzanian jig which means ‘Thank You Tanzania’ in Swahili.
Also part of the high-altitude concert was a rendition of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Little Bird’. The song has a special place in the hearts of the Cystic Fibrosis community, and the poem, ‘The Prophets Are Weeping’, by Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, was read by well-known CF Advocate, Caroline Heffernan.
Departing Ireland together, the core team of 19 flew to Tanzania following over two years of meticulous planning and numerous training events on Irish peaks and more recently, Mount Teide located on the Canary Island of Tenerife.
Leading them up Mount Kilimanjaro – the world’s largest free-standing mountain rise – was renowned Irish mountaineer and adventurer, Pat Falvey, who oversaw the complex and expansive logistics involved which included an African-based team made up of around 60 people.
Before departing to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park to commence their climb, the team were given a send-off from Irish Ambassador for Tanzania, Mary O’Neill, who presented Siobhan with an Irish flag to take to the summit. At Machame Gate, an official reception was also hosted by Dr. Hassan Abbasi, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, who had made the journey to personally see the team off on their adventure.
Following a quick descent to the lower Barufa Camp and onwards to the nearby town of Moshi, Miss Brady shared:
“We are elated beyond words and immensely proud of the incredible team and support that made this ambition dreamt up a few years ago, somehow become a reality. The final hours before reaching the summit were a real test of resilience, however we somehow made it through and found the perfect moment for the concert with only the clouds below us”.
“It’s been an unforgettable experience, rewarding and challenging in equal measure and I know I speak from all of the team when I thank everyone who sent in messages from far and wide. The constant encouragement and support made some of the steps forward all that bit easier”.
One of the first to offer their congratulations to the entire team, was CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, Philip Watt, who along with his colleagues and many members of the Cystic Fibrosis community in Ireland and further afield, have been closely following their progress.
“We are proud that the Highest Harp Challenge team has had a successful ascent and reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa’.
“We know this has been a supreme effort for all the team and with many months of planning, including for our colleague Caroline Heffernan who has cystic fibrosis. We are very respectful of the fact that Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa but is also a sacred mountain for many in Tanzania and we pay tribute to the many who assisted the team in reaching the summit and making a safe return’.
“Many congratulations to Siobhan Brady and her team for this fundraising initiative and for topping her own world record in playing the ‘highest harp’ at such a high altitude and many thanks to the leader of the climb, Pat Falvey the renowned Irish climber’
“We do not underestimate how difficult this challenge was and we look forward to welcoming them all back to Ireland. With much respect and gratitude to the Highest Harp Concert Challenge for organising this initiative. Funding from this challenge will support the key work of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland”.
Following some well-deserved rest, the team have begun to return to Irish shores to celebrate their achievements with friends and family. As part of a cultural programme, Siobhan performed at a special reception at the residence of the Irish Ambassador to Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Monday evening before making the return journey.
The Highest Harp Concert has also been supported by the online fundraising platform, Just Giving: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Highest-Harp