Carlotta Hester and ‘The Pure Drop’

by Chris Murray on August 3, 2020

Ireland’s Anglo-Celt newspaper, publishing since 1846, recently featured a story about Carlotta Hester’s just-released book of live-action drawings of traditional Irish music artists called The Pure Drop. This book celebrates the 10th anniversary of the All Ireland Music Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world. Here is that story and some visuals from The Pure Drop.

July 16th, 2020 by Thomas Lyons

During the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2012, American artist Carlotta Hester made over 150 drawings in County Cavan. Each a rendering of traditional Irish musicians, singers, and dancers captured at the height of their creative flow.

Tommy Peoples, Co. Donegal, Fiddle
Ed Reavy Tribute Concert, Cavan Crystal Hotel, Cavan

Now the artist has gathered a selection of her drawings in a beautiful publication called The Pure Drop.

Chris Murray is the publisher of the collection: “It occurred to me that the 10th anniversary of the Fleadh was this summer and that it coincided with the staging of the Ulster Fleadh in Cavan. I thought it would be great to mark that by publishing Carlotta’s wonderful live-action drawings. Even though the Ulster Fleadh is canceled, we felt that because the drawings are timeless we would go ahead with it.”

Hester’s drawings are created directly from life while listening to the music in every festival setting: street sessions, theatres, dance classes, pub sessions, masterclasses, outdoor concerts, cross-border gatherings, and more.

Bernadette Nic Gabhann, Co. Limerick, Fiddle
Johnston Library, Cavan

The impact of the experience on the artist and the publisher is apparent when Chris speaks of the time: “Those three summers were an extraordinary time for us. We had never been to an All Ireland Fleadh before and the experience was just magical.”

The book features musical artists from all over Ireland, Scotland, England, and the United States. The sketched portraits include fiddlers Tommy Peoples and Oisin MacDiarmada, harpist Catriona McKay, and lilter Seamus Fay.

The Pure Drop is a celebration of the artistry of deep-rooted Irish traditions which continue to thrive today: “We have to thank Martin Donohoe. He was our Irish music guru.”

Martin Donohoe, The Wind That Blows radio show,
Northern Sound Radio Station, Cavan

The book is very much a Cavan publication: “I had the book printed in Cavan at Harvest Moon in Killeshandra. It is very much a celebration of coming home and discovering traditional music and being moved by its artistry.”

Fintan McManus, Co. Fermanagh, Guitar
Farnham Arms, Cavan

Carlotta Hester has exhibited in Washington DC, Ireland, and Cuba. She combines her art practice with art teaching, and has been the art teacher at the prestigious Maret School since 1994.

The book will have an official launch on Sunday, August 9 in The Farnham Arms Hotel at 3:00 pm. It will celebrate the book and the 10th anniversary of the 2010 All Ireland Fleadh in Cavan.

The Pure Drop cover, by Carlotta Hester.

The pure Drop is available in Ireland at and in the United States at

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