Mina Hauth, 11, took first in under-12 harp.
When she sits in a chair, her tiny feet don’t touch the floor. At 6, she is always the youngest fiddler, by far, playing in any local traditional Irish music session. But Haley Richardson has big talent, and she can hold her own with the grownups. Need proof? How about a first-place finish in the under-12 category at the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil in Pearl River, N.Y.?
Haley’s win was no cakewalk. The May competition in which the Vineland, N.J., girl took part started at 11:30 a.m. with 22 young fiddlers. It ended, after several grueling rounds of competition, at 4 p.m. Haley didn’t break a sweat. “I’m not usually nervous,” she says.
All the more remarkable, she adds with a smile: “It was my first time at the Fleadh.”
With one challenge down, Haley is going to travel to Tullamore, County Offaly, in late August to match skills with under-12s from throughout the world in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann—the all-Ireland music festival. (And you can help get her there. More on that in a moment.)
Haley’s musical interests started early. She has been playing violin since she was 3 years old and fiddling for almost 2 years.
“At two and a half years old, Haley used to play around with our electric piano that had songs already pre-programmed into it,” he mom Donna recalls. “I asked her if she wanted piano lessons and she said, ‘No, I already know how to play piano. I want to play violin.’ It took me a few months to find her a teacher and she started Suzuki lessons a month after her 3rd birthday.”
When Haley was four and a half years old, she saw a small poster at the local library advertising a concert being given by famed Irish fiddler Kevin Burke and guitarist Cal Scott. “I decided to take her so she could hear another type of ‘violin’ music,” Donna says. “She immediately fell in love with Irish music and during the intermission, begged me to buy her Kevin’s ‘How to Play Celtic Fiddle’ DVD. The first day I put it on for her, she learned the first song in five minutes. She did the same the next day so I began to search for a fiddle teacher. If I remember correctly, someone from Irish Philadelphia gave me Kathy DeAngelo’s name.”
Haley is one of several DeAngelo students who fared well in Pearl River this year. Harper Mina Hauth, 11, of Chesterfield, N.J. finished first in the under-12s. Mina is bound for the all-Ireland competition, too. She is the daughter of Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Hauth, who returned in December from a five-month deployment in Iraq, and mom Shymali.
Like Haley, Mina was a first-timer at the Pearl River Fleadh. She confesses to being “a little nervous,” but since she also performs Irish dance with the Peter Smith School, Mina says she’s used to public performance.
Mina has played harp for a little over a year. “When I was in 4th grade, Mom said I had to choose an instrument,” Mina says. “I said I wanted to play the harp. I like Celtic music, and Kathy is close to us.”
Mom Shyamali, another DeAngelo student, also performed well at the Fleadh, placing third in the senior division. She confesses to being as nervous as her daughter was calm.
Mina, too, will head for Tullamore in August—fulfilling a promise by her parents. “I told her that if she placed first, we’d make it happen,” says Shyamali.
Other DeAngelo students who did well in the Fleadh:
• Katie Ely, third place, 12-15 harp
• Katherine Highet, second place, senior harp
• Haley Richardson and Alexander Ball-Weir, third place, under 12 fiddle duet
As for helping Haley get to Ireland, here are the details: Mom Donna and dad Stewart are hosting a fundraiser on July 25 at 7 p.m. at Fuelhouse Coffee/Bain’s Deli at 636 E. Landis Avenue in Vineland, N.J. Someday, when she’s famous, you’ll be able to say you knew her when.