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Harald Mór hitting the right notes in west Donegal

A German musician with deep roots in Donegal is rounding up the county’s finest trad artists for a CD in aid of the charity Doctors Without Borders.

Harald Juengst has lived between Ranafast and his native Duisburg for over 40 years and has built up strong musical connections in west Donegal, to the point where he is now known among locals as simply ‘Harald Mór’.

Harald is drawing on those links to compile a CD for the global charity which provides medical aid to conflict zones and countries hit by humanitarian disaster.

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“Doctors Without Borders are doing a fantastic job for humanity worldwide in 70 countries and my plan is, after covering all productions expenses, that every single penny of profit from the album will go the charity,” the 68-year-old musician said.

Harald Juengst’s association with Donegal reaches back to 1978 when he accidentally stumbled upon the home of Clannad. He was working as primary school teacher in Germany and decided to take some time away from the classroom to explore Ireland.

After making his way up the west coast from Cork, through Kerry and Sligo, he eventually ended up in west Donegal.

“I was a fan of Clannad but I did not know they were from Donegal. Then one night I was in a bed and breakfast, Kemple’s Bed and Breakfast in Burtonport where it was £5 to stay for a night, and I decided it was too quiet and that I should go out.

“I made my way to Meenaleck and into Leo’s Tavern where Leo was playing the accordion. I thought to myself ‘this is amazing’.”

Harald was so taken by The Rosses that the following year he and two friends decided to buy a rundown property in the area with a view to doing it up. Their searches proved fruitless until a further chance encounter in Leo’s Tavern.

“There was only myself, Leo and Seán Rua, the late John Gillespie, in the bar and I was telling them that I would love to buy a place but that I could not find one. Seán told me he had the perfect place. He showed it to me and that was it, it was affordable and I started working from there.”

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After immersing himself in Donegal’s rich culture, he took his love of the county back to Germany with him.

He had just started working as a DJ on a number of radio stations, including Radio Duisburg, and much of his airtime became dedicated to performers like Clannad, Manus Lunny, Goats Don’t Shave and Altan. It was Harald Juengst in fact who helped Altan secure their first ever German gig back in 1988.

Such was his passion for Irish music, he even formed his own German Irish folk band ‘Shoveen’ which he still plays the bodhran with today. When in Ireland he performs as part of ‘Fior Uisce’ along with musicians Joe Mhici Mac Grianna, John Michael O’Donnell and Tony and Ann Croke.

He has even introduced his own musical weapon, the ‘hand pan’ – a steel drum-type instrument with its origins in Switzerland – to the local trad scene, playing it alongside the bodhrans, tin whistles and banjos of his band mates.

When not playing or holding court on the airwaves, Harald with his Duisburg/Donegal accent spends his time bringing stories of Irish folklore into local schools as well as to schools around the world.

Harald Mór can be heard each Saturday on Rosses Radio at 4pm where he has his own show, Folk Like Us.

Work on the charity CD for Doctors Without Borders has already begun with four tracks recorded. It is being put together in Manus Lunny’s studio at Braade with Manus in the producer’s chair.

Already confirmed to contribute musically are Fior Uisce, Ian Smith, Stephen Campbell, Conny Mhary Mhici Gallagher, Suzanne Ni Gallagher, Caitriona Solan, Tom Byrne and Jacqui Sharkey with more artists expected to sign up. Harald himself has developed six songs and six instrumentals with the hand pan and some of these will feature on the collection.

The project is not without cost however and the man from Germany is looking for sponsors. All financial contributors will have their name featured on the CD’s cover.

If you would like to help Harald out, he can be reached via his website, www.harald-juengst.com or by email, info@harald-juengst.com.

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