This project was undertaken to study the Hollybrook harp, a surviving 18th-century early Irish harp, to provide an accessible database that harp makers can use to build instruments modelled after it. The Historical Harp Society of Ireland has made these files available for download as a publicly accessible resource. The work was conducted by Dr Karen Loomis (project leader) and Simon Chadwick (research associate).
Why this harp?
The Hollybrook harp broadly dates to the time-period of the Irish harp music collected by Edward Bunting in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and is of the ‘high-headed’ form played by most of the harpers at that time. Newly-built harps modelled after historical instruments like the Hollybrook are an important resource for musicians pursuing historically informed performance of early Irish harp repertory. This project also contributes to the caretaking of Ireland’s material culture by reducing the need for future physical handling of this historic instrument.
The Hollybrook is also a rare surviving example of an early Irish harp with a pieced soundbox and, according to the description in Robert Bruce Armstrong’s The Irish and the Highland Harps, was extensively decorated with golden motifs. The decorative work he described is not visible, so an interesting research challenge for this project was to see if it could be imaged under infrared or ultraviolet light.