The Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Rediscovering the early Irish harp

Our Aim

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland brings to life a lost sound world. Founded in 2002, it leads a rediscovery of Ireland’s illustrious medieval musical instrument, depicted in the national emblem: the early Irish harp. Silent for hundreds of years, the ravishing sound – and the rarely heard music – of the old Irish harp sounds fresh to modern ears but also evokes the farthest reaches of ancient Irish history and culture.
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Our Activities

The Historical Society of Ireland brings people together to rediscover the old Irish harp with wire strings, depicted in the national emblem, and played until the early 1800s:

Early Irish Harp Discovery Days

We present nationally accessible early Irish harp Discovery Days with 'Listen – Learn – Have a Go!' events in collaboration with other Irish organisations, festivals and institutions.

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The HHSI Rental Harp Collection

We offer players taking HHSI tuition affordable access to the first ever rental collection of early Irish harps. We have seventeen instruments in total: nine HHSI harp models based on medieval to eighteenth-century harps in museum and private collections. Cost: €35 p.c.m.

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Tuition

The HHSI offers a tutor-finding service for early Irish harp tuition for term time classes in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Armagh and Waterford. Classes are individual and normally last for sixty minutes. Longer lessons are also possible. We can also help you access online tuition available over Skype (and similar). Currently we have networked tutors to players in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Italy, UK and Japan.

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The HHSI Library

The HHSI has 500+ items in the first ever members’ library of books, periodicals, CDs and ephemera, devoted to early Irish harp and related subjects (Irish history and culture; 17th-21st century scholarly material; parallel European source material; sound recordings and ephemera). In 2020 our online catalogue went live in an integrated library management system.

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Artist Support and Mentoring

One-to-one artist support time is now a key, integral part of our remit to foster the rediscovery of the early Irish harp: mentoring artists and inspiring them through dissemination of the latest expert knowledge in the field and also helping them to network with diverse experts in this – and related – fields.

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The HHSI Harp Collection

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland is assembling a collection of antique and replica harps. If you are considering donating an eighteenth-, nineteenth- or early-twentieth century harp to a public collection or institution, please consider the HHSI first.

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Online Resources

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland aims to connect to as much useful and relevant information as possible. If you know of any additional links that may be approcriate please contact us.

Useful Links

The HHSI Youtube Channel

Watch 60+ videos of concert performances, talks and workshops filmed at our events over the years, recorded and made available as a public resource on our dedicated Youtube channel.

HHSI Youtube Channel

Scoil na gCláirseach–Festival of Early Irish Harp

The HHSI’s Scoil na gCláirseach–Festival of Early Irish Harp is Ireland’s international annual festival for the instrument with interactive presentations, workshops, talks, intensive daily tuition and walk-in Beginners’ Taster events.

Festival Site

Scientific Research

We support cutting-edge scientific research on surviving historic Irish harps by the world experts in the field. Learn about our project to research the Hollybrook harp, and access the project’s online resources for harp makers.

Report: The Hollybrook Project

Outcomes

Some of those we have coached and mentored over the years are now professional artists, harp tutors, harp builders and/or have achieved MAs and PhDs in the field from e.g. Ireland, Northern Ireland, The Canary Islands, Poland and the USA. Some of our international festival participants now bring their own students to Ireland to take part in Scoil na gCláirseach—Festival of Early Irish Harp each summer so our work is now giving rise to an international second generation of performers. Harp makers benefit from our scientific survey projects in having access to the most up-to-date data in order to build replicas of early Irish harps.

Arts Practice

We have a commitment to high-quality, collaborative arts practice. We have excellent links to – and have collaborated on programming with – many other music organisations, third-level institutions, churches and cultural centres – both north and south – in Ireland to provide concert events but also Illustrated Talks and Beginners’ workshop events for amateur and non-musicians to try out the early Irish harp. These organisations include: The National Museum of Ireland; The Office of Public Works; Trinity College Dublin; NUI Galway; Na Píobairi Uilleann, Dublin; Music Network; Galway Early Music Festival; The Seamus Ennis Arts Centre, Co. Dublin; The Remembering Bunting Festival, Belfast; Harp Ireland, Cairde na Cruite, churches and cultural centres.

Arts Council Funding Traditional Arts Music Network Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Harp Ireland