Who doesn’t want to hear the sound of the medieval Brian Boru harp? Or who wouldn’t like to know what Turlough Carolan’s music might have sounded like on the kind of harp he played?
The Historical Harp Society of Ireland was founded in 2002 to support a revival of the largely forgotten medieval musical instrument, which has one thousand years of illustrious history and tradition behind it and which is still depicted in the national emblem: the early Irish harp.
The Society promotes the rigorous study of and historically informed performance of the instrument and its music, which lies at the core of Irish music traditions, using measured copies of the surviving historic Irish harps housed in museum and private collections.
The early Irish harp was the instrumental pinnacle of courtly music in Ireland from before the year 1000 up to the period shortly after 1800, when it died out. With a resonating chamber usually carved from a single log traditionally willow and strung with wires of brass, silver or perhaps even gold, whose resonating strings were selectively damped, the extraordinary sweetness of this instrument was described in glowing terms by early writers.
It was replaced in the 19th century by a newly invented instrument, which now bears the name ‘Irish harp’. The more modern Irish harp’s construction, stringing and playing technique is derived from the late 18th century European pedal harp and is therefore very different to the original medieval, diatonic Irish instrument.
The Society wishes to create, and expand, awareness of the earlier Irish harp, and to revive it, by encouraging an HIP (historically informed performance) approach, the building of new instruments, and by fostering multidisciplinary academic study of the instrument, and its repertoire, by the following means: