The HHSI’s mission is to return to Ireland a unique aspect of Irish traditional music – the oldest part, lost to the living tradition 200 years ago – but which, with rigorous application and study, can be partially restored. The Arts Council’s 2016 Report on the Harping Tradition in Ireland notes in section 3.13 (p.65) that:
…the HHSI has no paid administrator and is reliant on voluntary commitment. In a short number of years, the HHSI has made a significant contribution to Irish musical life…[the] HHSI has focused on illuminating the qualities of the early Irish harp, and researching and contextualising this music. Its summer school and concert series are rich musical experiences.
Our approach is one of research-led practice: we use historical evidence to help amateurs, students and professionals – children to adults, from all walks of life – to turn fragmentary historical material back into living music. We are passing on ancient skills to the first large-scale generation of new performers on the instrument for 200 years.
We are also interested in related streams of Gaelic music, including vocal music and piping. We seek to integrate the embedded knowledge of significant living tradition-bearers to help bring historical Irish harp repertory to life in as an authentic and vibrant way as we can.
The cultural importance of the HHSI’s work has now been acknowledged in the honour given to us in March 2018 by Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, who is now our Patron.
Since 2003, the HHSI has had a clear artistic vision and goal with regard to its remit and follows an international ‘HIP’ [Historically Informed Performance] approach, which guides our distinctive approach to all aspects of our work.
We raise the bar for standards in research: we have developed a Research Network of some of the world’s leading scholars, performers, historical instrument builders and tutors in the field. We enable the dissemination of cutting-edge research between these groups by facilitating virtual and in-person communication. We watch with satisfaction the concomitant effects of this, which are the raising of standards, internationally, for the building of replicas of the surviving old instruments and for a rising bar in performance practice.
We support – and collaborate with – established artists and enable them to make work of ambition and quality, which in turn allows us to offer high-quality programming. We enable the passing on of expertise, skills and traditions from established artists to emerging artists; to beginner-to-professional performers; amongst academics and tutors in the field, to children and adults. We mentor and support emerging artists and our programmes provide significant opportunities for professional development in the field.