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 research-led: we take historical evidence and help amateurs, students and professionals – children to adults, from all walks of life – to turn that 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 help harp builders to raise the bar on the building of replicas of the ancient instruments. We are also interested in related streams of Gaelic music, including vocal music and piping.
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’ approach [Historically Informed Performance], which guides our unique and distinctive approach to all aspects of our work.
We raise the bar, world-wide, for standards in research: We have developed a Research Network of the world’s leading scholars, performers, instrument builders and teachers in the field. We enable the dissemination of cutting-edge knowledge between these groups by facilitating virtual and in-person communication and watch with satisfaction the concomitant effects of this on the raising of standards, internationally, for instrument-building and performance.
We enable the passing on of expertise, skills and traditions from established artists to emerging artists, instrument builders, beginner-to-professional performers, academics and teachers, children and adults, by means of
* face-to-face contact during our events
* email and phone contact
* our website
* through the dedicated Members’ area on our web site
* our youtube channel youtube.com/user/historicalharp
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 try to remunerate our artists adequately, according to national norms.
We mentor and support emerging artists and our programmes provide unique and much-needed opportunities for professional development in the field.
The HHSI has a consistent track record in innovative, unique programming and services since its founding fifteen years ago. We deliver:
• an international academic and media information service
• concerts and lectures on our Youtube channel
• Discovery days: talks, concerts & beginners’ workshops for adults and children
• year-round tuition for adults and children in Ireland, north and south, and an international virtual tuition programme
• the world’s first early Irish harp rental harp bank
• the world’s first lending and reference library in the field
• an annual international summer festival
• concerts with leading international historical performers: harpers, pipers & singers
MORE ABOUT OUR PROGRAMMES
We deliver the first ever national tuition programme for children, adults and retired people, now operating in Armagh, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis. Lessons are individual and are usually of sixty minutes duration.
We offer an international tuition programme by Skype for adults and teenagers [currently USA, Brazil, Italy, UK, Japan]. irishharp.org/tuition
Our students have affordable access to the first ever rental bank of early Irish harps: seventeen instruments in total (nine HHSI harp models based on medieval to 18th-century harps in museum and private collections). Instrument cost: just €35 pcm.
Our students study the ancient Irish harp music – collected from the last of the Irish harpers in the 18th century, which survives in manuscript and early printed sources – under expert guidance from world experts in the field who have many years of pedagogical expertise at school, music conservatory and university level.
The HHSI’s Scoil na gCláirseach–Festival of Early Irish Harp is the only international festival for the instrument with interactive presentations, workshops, talks, intensive daily tuition and walk-in Beginners’ Taster events. irishharp.org/festival
Daily festival concerts feature quality performances of rare and evocative historical Irish music with Irish and international harpists, singers, pipers, and offer a showcase for emerging performers. youtube.com/watch?v=pGBrBlkg0yY
HHSI Concert Series [inc. Kilkenny, Galway, Belfast, Dublin] deliver quality concert performances of rare and evocative historical Irish music. Programmes range from Gaelic plainchant in Latin to 18th-century Irish and Gaelic Scottish music.
The HHSI has over 600 items in the first ever 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). irishharp.org/library
We offer nationally-accessible early Irish harp Discovery weekends: Interactive schools visit on the Friday; public LISTEN – LEARN – PLAY events on the Saturday: lunchtime recital – illustrated lecture – hands-on Beginners’ workshop. Four such in 2018: Waterford, Galway, Dublin and Belfast. irishharp.org/discovery
We present illustrated, interactive public talks around Ireland and offer nationally-accessible Beginners’ Taster workshops, often in collaboration with other organisations, festivals and institutions e.g. Trinity College Dublin, Galway Early Music Festival, and The National Museum of Ireland. irishharp.org/events
We run an on-line shop for harps, accessories and CDs.
Since 2017 we have been driving our social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Linkedin – and our youtube channel.
One of our former students is now an HHSI tutor and workshop leader, a professional performer on early Irish harp and completing an MA on Patrick Quin, the eighteenth-century harper.
* Sylvia Crawford, Armagh. youtube.com/watch?v=4H-F9r03ad4
Other former students in Ireland are now performers on, and teachers of, the instrument:
* Brenda Malloy, Dublin. linkedin.com/in/brenda-malloy-36001a14/?ppe=1
* Natalie Surina, Connemara. eriuharps.com
Several of our international students are now professional performers and teachers on the instrument e.g.
* Vicente la Camera Marino, Canary Islands. harpantiqua.blogspot.com
* Brendan Ring, France. brendanringauthormusic.com
* Barbara Karlik, Poland. harfiarka.pl
* James Ruff, USA. jamesrufftenorharper.com
Another of our former beginners has recently earned the first PhD in medieval Irish harp organological studies and is now the world expert in the field:
* Dr Karen Loomis, USA. youtube.com/watch?v=A3YNSqgYsFc
Another is now a successful professional builder of early Irish harps here in Ireland:
* Natalia Surina of Eriu Harps, Connemara, Co. Galway. eriuharps.com
Some of our international participants now bring their own students to Ireland to take part in Scoil na gCláirseach so our work can be seen to be leading already to an international second generation of performers.
OUR ARTS PRACTICE & COLLABORATIONS
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 Office of Public Works, Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, Na Píobairi Uilleann, Music Network, Galway Early Music Festival, churches and cultural centres.