Online Group-Tuition Programmes

Academy Programmes

Beginning - 04 Feb 2023

Introduction to Irish for harpists and singers


The Irish language relates to everything in the early-Irish-harp world: from technical harp and harp-technique terms to the very many lyrics of surviving harp songs from the 17th and 18th centuries. This course is a response to participants at the 2022 Acadamh who expressed a wish to dip a toe into the waters of the Irish language. We have put together six carefully curated sessions that will take you organically from the basics of pronunciation to an exploration of harp terminology to a session on the orthography and abbreviations that often make reading an 18th-century manuscript page a bit tricky for the uninitiated, all the way to learning a harp song in Irish in the final session. We hope you enjoy it — bígí linn ['join us']!

Course Duration

6 Sessions



Class Time

5:30–6:45 pm (GMT)




Saturday | 5:30–6:45 pm (GMT)

04 Feb

Session 1

Fuaimeanna na Gaeilge ['Sounds of Irish']

An introduction to the vowels, consonants, accents, lenition and eclipses in Irish, with in-class activities to help you read and hear the language and then have a go yourself. [Richard Maher]

11 Feb

Session 2

Cruth na Gaeilge ['How Irish Works'] (1 of 2)

Introducing different types of words in Irish — pronouns, prepositions, adjectives, nouns, prepositional pronouns and verbs. Identifying the commonalities between Irish and all other languages in this regard, followed by an activity to spot and identify all these words in sentences together. [Richard Maher]

18 Feb

Session 3

Cruth na Gaeilge ['How Irish Works'] (2 of 2) and Harp-related terminology in Irish

Sentence structure and word order, an tuiseal ginideach [the genitive case], prepositional phrases and other things that make the language quite unique. We will also look at harp-related terminology including terms used by Edward Bunting in his 1840 publication: The Ancient Music of Ireland. [Richard Maher]

25 Feb

Session 4

Poetic metre

This session will introduce the subject of song-metres in the Irish-Language tradition, and how an understanding of the metrical structure of songs can encourage confidence, and inform and improve your performance. This will be directed primarily at beginners with no previous familiarity with the subject or knowledge of the Irish language. However, it is intended that performers who have more experience of singing in Irish should find his presentation interesting and instructive. [Éamonn Ó Bróithe]

04 Mar

Session 5

Reading Irish language song texts from manuscript sources.

This session will introduce you to reading Irish script (particularly for those who did not attend school in Ireland) and the major conventions of Irish orthography and grammar. This will include a brief guide to reading dictionary entries and utilizing open access dictionaries and grammar guides. The field of Irish paleography is broad, covering many centuries and genres. In this class, we will specifically look at examples of James Cody’s and Patrick Lynch's transcriptions of Irish song texts collected in the field for Edward Bunting, particularly Cody's scribal abbreviations. At the end of the class, attendees will be given an example, and links to additional guides to abbreviations. [Conn Mac Aogáin]

11 Mar

Session 6

Learn to sing the harp song Máilí Bhán ['fair Molly']

Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin will guide you through song lyrics for the first melody traditionally taught to harp students in the old Irish harp tradition pre 1800. Drawing on what you have learned in the previous sessions, and with Eibhlis's guidance in this session, you will now more confidently pronounce, understand, and finally sing the lyrics of this iconic Irish harp song. [Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin]

What to Expect

In this course students will

  • be introduced to the basics of Irish pronunciation, syntax and grammar
  • be introduced to, and discuss, ancient Irish terms and terminology to do with the harp, listed by Edward Bunting in his Ancient Music of Ireland publication of 1840
  • learn about the metre and structural forms of Irish poetry and song lyrics
  • examine, and have explained, the orthography and scribal abbreviations used in different manuscripts to notate harp-song lyrics in the 18th and 19th centuries
  • learn to pronounce and sing the lyrics of an iconic Irish harp song

Technical Requirements

  • A laptop, desktop or tablet computer; we do not recommend using a phone to participate
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Access to a printer for downloadable course materials
  • Access to the Zoom platform; further information to help you get set up for participating over Zoom will be sent after you have registered

Enrollment is now closed

You can no longer join this course