The Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Sat 23rd - Fri 29th July 2022

We invite you to immerse yourself in the music and traditions of Gaeldom's exquisite, ancient harp. Our aim is to share with you the ‘real deal’ of the music of the old harpers, exploring as much of their world as is now possible two centuries after the tradition died out.

N.B. We warmly welcome players of ALL kinds of harps to attend our 2022 festival.

What is this festival all about?

The festival vibe is of a local, national and international family who come together each year to encourage, help, and learn from each other. In joining us, you enter a world of enthusiastic, friendly people, excited about turning dusty pages into fresh, living music. Our knowledgeable community features many world experts in the field, all of whom want to share their expertise with you. If you ever wanted to dip a toe in the water of early Irish harping, then join us this July, onsite in Kilkenny OR online from the comfort of your own living room!

We will enable you to hear, play and sing the music familiar to Gaelic chieftains, and later, those in the Great Irish Houses, in which the early Irish harp was played alongside harpsichords, baroque violins, flutes and Irish pipes. 

Your immersion in our festival is designed to give you the skills to bring your own performances of historical Gaelic harp music gloriously alive as you might never have imagined before. If you are interested in seeing authentic, historical sources, and learning how to use these to turn old paper and ink into living, breathing music, then this festival will interest you – we go an inch wide, and a mile deep! If you are curious of mind as well as curious of finger, then this might be for you?

Find out more about the specifics of the festival on the ticketing page HERE

Scroll further down this page for more information on what makes us special...

What is an early Irish harp?

The early Irish harp – wire-strung, with a melting, bell-like resonance – was the zenith of medieval Gaelic music culture, played in Ireland and in the Scottish Highlands & Islands, from the early Middle Ages until the years just after 1800, when it died out.

By the early sixteenth century, the early Irish harp came to symbolise Ireland itself, and is still depicted in the national emblem. It died out in the nineteenth century, replaced by the modern Irish harp (aka lever harp, Celtic harp, and clarsach), a different instrument.

The HHSI exists to promote this historical harp, which is also called cláirseach, clàrsach, Gaelic harp, old-Irish harp and wire-strung harp.

Kilkenny, Ireland
Home to Scoil na gCláirseach

Kilkenny is a medieval city which has a rich heritage of historic buildings, lively pubs, fine restaurants and wonderful shops. Dublin and Shannon airports are two hours away; the nearest ferryport is Rosslare. For bus, rail and other information please visit https://visitkilkenny.ie/

Festival Venue

Our venue is Coláiste Pobail Osraí secondary school, on Ormonde Road in the city of Kilkenny, with easy access by foot to accommodation, shops, restaurants, pubs and tourist attractions.

Accommodation

A range of accommodation is available within walking distance. For further information please see https://visitkilkenny.ie or email Kilkenny Tourism Information kilkenny@failteireland.ie

The HHSI is not responsible for student accommodation, but is very happy to assist with accommodation questions. Please email info@irishharp.org for help. Early booking of accommodation is strongly recommended, as Kilkenny is a very popular destination in July, and available accommodation is limited in 2022.

What is so special about Scoil na gCláirseach?

We explore the performance practices, traditions and history of the early Irish harp, giving you the skills you need to source, research, reconstruct, and play medieval to 18th-century music of Ireland and Scotland. We introduce you to the earliest harp-music manuscripts and printed sources, enabling you to discover as much as possible about the old traditions.

We teach historical playing techniques and idiom gleaned from harpers in the 1790s, just before the tradition died out – quite different to those used in modern Irish harping. In intensive players’ sessions, and workshops, we study the music of Turlough Carolan, Patrick Quin, Dennis O'Hampsay and others. 

We also connect you directly to living Irish music masters – pipers, fiddlers and singers – so that you can talk to them, listen to them demonstrate, and soak up their style to inform your own music-making.

Overall, we aim to steer you a little closer to plausible reconstruction – and fresh, confident performances – of old Irish harp music. Of course we will never know how close we are getting. But our hope is that the old harpers might listen, appreciate what we are trying to do, and perhaps say: "Níl sé sin romh olc ar fad [that's not too bad at all]!" 

Woman examining and antique Irish harp on display Two women with harps talking

What do our festival goers say?

I think this is the best festival I have ever attended. You have given me food for thought and learning for a long time to come.

M M, USA

It was a brilliant festival! Great to see old friends and make new ones. And so much wonderful music and inspired teaching. Congratulations to Siobhán and Karen and the whole team.

MW, Ireland

As a first-timer at the Scoil, I have felt warmly welcomed at all of the events…the sessions were, and continue to be, amazing. The high level of musicianship, scholarly research, and professionalism is very impressive…I'm completely gobsmacked in a very positive way…My heartfelt thanks to you…for sharing your talents and love of the harp and music and doing the work to make the Scoil happen.

JA, Canada

I am so happy that I am participating in your festival. The classes…have inspired and informed me so very much. The concerts are both beautiful and informative and the talks have introduced me to a fascinating world of piecing together the ‘sound world’ of the early harpers. My exposure to your festival has already informed my approach to playing my modern harp. Thank you…for your dedication to your research and to your craft and for bringing together all of these exceptional people to share their passion and knowledge with us.

LP, USA

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What do our festival goers say?

I think this is the best festival I have ever attended. You have given me food for thought and learning for a long time to come.

M M, USA

It was a brilliant festival! Great to see old friends and make new ones. And so much wonderful music and inspired teaching. Congratulations to Siobhán and Karen and the whole team.

MW, Ireland

As a first-timer at the Scoil, I have felt warmly welcomed at all of the events…the sessions were, and continue to be, amazing. The high level of musicianship, scholarly research, and professionalism is very impressive…I'm completely gobsmacked in a very positive way…My heartfelt thanks to you…for sharing your talents and love of the harp and music and doing the work to make the Scoil happen.

JA, Canada

I am so happy that I am participating in your festival. The classes…have inspired and informed me so very much. The concerts are both beautiful and informative and the talks have introduced me to a fascinating world of piecing together the ‘sound world’ of the early harpers. My exposure to your festival has already informed my approach to playing my modern harp. Thank you…for your dedication to your research and to your craft and for bringing together all of these exceptional people to share their passion and knowledge with us.

LP, USA

I am having A BLAST! This is just so fabulous…I am loving Scoil!

JK, USA

Thank you again for organising and hosting this wonderful festival and connecting us all, early Irish harp lovers together.

AG, France

…it’s so refreshing to be on a course where ideas are broached, and followed through with discussions and examples provided from different genres, and an expert from a genre. The whole course is so well conceived…I am so sorry to have missed…class this afternoon. And that's exactly why this course is so good…because I know I can catch up… Right up to December!! I shall…miss the course when it ends.

LP, UK

I am energized by the passion, commitment, scholarship and musical expertise in your Early Harp community, and thrilled to be connected and finally dipping my toes into such rich waters! I have wanted to do so for a while…..but this online format has allowed me to do so!

LR, USA

I'm so happy that I signed up and hope this is the first of many festivals for me. It's really wonderful how welcoming everyone has been.

LB, USA

Thank you again for a fantastic course and I am looking forward to next year already! Your attention to detail on every aspect of this course is impressive.

MMcG, Scotland

I can't tell you how grateful I am to be stepping into a world that's been paved with such incredible research and resources... I've been blown away by the depth of thought, preparation, earnest passion and exciting ideas and honestly just... style, put into the whole course! It's a true joy to witness and be invited to participate in…it's incredible. I'm in awe of you all!!

MMcK, Ireland

I…can’t wait to go back through the recordings, catch up on the sessions I didn’t attend & comb back through the ones I participated in, looking for all the things I missed on the first go. I will definitely attend again next year…I’m really quite excited about the things I’ve encountered this week…Thank you so much for all your efforts with all of this.

AA, USA

Fabulous festival - congratulations and thanks to Siobhan and Karen and all the team! xxx Loved meeting everybody and all the wonderful and talented participants in my classes! had a great time as usual at Scoil and leaving this Scoil feeling very inspired!!!

E NiR, Ireland

I am truly captivated by the energy and passion coming from you all! I wanted to attend the Scoil in person a few years back, but it was not possible to make the trip, and this year having the event online makes all the difference. Quite delighted. Congratulations on a super festival! You all are a great team!

LR, USA

This week has been absolutely wonderful! …the sessions have been absolutely fantastic. I've really enjoyed everything. Thanks for all the work you've put into this. It really shows, and it's much appreciated.

MKJ, USA

Thank You. This felt so personal. This was my first experience with the early Irish harp and singing in Irish and i really loved it.

OW, USA

It's always amazing!

AB, Italy

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Scoil na gCláirseach is proud to be supported by the Festival Investment Scheme of An Chomhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council of Ireland.

This project is funded by the Kilkenny Creative Ireland Programme 2022.

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