N.B. We warmly welcome players of ALL kinds of harps to attend our festival.
The festival vibe is of a local, national and international family who comes 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 harp music, then join us this July 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, where 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...
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 Scotland, from the early Middle Ages until the the nineteenth century, 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. The modern Irish harp (aka lever harp, Celtic harp, and clarsach) is a different instrument.
The HHSI exists to promote the older instrument, which is also called cláirseach, clàrsach, Gaelic harp, old-Irish harp and wire-strung harp.
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/
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.
The HHSI is not responsible for festival-attendee accommodation, but is very happy to assist with accommodation questions. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for help. N.B. Early booking of accommodation is essential, as Kilkenny is a very popular tourist destination.
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]!"
M M, USA
M M, USA
E NiR, Ireland
Scoil na gCláirseach is proud to be supported by the Festival Investment Scheme of An Chomhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council of Ireland.