The Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Fri 7th - Thur 13th | July 2023



Dr Siobhán Armstrong

Festival director, speaker, workshop leader, tutor, concert artist

Siobhán Armstrong is a coach, mentor, academic and Ireland’s most versatile performer of medieval to 18th-century church and chamber music, and opera. She performs and records with many of Europe's prestigious historical and traditional musicians, directors, orchestras and baroque opera companies. Siobhán is unusual in placing herself at the confluence where ‘historical’ meets ‘traditional’ performance practice. For more than 25 years, she has been exploring the lost repertory, playing techniques and idiom of the early Irish harp. This is also the subject of her PhD (Middlesex University, London). In 2015, Siobhán located a lost historic Irish harp, and in 2016 she commissioned the first ever 3D laser scan of a musical instrument at The National Museum. Sharing her discoveries is now at the heart of her artistic and educational work. Siobhán is an Occasional Lecturer at the School of Music, University College Dublin. With her ensemble, The Irish Consort, she has released Music, Ireland and the Sixteenth Century on Destino Classics, UK, shedding light on a neglected century in Irish music. This was one of The Irish Times’ top five international Classical Music picks of 2021. Building community, supporting artists, and encouraging research is at the core of the HHSI’s work under her direction. Listen to Dr Siobhán Armstrong

Dr Karen Loomis

Festival assistant director, speaker, museum field-trip leader

Karen is one of the world’s foremost experts in the study of the construction and craftsmanship of early Irish harps. She conducts scientific analysis of historical instruments, uncovering the wealth of information they hold in order to help musical instrument makers, musicians, and museums. She has led groundbreaking work studying the harps of Ireland and Scotland, and in 2020 led an HHSI project funded by the Arts Council of Ireland to undertake analysis of the 18th-century Hollybrook harp at the National Museum of Ireland. Karen’s expertise is in non-invasive techniques, utilizing extensive experience in scientific imaging, and an interdisciplinary background in STEM and music. She studied at the University of Edinburgh, earning a MMus in musical instrument research followed by a PhD in music (organology). She also has a BS in physics from the University of Connecticut, and an MA in astronomy from Wesleyan University. Listen to Dr Karen Loomis

Simon Chadwick

Speaker, workshop leader, museum field-trip leader

Simon Chadwick is a musician, researcher and educator, specialising in the old Irish harp traditions. He researches and studies the lives and works of the harpers, their tunes and playing techniques, and the design and setup of their harps, utilising his formal training in archaeology and physics in his research.

Simon has worked with piper Barnaby Brown on developing pioneering online video lessons and website publishing, and collaborated with Siobhán Armstrong to help create a thriving scene of playing wire-strung harps in Ireland.

Originally from the south of England, he relocated to Scotland and became involved with the Scottish traditional music scene in Dundee, working with Sheena Wellington to organise events and classes there. Since 2018 Simon has been living in Armagh in Northern Ireland.

Simon’s other musical love is change ringing on tower bells. He is Northern District Ringing Master in the Irish Association of Change Ringers. Listen to Simon Chadwick

Sylvia Crawford


Sylvia is a professional musician, teacher and author. Her recent work has specialised in the old Irish wire-strung harp. Since returning to her native County Armagh in 2013, Sylvia has collaborated with award-winning singer, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin; Sylvia's research and videos are featured on the Oriel Arts website project ( In 2019, she was awarded a Masters in ethnomusicology for her research, which focused on the eighteenth-century Armagh harper, Patrick Quin. Sylvia's ongoing study of fragmentary written evidence about the lost oral tradition, along with her knowledge of Irish traditional music, have led her to new interpretations of the evidence, and new insights into traditional harp playing techniques, fingering and style. Her book, An Introduction to Old Irish Harp Playing Techniques, was published in 2021. Sylvia is currently working on a second book of arrangements of old Irish harp airs, using her reconstructed playing techniques and fingering. Listen to Sylvia Crawford

Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin

Workshop leader, tutor, concert artist

Eibhlís is a sean-nós singer, early Irish harpist, composer, arranger and music educator. Uniquely, she researches, reconstructs and performs the much-neglected, seminal repertory of 17th- and 18th-century Irish harp songs (normally now only heard as instrumental melodies). Alongside this, she also creates settings of traditional Irish songs for voice and early Irish harp. She performs these repertoires to her own accompaniment on a replica of a historical Irish harp, using historical harping techniques.

Eibhlís was born in Fermoy, Co. Cork, and grew up there, and in Ballyduff Upper, Co Waterford. She now lives in Co. Wicklow. She is a music graduate of University College Cork, and also holds a Licentiate in Piano Teaching from Trinity College London and a first-class honours MA in Women’s Studies (UCD).

For her sean-nós singing (Waterford Déise style), Eibhlís has won first prizes at the Oireachtas and the Fleadhanna (the two most important traditional singing competitions in Ireland). 

Eibhlís’s understanding of the Irish language, her knowledge and love of traditional songs and singing, and her expertise in early Irish harping makes her a unique resource for those interested in exploring evocative old Irish harp songs by Carolan and others.

Eibhlís’s first sean-nós and harp CD, An Buachaillín Bán was recently released. Listen to Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin

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