What is your name / where are you from?
My name is Kevin Harrington, and I’m born and raised in Cork.
How did you start playing the harp?
Like most instrument makers I know, I came about it in a roundabout way. Even though all my uncles were ship-wrights and carpenters I had the opportunity to finish my Leaving Cert and attend college that they didn’t have. I ended up going to college and working as a civil engineer but never really had a grá for it. I was playing double bass at the time and became fascinated with luthiery and how instruments were made. I ended up leaving the field of engineering to enroll in a violin making school in London. I spent four years training to make and repair violins and worked in several workshops around London before returning to Ireland. One evening, a chance conversation with the harper Claire O’Donnell’s father steered me in the direction of making my first harp. I ended up spending time with the great American harp maker Rick Kemper, a leading light in the harp making world. Once I started making my first harp I was completely hooked. It’s like a light went off in my head and I knew then and there what I wanted to do, and haven’t looked back since.
What does the harp mean to you?
Absolutely everything. Seeing a harp come together in my workshop is incredibly special. I’ve never felt the same about any other instrument that I’ve made, harps are special. A uniquely Irish instrument, I feel privileged as an Irish craftsperson to be able to earn my living making them here, in Ireland. I feel like I’m carrying on a long, long tradition.
What do you like most about Lá na Cruite | Harp Day?
Harp Day is a great opportunity to get out of the dusty workshop and meet people. It’s also fantastic to see all the harp concerts – both formal and informal – where people get to experience their national instrument in a way that they usually wouldn’t.