What is your name / where are you from?
Natalie Surina, harpmaker based in Oughterard, South Connemara, Co. Galway.
How did you start playing the harp?
Actually, learning to make harps was a pure necessity for me! I never intended to become a harp maker. But as a scholar of Irish mythology and Medieval literature, I always wanted to play the Medieval version of the Irish harp, which wasn’t easy to come by back then. So when I first heard the early Irish harp (aka cláirseach) in a concert and got a chance to try my own hands on it, both with Siobhán Armostrong at Galway Early Music Festival, I instantly realised the old Irish wire strung harp was my destiny. My passion for the cláirseach flared up so brightly that I put my academic career on a backburner and decided to dedicate a year of my life to learning to play it with Siobhán, while renting a wire strung harp from the Historical Harp Society of Ireland. And since my budget prohibited me from commissioning my very own instrument to the specifications I wanted, I also decided to take an apprenticeship in harp making with a very generous, Galway based luthier extraordinaire Paul Doyle, with a goal to eventually make a Trinity college harp for myself. In the end, that initial one year stretched to the traditional 7 years of apprenticeship and harp classes, and to another 8 years of researching, making and repairing harps in my own workshop in Connemara.
What does the harp mean to you?
It’s probably the biggest passion of my life. I can’t imagine my life without being able to study, research, make and play them. And I think it’s the most gratifying work I could dream of. I love every minute of the process with the climactic moment of playing the harp’s very first tunes and hearing its baby voice, which will go on to mature with its future owner. I’d imagine my life would feel really empty without the early Irish harp.
What do you like most about Lá na Cruite | Harp Day?
The fact that it helps people to connect with the harp and get to see and hear the wide variety of instruments and music played on them.