Welcome to Harp Perspectives, Cruit Éireann, Harp Ireland’s online journal.
One of our strategic aims is to establish thought leadership across the harp sector by building up a body of thinking about the harp and harping through a historical and contemporary lens.
Harp Perspectives is the beginning of a conversation about harping and features key informants, harpers and non-harpers, sharing their authentic views and ideas.
We believe that this combination of scholarly research and personal insights will highlight the harping legacy inherited from our tradition bearers and help forge a contemporary harping identity, secure in its understanding of its origin and how it wishes to evolve.
Amongst the Harpists Playing Scottish Traditional Music on the Harp | Neil Wood
In our November edition of Harp Perspectives, Scottish harper Neil Wood discusses the Scottish harp’s vibrant and diverse musical community with its wide range of styles, influences and creative identities and how it can emerge as a stand-alone musical practice and perhaps even a new tradition, in its own right.
A Road to PhD Research as an Artist and Reflective Practitioner | Fiona Gryson
In our August edition, Fiona Gryson describes how she combines her career as a harpist, harp teacher and facilitator with her research for a PhD. She imparts some valuable advice on time management and applying for grant funding for PhD research.
Playing the Irish Game and the Irish Harp: Two Pleasurable Accomplishments, 1590–1790 | Seán Donnelly
In our May edition of Harp Perspectives, Seán Donnelly shares his research on the favourite pleasures and pastimes of the more prosperous folk in the 14th - 16th centuries and discovers many literary references, in both Irish and English, to ‘harps and tables’ as the popular entertainment of the day.
Competing Ideologies: The Feis Ceoil and the Promotion of Irish Harping 1897-1917 | Rachel Duffy
Our Harp Perspectives March edition is 'Competing Ideologies: The Feis Ceoil and the Promotion of Irish Harping 1897-1917' by Rachel Duffy. As young harpers prepare for the 2023 Feis Ceoil, Rachel Duffy explores harp competitions there between 1807 and 1917. She positions the festival within its social and cultural milieu to examine the factors, often competing, which influenced the Irish harp landscape of the early twentieth century.
Harping on the Past | Keith Sanger
In our January edition of Harp Perspectives, Keith Sanger addresses two conundrums: the nature and background of the harp as a musical instrument and how harps were used in the past. He considers a time where punishments were harsh, medical attention limited and famines frequent, and asks how accurately we can recreate the sound and structure of harps in medieval times.
An introduction to Diversity in Irish harping | A Memoir | Janet Harbison
In our December edition, Janet Harbison takes us through the triumphs, pitfalls and prejudices she has experienced throughout her career as a harper and her aspirations for a diversity across styles of music and teaching methods for students of the harp. Janet’s book of arrangements for harp ensemble has recently been published by Cruit Éireann | Harp Ireland
The Linen Hall Library, Belfast, and the Heritage of the Harp | John Gray
In our November edition, John Gray, Chair of Belfast-based Reclaim the Enlightenment, brings us the history of Belfast’s Linen Hall Library and its formative role in supporting the publication of Edward Bunting’s Ancient Music of Ireland, and sustaining the harping tradition.
EDWARD BUNTING: THE DUBLIN YEARS (1819-43) | Mary Louise O'Donnell
In our October edition, Mary Louise O’Donnell uses the changing role of the nineteenth-century professional musician in Ireland as a lens through which to explore Edward Bunting’s life in Dublin as a professor of music and church organist. She outlines the challenges he faced in preparing his final collection, The Ancient Music of Ireland, and the constancy and love of his wife Mary Anne, who gently guided and supported him through various difficulties he encountered in the latter years of his life.
LADY DILLON: The History of a Carolan Patron | ÚNA NÍ FHLANNAGÁIN
In our September edition, Úna Ní Fhlannagáin traces the lineage and history of the Dillon family and discovers the fate of ‘Lady Dillon’ for whom Carolan composed his tribute – a young Frances Dillon who was married to her first cousin Charles at the tender age of 14.
HARP RESOURCES at the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) | MAEVE GEBRUERS
In our July edition, ITMA archivist, Maeve Gebruers gives an overview of the wealth of harp related material collected, preserved and organised by the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) over the last 35 years.
HOW DID IRISH HARPERS ACCOMPANY THEIR MELODIES? A preliminary look at pre-1800 performance practice evidence by Dr Siobhán Armstrong
In our June edition, Dr Siobhán Armstrong addresses the question of the supposedly lost art of the early Irish harpers: how they accompanied their melodies. Working only from transcriptions made live in the field from Irish harpers in the 1790s, she argues that vernacular Irish harpers didn’t operate within an 18th-century European context, with a separate ‘bass line’ or ‘chords’ supporting the melody, but rather that Irish-harp performance practice was quite different, operating within its own distinct, non-European aesthetic.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE BUNRATTY CASTLE MEDIEVAL BANQUET AND THE PLACE OF THE HARP WITHNI IT: An Ethnographic Perspective | FIANA NÍ CHONAILL
Fiana Ní Chonaill visits Bunratty Castle where she explores the role of the Irish harp in the medieval banquet setting.
BUNTING'S AIRS, GRACES AND HARPS | DR DAVID BYERS
Read intriguing contemporaneous reports and fascinating letters about the 1792 Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in our Easter edition of HARP PERSPECTIVES. Join DAVID BYERS in Bunting's Airs, Graces and Harps as he reveals the story of Edward Bunting’s journeying in the steps of the harpers, his reflections on their music and his efforts to bring his life’s work to publication. A seminal work about a pivotal figure whose legacy to Irish harping is inestimable.
FOUND IN TRANSLATION: Transcribing Bach’s D minor Ciaccona BWV 1004 for Lever Harp | DR ANNE-MARIE O'FARRELL
In our March edition, Dr Anne-Marie O’Farrell presents the process of transcription of J.S. Bach’s famous Chaconne in D minor BWV1004 for Irish harp. She explains her preferences concerning timbre, sostenuto, chordal voicing, and interpretation in her transcription of this beautiful piece, with a particular focus on multiple harmonics and use of the semitone levers.
A RESTROSPECTIVE LOOK AT THE RESEARCH INTO SCOTTISH HARPS | KEITH SANGER
In our Febuary edition, Keith Sanger investigates the origins of two famous Scottish harps – The Queen Mary harp and the Lamont harp, the influence and presence of Irish harpers in the 16th and 17th century and challenges some previously held views on the use of the Irish wire-strung harp in the Scottish Highlands. He discusses how professional ‘clarsairs’ (harpers) were a vanishing breed in Scotland by the 18th century with the increasing popularity of the violin.
REFLECTIONS ON THE HARP IN GAELIC BARDIC POETRY | LAUREN O'NEILL
In our January edition, Lauren O’Neill considers the historical significance of the harp in Gaelic bardic poetry, and discusses how its poetic richness might act as a catalyst in re-imagining this unique performance practice in contemporary harping.
THIS HARP-SHAPED LIFE: A PERSONAL ESSAY | EMILY CULLEN
In our December edition, poet, playwright and harper, Emily Cullen, chronicles her journey from her youth with her harper sisters in rural Co. Leitrim, steeped in Carolan country to her travels with the Belfast Harp Orchestra, to her concerns about slowly morphing into a “tweed-sporting harp anorak, nestled in some ivory tower of academia” while she researched the significance of the Irish harp for her PhD. Ten years later, her relationship with the Irish harp appears in more poetic terms as she takes inspiration from the harpers at the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival recreating their voices for us in a deeply personal way. Emily’s reflection is a welcome addition to our series.
MY REGARDS TO THE GUARDIAN OF GENEROSITY | Feargal Mac Amhlaoibh
In our November edition pf Harp Perspectives, we welcome a voice from the southwest where Feargal Mac Amhlaoibh narrates the story of Piaras Ferriter, iconic Gaelic poet and accomplished harper from West Kerry. He transcribes the poem Piaras wrote in praise of a harp he received as a gift from fellow local harper Éamonn mac Domhnaill Mhic an Daill, about 1640. Feargal describes the repression suffered by harpers and poets in the early 1600s under the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 who ordered her representatives in Ireland “to hang the harpers, wherever found, and destroy their instruments”.
THE INFANT LYRA: An Irish musical prodigy | Mary Louise O’Donnell
In our October edition of Harp Perspectives, Mary Louise O’Donnell recounts the story of the Irish harp player Isabella Rudkin, a child prodigy known as the ‘Infant Lyra’ who was a musical phenomenon in the 1820s. By the age of 10 years, Isabella had performed for royalty and aristocracy, upstaged a young Franz Liszt at concerts in Manchester in 1824 and was celebrated as a ‘specimen of Irish genius’.
ROSE and CATHERINE: Two 18th Century Female Harpers Found in Edward Bunting's Manuscripts
Our September edition of HARP PERSPECTIVES features the research of renowned harp player Eilís Lavelle. Eilís reviews the historical references to two female harpers, Rose Mooney and Catherine (Kate) Martin, to whom Edward Bunting has attributed notations in his manuscript collection and publications.
CAIRDE NA CRUITE: The Foundation and Early Years | TERESA O'DONNELL
Our August edition features the research of renowned harp player and musicologist, Teresa O’Donnell, as she traces the history of Cairde na Cruite, Friends of the Harp from its foundation, more than sixty years ago, through its early years. Meet its illustrious founders and admire their foresight as they paved the way for the revival of the Irish harp.
A GERMAN VISITOR, AN IRISH HARPER, AND A DUBLIN BOOT-MAKER: The Background to a Tale Told by Arthur O’Neill | SEÁN DONNELLY
Our July edition features Seán Donnelly, one of our foremost commentators on early Irish harping and the music performed by the harpers. He paints vivid pictures of their travels and entertains us with countless anecdotes about their exploits. This piece talks about the well-known air ‘Táimse im’ chodladh’. In the coming months, we will be welcoming many other voices to the conversation and hope that they will broaden horizons and provide new perspectives on current and future harp directions.
FINDING A VOICE: PERFORMANCE RESEARCH ON THE IRISH HARP | KATHLEEN LOUGHNANE
Kathleen Loughnane shares an evocative picture of her harp journey from the mid sixties until now. She recounts the evening sessions at the Chariot Inn in Ranelagh where Séamus Ennis was in 'full flow', sessions with Éamonn Ó Bróithe and Liam Lewis at Club Áras na nGael in Galway and the influences on her harp playing through the years.
ORIGINS OF THE MODERN IRISH HARP: JOHN EGAN AND JAMES MCFALL | NANCY HURRELL
Nancy Hurrell, harpist and historian shares her thoughts about the ORIGINS OF THE MODERN IRISH HARP: JOHN EGAN AND JAMES MCFALL and describes a time when the harp faced an uncertain future in Ireland. She traces how the cultural revival movement inspired talented craftsmen to develop new forms of Irish harps and infuse new life into the tradition. She introduces us to two influential harp makers - John Egan and James McFall – and gives us a fascinating insight into their influence on the future of the harp in Ireland.
TRADITION, LINEAGE AND REVIVAL | SIMON CHADWICK
Do you know who your teacher’s harp teacher was? Who was their harp teacher? How far back can you go? Tracing your lineage like this can give you an important sense of your place in the wider harp tradition.In Tradition, Lineage and Revival, early Irish harper and researcher, Simon Chadwick, shares his thoughts about how reflecting on our harp lineage helps us understand how the Irish harp tradition has developed and changed over time, and whether a focus on harp lineage give us any idea about how harping will continue to evolve in the future.