Harp Perspectives

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.

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An Account of the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet and the Place of the Harp Within It: An Ethnographic Perspective | FIANA NÍ CHONAILL

Uploaded 17/05/2022

Fiana Ní Chonaill visits Bunratty Castle where she explores the role of the Irish harp in the medieval banquet setting.

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BUNTING'S AIRS, GRACES AND HARPS | DR DAVID BYERS

Uploaded 14/04/2022

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.

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FOUND IN TRANSLATION: Transcribing Bach’s D minor Ciaccona BWV 1004 for Lever Harp | DR ANNE-MARIE O'FARRELL

Uploaded 15/03/2022

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.

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A RESTROSPECTIVE LOOK AT THE RESEARCH INTO SCOTTISH HARPS | KEITH SANGER

Uploaded 11/02/2022

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.

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REFLECTIONS ON THE HARP IN GAELIC BARDIC POETRY | LAUREN O'NEILL

Uploaded 16/01/2022

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.

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THIS HARP-SHAPED LIFE: A PERSONAL ESSAY | EMILY CULLEN

Uploaded 10/12/2021

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.

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MY REGARDS TO THE GUARDIAN OF GENEROSITY | Feargal Mac Amhlaoibh

Uploaded 17/05/2022

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”.

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THE INFANT LYRA: An Irish musical prodigy | Mary Louise O’Donnell

Uploaded 07/10/2021

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’.

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ROSE and CATHERINE: Two 18th Century Female Harpers Found in Edward Bunting's Manuscripts

Uploaded 15/09/2021

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.

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CAIRDE NA CRUITE: The Foundation and Early Years | TERESA O'DONNELL

Uploaded 12/08/2021

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.

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A GERMAN VISITOR, AN IRISH HARPER, AND A DUBLIN BOOT-MAKER: The Background to a Tale Told by Arthur O’Neill | SEÁN DONNELLY

Uploaded 12/07/2021

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.

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FINDING A VOICE: PERFORMANCE RESEARCH ON THE IRISH HARP | KATHLEEN LOUGHNANE

Uploaded 12/06/2021

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.

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ORIGINS OF THE MODERN IRISH HARP: JOHN EGAN AND JAMES MCFALL | NANCY HURRELL

Uploaded 15/05/2021

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.

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TRADITION, LINEAGE AND REVIVAL | SIMON CHADWICK

Uploaded 09/04/2021

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.

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