Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

PRESS RELEASE: New medieval harps in Ireland

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland (HHSI) has just taken delivery of eight copies of the Trinity College harp. The harps are to be lent out or sold to students across Ireland, and are to be used at the HHSI's annual summer school, Scoil na gCláirseach, held in Kilkenny each August.

The original Trinity College harp, which the HHSI's new instruments reproduce, was made in the 14th or 15th Century, and is preserved in a glass case in the Long Room of Trinity College Old Library. Due to its great age and fragility it can no longer be played. This means that the new generation of harp students, who are bringing back to life Ireland's previously lost historical harp tradition, depend on accurate and faithful reproductions being available.

These new instruments, with brass and sterling silver strings, were made to the Society's order by the harp maker and historical instrument expert, David Kortier.

David Kortier is best known in Ireland for his meticulous decorated facsimiles of early Irish harps, such as the beautiful replica of the Trinity College harp owned and played by Siobhán Armstrong, chair of the HHSI. The cost and time involved in making such a detailed facsimile however means that students were rarely able to afford one. The new harps ordered by the society adhere exactly to the dimensions and proportions of the original in every respect, but their structure is simplified for ease of construction. The result is a unique series of instruments, the like of which has never been seen in Ireland, or elsewhere, before: an affordable accurate replica of one of the surviving medieval instruments.

“The early Irish harp, of which the Trinity College Harp is the most famous example, is almost unknown in Ireland and rarely heard now”, said Ms. Armstrong.

“The demise of this harp around 1800 led to the invention of the modern gut- or nylon-strung Irish harp which is now ubiquitous but which bears no resemblance to the original”, she added.

She said that the early Irish harp was famous not only in Ireland but also throughout Europe from the early Middle Ages for the beauty of its sound and for the skill of the Irish harpers who played it with their finger-nails.

Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Scoil na gCláirseach - Summer School of Early Irish Harp

Siobhán Armstrong

Click here for photos of the first 8 Student Trinity harps being assembled and strung.

Click here for purchasing information