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Scoil na gCláirseach

The annual Summer School of Early Irish Harp will be held in Kilkenny from the 22nd-28th August with lectures and concerts as well as instrumental tuition from the world authorities on the instrument: Ann Heymann (USA), Javier Sáinz (Spain/Ireland) and Scoil Director, Siobhán Armstrong (Ireland). Organised by the Historical Harp Society of Ireland (HHSI), the Scoil is now in its fifth year and has become the premier international event for early Irish harp. This unique summer school attracts participants from as far afield as the USA, Italy and Japan.

The HHSI ( was founded in 2002 to promote Ireland’s forgotten national instrument, the early Irish harp. This is Ireland’s illustrious medieval harp strung in brass and sometimes even silver and gold wire. Played in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands from at least 1000 years ago and made famous by harpers such as Carolan, it died out in the early 19th century.

“This summer school is one part of a concerted effort by the Society to bring about a revival of the playing of this magnificent but sadly neglected instrument”, says Siobhán Armstrong, chair of the HHSI, who along with Ann Heymann, will perform on copies of the medieval Trinity College harp, the Irish national emblem, strung with both brass and 18-carat gold strings.

“The early Irish harp, of which the Trinity College harp is the most famous example, and on which the national emblem is based, is now almost unknown in Ireland and rarely heard,” says Ms. Armstrong. “The demise of this harp around 1800 was closely followed by the invention of the modern gut-or nylon-strung neo-Irish harp which is now ubiquitous but which bears no resemblance to the original instrument,” she added.

She says that the original 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 fingernails.

The Historical Harp Society of Ireland very much looks forward to welcoming old and new friends to the fifth Scoil na gCláirseach. The 2007 summer school will have its usual luxuriously small class numbers with a dedicated Beginners class in addition to Post-beginner/Intermediate and Advanced levels. It offers a juicy array of lectures and talks given by staff and guest scholars, incorporating a unique two-tier lecture system, with parallel streams for normal and also very advanced students. There will also be tutor concerts in Kilkenny and outreach concerts in Dublin and Galway and a field trip to see many of the surviving instruments held in Irish collections in Dublin.

This years faculty includes, among others, Siobhan Armstrong, Director (Ireland), Simon Chadwick, Assistant Director (UK), Ann Heymann (USA), Javier Sainz (Spain/Ireland), Sean Donnelly (Ireland).

Permalink - Posted: May 29, 2007 at 9:43 am