The Irish Harp

The symbolic instrument of Ireland is the Harp…you will see it in many forms when on any tours of Ireland.

The harps present form was established over a thousand years ago , with variations in its shape being introduced up to the seventeenth century.

The oldest surviving instrument , the Brian Boru harp , held in Trinity College in Dublin , dates to the fourteenth century. Its a bit of a hidden gem compared to the Book of Kells.

The older instruments were heavier and smaller , and had wire strings.

From the early 1800s , they increased in size , were lighter and used gut strings then nylon strings.

The old harp was associated with indigenous classical music. Its players were meticulously trained and enjoyed considerable success in chieftains houses in Ireland , and abroad……particularly in Scotland. Music composed by these early harpists still survives.

Harping was largely extinguished along with the Gaelic order in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its players and repertoire were submerged in “folk” music.

The 1792 Belfast Harp Festival tried to revive harping and did so to a certain extent.

Any Ireland tours should include listening to a tune on a harp……a must see attraction….or should I say a MUST HEAR attraction.