Historical Harp Society of Ireland

Historical Harp Society of Ireland was founded in 2002 by Siobhán Armstrong. Its purpose is to support a revival of the playing and building of Ireland's largely forgotten medieval musical instrument, which is depicted in the national emblem: the early Irish harp.

emblem is based: the medieval harp preserved in the Long Room of Trinity College, Dublin.

It differs greatly from the more modern instrument which has now replaced it: the neo-Irish harp, which is of different construction type, played with a different technique and strung in gut – and now also in synthetic materials. First invented in Dublin in the early 19th century, the ubiquity of the latter instrument – known also as the lever harp, folk harp, Celtic harp or clarsach – has contributed to the almost total neglect of the original, courtly Irish harp. The HHSI is dedicated to rectifying this by bringing about nothing less than a renaissance of the playing of the original, medieval Irish harp.

Replica of the Queen Mary harpAlso known as the wire-strung harp, Gaelic harp or early clarsach, this noble instrument is the historical harp of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It was played by immensely skilled, high status musicians in the Gaelic courts and later in the great houses from the early Middle Ages until its demise in the early 19th century.

With a resonating chamber usually carved from a single log – traditionally willow – and strung with wires of brass, silver or perhaps even gold, whose resonating strings were selectively damped, the extraordinary sweetness of this instrument was described in glowing terms by early writers. The best-known surviving example is the instrument on which Ireland's national