Irish harp

I research, play and teach the old Gaelic harp traditions of Ireland and Scotland.

From the introduction to my book, Progressive Lessons (2017):

Nowadays, there are many different types of harps from many different countries, all competing for space in a post-modern global melting pot. But people have always known about the old Gaelic harp traditions of Ireland and Scotland, using a big harp of “…about thirty brass wires, the twang of which give the music a striking metallic brilliancy. The high notes are given with the left hand, reserving the more powerful member for the deep notes of the bass.” (Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal 19th Sept 1840)

I started with an interest in the oldest strands of the Gaelic harp traditions. In 2006-7 I commissioned a detailed “archaeological” reproduction of the 14th century Scottish Queen Mary clarsach preserved in the National Museum of Scotland, which I used to explore possible re-imaginings of medieval West Highland music, including the pibroch or ceòl mór repertory of the bagpipes.

My current work is concentrating on the tradition-bearers of the late 18th and early 19th century. I am interested in lineage, transmission and trying to connect to the broken end of the living tradition through studying Bunting’s manuscripts and other sources. In 2018-19 I researched and commissioned a detailed “archaeological” copy of one of the 18th century harps preserved in the National Museum of Ireland, which I am now using to explore old Irish harp playing techniques, style and idiom. I am also working on the music of Carolan.

As well as performing and teaching, I organise events, mostly in collaboration with the Historical Harp Society of Ireland.