Scoil na gCláirseach
SUMMER SCHOOL OF EARLY IRISH HARP

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I've never played a harp before. Is the Scoil suitable for absolute beginners?
Yes it is; since the Society is keen to help the revival of the early Irish harp, we particularly welcome raw beginners. You are the future!

Can I rent a harp?Fiachal Phadruig
Yes; the Society has a limited number of rental harps available for the Scoil on a first-come, first-served basis. The earlier you let us know that you would like to rent one, the higher the chance that we will have one to give you.

I play a gut- or nylon-strung lever harp/folk harp/celtic harp? Is it OK to play that at the Scoil?
If you don't yet have an early Irish harp, strung in wire, you can bring your more modern gut- or nylon-strung harp to the Scoil. However, since our tutors teach historical harp techniques on replica historical instruments, you will certainly benefit much more from the tuition if you too play an early Irish harp in class, so bear in mind that rental harps are available to participants.

I play my current harp with pedal harp technique and have never used historical playing techniques. Is that a problem?
We assume that you are coming to the Scoil to learn about how this instrument was played historically so we will teach you, from scratch, what sorts of early playing techniques are most helpful and appropriate in getting the best out of an early Irish harp. Lack of prior familiarity with historical technique will not be a hindrance.

I don't play using finger nails. Is that a problem?
No; for most of their history early Irish harps seem to have been played with fingernails but from the 17th century there is evidence of the instrument being played with finger tips, so finger tip players are also welcome.

I play a lap harp with 22 strings. Is that too small an instrument to take to the Scoil?
We will be delighted to see you no matter how small your harp! We do encourage historically minded students to play measured copies of surviving instruments as the best way of approaching the repertoire - the smallest of these has 29 strings - but you will be able to take part playing an instrument which is smaller than that.

I don't read music. Is that a problem?
No; for most of the levels, the classes are taught aurally with sheet music available at the end for those who are literate. However, participants in the advanced class should ideally have a working knowledge of how to read music.

Will I receive a certificate?
Yes; all participating students receive a certificate at the end of the week.

Will I learn lots of tunes including jigs, reels and other dance tunes commonly played in trad. Irish music sessions?
The old harpers’ music pre-dates most traditional Irish dance music by hundreds of years, so dance music isn’t our emphasis. Instead, we will equip you with the skills you need to find, reconstruct and play the historical repertoire of the early Irish harp [song airs, laments, marches, music composed for patrons, older dances e.g. minuets & jigs etc., 16th- to 18th-century ‘foreign’ repertoire] and to give you a sense of the history and cultural values of the worlds in which the old harpers operated.

What experience can I have at this summer school that I’m less likely to have elsewhere?
The foundation stones of our approach are to help the curious student to study surviving manuscript and early printed sources of the harpers’ music, including historical descriptions of their playing, to discover as much as possible about the harpers’ performance traditions. These are, of course, quite different to more modern approaches used on the nylon-strung Irish lever harp (aka Celtic harp). We then help you to steer that knowledge so that you can reconstruct the traditional, old repertoire on measured copies of the wire-strung early Irish harps the old harpers played, using historical playing techniques they themselves used.