Somerset Harp Festival Online

Historical Harp Society of Ireland Conference

Festival of Early Irish Harp at Somerset Sunday Add-On

All-Day Kickoff to HHSI's 5-Day Festival

early irish harpScoil na gCláirseach–Festival of Early Irish Harp is the only event of its kind in Ireland. It exists to help fill the enormous cultural gap left by the disappearance of the early Irish harp two centuries ago. Come and join participants from Ireland, and around the world, to immerse yourself in the Gaelic world’s ancient and exquisite historical harp with concerts, lectures, workshops, and intensive one-to-one virtual coaching with some of the world’s experts in the field. Somerset is collaborating with the Harp Society of Ireland and hosting the first day of the HHSI's Festival of Early Irish Harp, giving our attendees an extraordinary opportunity to attend this event, either for a single-day as an optional Sunday add-on, or the entire festival offered at a discount. This is a Somerset "extra" that you'll need to sign-up for in advance and add to your registration.

Explore the historical performance practice, traditions and history of the early Irish harp, from the Middle Ages until the early nineteenth century using the earliest manuscript sources and copies of the original instruments. If you want to share the rediscovery of this ancient, iconic instrument and be inspired as many people as possible to listen, learn, play and sing its music, imagining the medieval halls of the Gaelic Chieftains to the Great Irish Houses of the eighteenth century, in which the instrument was equally at home alongside harpsichords, baroque violins, flutes and Irish pipes.

What's Included    Itinerary    Presenters    Costs & Registration    Download Entire Festival Schedule

What's Included in the Festival of Early Irish Harp at Somerset Sunday Add-On

All workshops & concerts are online and will be accessible until Dec. 31. All Workshops and concerts will be presented on our online platform Somerset Online. Access information is emailed to registrants in July.

Presenters: Siobhán Armstrong, Simon Chadwick, Sylvia Crawford, Karen Loomis, Andrew Lawerence-King, Jimmy O’Brien Moran, Eibhlís Ní Ríordán, Natalie Surina

7 "Live" Workshops on Zoom on July 25

  • Carolan’s rhythm: music of an earlier time: Andrew Lawrence-King
  • Eibhlín a Rún: learn to sing an 18th-century Irish harp song with Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin
  • Fixing the left hand fingers– Learning the first tune, Mailí Bhán with Sylvia Crawford
  • Harpmakers' Workshop: Historical Harpmaker's Perspective with Natalie Surina
  • Old Irish harp repertory--how do we find it? with Simon Chadwick
  • Listen and talk to a Tradition Bearer with Jimmy O'Brien Moran
  • Would the real Danny Boy please stand up? with Siobhan Armstrong
  • 5 Video Workshops

  • Historical Accompaniment: What did the lower hand play? Siobhán Armstrong
  • Can we recreate the music of the old Irish harpers? Siobhán Armstrong
  • A general introduction to old Irish and Scottish harp traditions: Simon Chadwick
  • Understanding old Irish harp fingering: Sylvia Crawford
  • Queen of Music: the early Irish harp: Karen Loomis
  • 2 Pre-recorded Concert Videos:

  • Master Soloists of Irish Music with Siobhán Armstrong (early Irish harp), Ciarán Ó Gealbháin (voice), Breda Keville (fiddle)
  • Carolan’s 350th Birthday with Eibhlís Ní Ríordán (voice and early Irish harp) and Pádraig Keane (uilleann pipes)

  • Early Irish Harp Festival Sunday Itinerary

    Please Note: Times are noted in Eastern Time. "Live" workshops are coming to you from Ireland (which is 5 hours ahead of ET). All Workshops and concerts will be presented on our online platform Somerset Online. Access information is emailed to registrants in July.

    Time Workshop Presenter Type
    9am-10am Tradition Bearer Session: Listen and talk to master uilleann piper, Jimmy O’Brien-Moran, one of the most highly respected traditional Irish musicians of his generation. Playing the neglected repertory he has recovered from old manuscript sources and archive recordings, hear Jimmy on historic pipes sets bequeathed to him by older masters. This relaxed, interview-style workshop will allow you to interact with, and question, an artist who exhibits a rare and authentic style of music-making within Gaelic traditions, about what is important in playing Irish music. Hearing the knowledge and ingrained style of a living master Irish musician will help you to make more authentic Gaelic music. Jimmy O'Brien Moran Demo/Concert
    10-10:30am Communal Tea Time: Meet Up Virtually with festival attendees   
    10:30-11:45am Carolan’s rhythm: music of an earlier time Our frenzied and fast-paced modern world influences how we view time and probably how we feel music. Travel back in time with Andrew to unearth an older perception of time and see how it flowed into the rhythm and tempo of the harpers of Carolan's time. How does it feel to play music of an earlier time? Andrew Lawrence-King Hands-on
    10:30-11:45am Eibhlín a Rún: learn to sing an 18th-century Irish harp song Many versions of Eibhlín a Rún [‘Eileen Aroon’], and harp variations, were collected in 18th-century Ireland. It is still in the living tradition. In this class for voice and harp (any kind of harp!), you will learn how to pronounce the Irish words, and work on breathing, phrasing, intonation and ornamentation. We will look at how singing with your harp can inform and enhance your harp playing using word-painting, rhythm and phrasing. You'll also look at Edward Bunting’s 18th-century harp manuscript settings. Please download the well-sourced handout before coming to the class. Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin Hands-on
    10:30-11:45am Fixing the left hand fingers– Learning the first tune, Mailí Bhán Mailí Bhán was traditionally the first tune taught to Irish harpers. Edward Bunting collected it from the harper, Patrick Quin, just over 200 years ago. Through learning Mailí Bhán, you will also be learning the principal fingering movements, both by name and by 'doing'. When you have learned these fingering movements, and they have become assimilated into your hand, you will be ready to move on to the other first tunes. These are the fundamental building blocks for exploring more old Irish harp repertory, style and technique. Sylvia Crawford Lecture
    10:30-11:45am Would the real Danny Boy please stand up? Oh Danny Boy is based on a beautiful old Irish song, "Codladh an Óigfhir" [The Young Man’s Sleep], taken down by the young Edward Bunting from the harp playing of the aged Dennis O’Hampsay in 1795 or '96. Siobhan will start by deciphering the manuscript page, showing how to get historical fingerings, articulations and string-dampings to create subtleties of phrasing. She will teach how to add the old Irish style of sparse lower-hand that O’Hampsay himself might have used to accompany the melody. Time-permitting, she will also discuss Bunting’s enigmatic markings indicating melodic ornaments. In doing all that, we will unearth a more authentic Danny Boy for harpists! Siobhan Armstrong Hands-on
    11:45-12:15pm Communal Tea Time: Meet Up Virtually with festival attendees    
    12:15-1:15pm Harpmakers' Workshop: Historical Harpmaker's Perspective Get an up-close view of the historical harp-making processes through a detective’s lens and peek into a historical harp maker’s workshop. Discover the constructional differences between historical and modern Irish harps, and learn about temptations as well as challenges in reconstructing historical instruments in a modern environment. We will look at somewhat unexpected, but common, features found across most of the extant old harps held in Irish and Scottish museums, and learn how these challenge a contemporary harp maker. We will also devise historical construction methods and techniques. See for yourself why it is so important to be able to look at the original instruments from all possible angles, inside and out, if one wants to create a true copy of an actual historical harp. Natalie Surina Demo
    12:15-1:15pm Old Irish harp repertory--how do we find it? The old harpers didn’t write down their music, because they learned it, and passed it on, by ear. When the inherited oral tradition came to an end in the 19th century, that transmission stopped. So anyone since then who has wanted to play old Irish or Scottish harp music has had to get it from somewhere else, from outside the harp tradition. From the 16th to the 19th century, other musicians did write down harp music, and adapted it for keyboard, fiddle or other instruments. This session will discuss some of these sources, trying to understand them as second- or third-hand witnesses to the lost old harp traditions. " Simon Chadwick Lecture
    1:15-1:45pm Communal Tea Time: Meet Up Virtually with festival attendees. End of Day Social Get-Together   
    1:30-3pm On Your Own: Listen to one of the pre-recorded talks or concerts available to you 24/7 or avail of the optional extra: 
    one-to-one coaching sessions with a tutor of your choice.


    Click on the name to learn about the festival's presenters

    Siobhán is Ireland’s foremost performer of historical harp music, playing 16th-to 18th-century chamber music and opera with many of Europe's most prestigious historical and traditional performers, and recording on Deutsche Grammophon, Sony and Virgin Classics, among other labels. Siobhán founded and directs The Historical Harp Society of Ireland. In 2015, she located a ‘lost’ historic Irish harp, and in 2016 she commissioned the first ever 3D laser scan of an old Irish harp at The National Museum of Ireland. When performing Irish music, she is unusual in choosing to place herself at the confluence where ‘historical’ meets ‘traditional’. For more than twenty-five years, she has been working with Edward Bunting’s field notebook, rediscovering the playing techniques, aesthetics and lost repertory of the old Irish harp. It is also the source material for her PhD on early Irish harp performance practice, producing editions and recordings of some of the most intriguing pieces. Sharing her discoveries in the field is now at the heart of her artistic and educational work. With her ensemble, The Irish Consort, she has also set off on a ground-breaking project to produce a series of recordings documenting music in Ireland between 1500 and 1800.

    Presenter website: Siobhán Armstrong

    Simon is widely acknowledged to be one of the most significant experts on the history and traditions of the old Irish harp, helping to spearhead the current revival. In mid 2018, he relocated from Scotland and now lives in Armagh in the north of Ireland, where he researches, teaches and performs the ancient native music traditions of Scotland, Ireland and neighbouring countries. As well as giving talks and presentations, Simon documents his research on his information website,, which is the pre-eminent published source of information on the early Gaelic harp and its traditions. He has also published a pair of tutor books outlining the historical tradition, a book on advanced playing techniques, and an often-cited article in the scholarly journal Early Music.

    Presenter website: Simon Chadwick

    From Co. Armagh, Sylvia combines both a classical and a traditional music background. She graduated in music and ethnomusicology from Queen’s University Belfast, and in arts administration from NUI Galway. She undertook a Masters by Research at Dundalk Institute of Technology on music and tourism in the Oriel (south-east Ulster) region, with a focus on the life and music of Patrick Quin, an eighteenth-century harper from Co. Armagh. Sylvia teaches and plays the old Irish harp, fiddle and piano. She is actively involved with the running of The Historical Harp Society of Ireland, as well as tutoring at the HHSI’s summer festival, Scoil na gCláirseach. Most recently she has been working with Irish singer, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, and Sylvia’s harp music and research features on Pádraigín’s 2017 online project,

    Presenter website: Sylvia Crawford

    Andrew is one of the world’s leading performers of early music, a very gifted and personable teacher, and the most recorded harpist of all time. Andrew has directed at La Scala, Milan & Sydney Opera House and won Russia’s highest theatrical award, Golden Mask (2012). With Jordi Savall he won a Grammy (2011) & Australia’s Helpmann Award (2013). From 2010-2015, he was Senior Visiting Research Fellow for the Australian Centre for the History of Emotions. He is now Director of Opera Omnia, Academy for Early Opera & Dance at Moscow State Theatre ‘Natalya Sats’. Andrew also teaches at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, and the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen. He directs The Harp Consort, combining state-of-the art early music performance with stylish improvisation & entertaining stage presentation; Il Corago, the production team for historical staging of early opera; and the International Baroque Opera Studio at Opera Omnia Moscow.

    Presenter website: Andrew Lawrence-King

    Karen conducts construction and craftsmanship analysis of early Irish harps, uncovering the wealth of information these instruments hold in order to help musical instrument makers, musicians, and museums. She has led groundbreaking work studying the harps of Ireland and Scotland, and recently led a project funded by the Arts Council of Ireland to undertake analysis of the 18th-century Hollybrook harp at the National Museum of Ireland, for the Historical Harp Society of Ireland. Karen’s expertise is in non-invasive techniques, utilizing extensive experience in digital multispectral scientific imaging, and an interdisciplinary background in STEM and music. She studied at the University of Edinburgh, earning a PhD in music (organology) and a MMus in musical instrument research. Karen also has a BS in physics from the University of Connecticut, and an MA in astronomy from Wesleyan University. Prior to turning her attention to musical instruments, she pursued a career in astronomy.

    Presenter website: Karen Loomis

    A world-renowned piper, Jimmy has been teaching the advanced uilleann pipes class at the Willie Clancy Summer School (the most famous Irish-music educational event) since 1977. As a member of the group Scullion he recorded an album and toured Ireland and Europe. Since then Jimmy has released two solo albums and played on many other recordings. He teaches part-time at Waterford Institute of Technology in the south-east of Ireland, and has taught in several third level institutions around Ireland, including UCD and the University of Limerick where he earned his Ph.D. He spent five months at Boston College in 2008 as Fulbright Visiting Professor and made a close study of the Hudson music manuscripts there. On his return to Ireland he joined the board of the Irish Fulbright Alumni Association and served as President of the IFAA from 2015 to 2017. As a performer, Jimmy has played around Ireland, Europe, Japan, as well as Australia and New Zealand, the USA and Canada.

    Presenter website: Jimmy O’Brien Moran

    Eibhlís is from Fermoy, Co. Cork in the south of Ireland. Her deep interest in Irish heritage and Irish music has led her to research and perform the songs from the sean-nós (unaccompanied) song repertoire of the Waterford Déise, in the south-east of Ireland, for which she has won first prizes at the Oireachtas and the Fleadh (the two most important competitions in Ireland for traditional singing). Eibhlís is almost unique in researching and performing 17th- and 18th-century Irish harp songs: the much-neglected, seminal repertory normally now only heard as instrumental melodies, which she performs to her own accompaniment on a replica of a historic Irish harp, using historical harping techniques. Eibhlís’s understanding of the Irish language, her love of Irish traditional singing, and her expertise in early Irish harping makes her a unique resource for those interested in exploring evocative old Irish harp songs by Carolan and others. She is a music graduate of University College Cork, holds a Licentiate in Piano Teaching from Trinity College London and also holds a first-class honours MA in Women’s Studies. Her singing influences include Nioclás Tóibín, Labhrás Ó Cadhla, Áine Uí Cheallaigh, and Ciarán Ó Geallabháin.

    Presenter website: Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin


    Cost & Registration

    We are collaborating with the Historical Harp Society of Ireland to present the first day of their 5-day Festival on OUR Sunday. The HHSI is also giving our attendees a discount to attend their 5-day festival. We will link to their festival website as soon as it becomes available.

    You have 3 options on this menu.

  • 1) Get just the HHSI Sunday Add-on for $100
  • 2) Get all 5 Days of the Festival of Early Irish Harp for $380 (you must be signed up for Somerset to get this discount!)
  • 3) if you get the Sunday now and decide to add Days 2-5 later, it's $280
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