Lyres, Ap Huw, Glendalough, and Wales: BBC Documentary on the History of the Harp

Glendalough. Photo by Sue, 2010.

I confess that I am normally not very interested in documentaries featuring modern harpists doing their thing, but this BBC short film, about an hour in length, provides some interesting clips of early lyres unearthed in Iraq, bray harps, early Irish or Gaelic harps, the Robert Ap Huw MS, and a visit to Glendalough, the monastic community in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland that I had the pleasure of visiting in the summer of 2010.  I’ve added time stamp information below the video to help you find the bits that I found most interesting, but you may prefer to just watch the whole thing.  Special thanks to my friend Sam Tyler for sharing the video.

Time Stamps:

2:20:  Early harp discoveries in Ur, Iraq. Photos of lyres found in 1929 royal grave.  Lyre of Ur reconstruction.
3:50:  Visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to visit with Alemu Aga, who plays a buzzy, delicious sounding lyre as a sacred instrument to accompany spoken words.
7:25: Anglo-Saxon lyre and vocals by Bragod perform a snippet of the Gododdin.
8:30:  Bill Taylor and Robert Evans introduce the bray harp and the Robert Ap Huw MS
10:30:  more on Robert ap Huw MS, including images of the MS tablature.
12:30:  visit to Glendalough in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, with Paul Dooley playing a snippet of Kaniad y Gwynn Bibydd.
16:00:  Alan Stivell on the harp revival in Brittany.
19:20:  Andrew Lawrence-King, who teaches at Scoil na gCláirseach, plays triple harp.
23:00:  interview with Llio Rhydderch, traditional Welsh Triple Harp teacher and player, who discusses learning and teaching via the oral tradition.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year celebration,


Interview with Ann Heymann, Siobhán Armstrong, and Talitha MacKenzie on Irish Radio

The 10th annual Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny, Ireland has just ended, and why not find out more about some of its most interesting tutors and students?

Students at Scoil na gClairseach, 2009. Photo by Sue.

Here’s a link to an interview on KCLR, a radio station in Carlow/Kilkenny, Ireland.  You’ll hear Siobhán introduce the program with a brief history of the Summer School of the Early Irish Harp, with a delightful, intelligent explanation of replica harps, and how they are different in sound and materials from modern harps.  She clacks on her deliciously resonant soundbox for the benefit of the listeners, and goes on to play Eleanor Plunkett by Carolan on her Kortier Trinity College harp.  Then Talitha MacKenzie offers a brief example of puirt-a-beul, or mouth music, and the master of the instrument, Ann Heymann, closes with a short piece she learned from the fiddler James Kelly.  Check it out, as I don’t know how long the link will be active.  A special thanks to scholar Karen Loomis for pointing out the interview.

Wishing you a fine late summer,


Harpers at Brighid: a Treasure House of Offerings

Harpers comprehend the significance of the fire festival of Brighid, dedicated to the goddess of smithcraft, poetry and healing.  It also signals the early stirrings of spring.  In honor of Brighid, here is a harper’s assortment of treasures.

Enjoy the new Scoil na gCláirseach video, which gives a glimpse into the special world created by the marvelous staff for one week of each summer in Kilkenny, Ireland.

If you are smitten by the sound of Griogair Labhruidh’s singing at the end of the video clip, enjoy the whole performance of this lament, entitled Cumha Choir’ an Easain.

Another treasure, announced at Brighid:  Javier Sainz has a new website.

Here is a fourth treasure:  an article about Ann Heymann entitled “Brigid, Imbolc, and the Gaelic Harp,” published in 2008 in Eolas, a druidic journal.

And a fifth:  a glimpse of Vicente la Camera’s handsome new MacDonald Trinity clarsach.  Listen to Vicente play Carolan’s Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill.

Enjoy these small beauties, and join me in celebrating music, song, poetry, and those extraordinary harpers living and working among us.  In honor of Brighid,


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