The Early Gaelic Harp Conference

Early Gaelic Harp Conference :  June 11 & 12, 2011 in Boston, MA

The Gaelic Harp Conference flyer.

David Kortier and Ann Heymann have once again produced an extraordinary collaboration in building and playing a replica of the Bunworth harp, a high-headed instrument built around 1734 for the Reverend Charles Bunworth.  This harp resides at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

There’s a stunning opportunity for historical harpers to meet the Bunworth replica, along with the very best Gaelic harper in the world, Ann Heymann.  Dave Kortier, the luthier who made Ann’s marvelous sounding Trinity replica, and who builds the student line of historical instruments, will be on hand to discuss the project, and Karen Loomis will present information on her PhD research on early Scottish harps, including the Lamont and the Queen Mary.  The flyer is posted above.  Click for a closer look, or to download it, or visit the Harpcon page.

Simon Chadwick and his Early Gaelic Harp Info site (a sponsor of the conference) has created a very informative page on the Bunworth harp.  Take a look at it to brush up on your background information.

Another opportunity for summer workshops and study takes place in late June at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.  The Ohio Scottish Arts School meets from June 25 to July 1, 2011.  I attended this summer program and stayed in the dormitories at Oberlin in the summer of 2008, and I heartily recommend it.  Ann and Charlie Heymann will be there, and let me tell you, a week of intensive working in a small group of wire strung harp players is great fun and hard work.  We are the smallest track among the more common lever harpers, and that means that the group gets Ann all to itself, complete with plenty of opportunities for questions and answers, conversation, and fun.  I came home with a folder full of new music and a brain full of good ideas.

Here is the Museum of Fine Arts page describing the Bunworth harp, complete with photographs.

To my chagrin, I’ll be finishing up my work at the school where I teach when the Early Gaelic Harp Conference begins.  If you can go, drop everything and attend.  It will surely be worth it.

–Sue


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Visiting the O’Ffogarty harp

During my travels in Ireland, I visited the O’Ffogarty harp, a big, grand, 17th century low-headed instrument that resides in the upstairs room at the public library in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

The O'Ffogarty harp in Thurles.

How I itched to play a few of the bass strings on this enormous old harp.  The soundbox is massive at the base, and contains six soundholes, some of which are decorated with thin, concentric circles.  Although not all of the repairs to the harp are in good condition, it is clear that some of the bands added to stabilize the harp’s cracked soundbox have either fallen off or have been removed over the centuries.

The harp is located upstairs in the Co. Tipperary library at Thurles, in a large, modern silver community arts center called The Source.  Simon Chadwick’s top notch Early Gaelic Harp Information site provides excellent information on the O’Ffogarty harp.  While you’re there, be sure to click on the links to the high quality photographs of this instrument taken by Ann and Charlie Heymann.

Incidentally, I found the staff at the library very gracious and accommodating when I expressed an interest in seeing the harp.  They permitted me to go behind the barrier into the stacks, and also permitted photography without a flash.  One of the librarians or archivists set out Armstrong’s book for me to browse, which was, from this librarian’s point of view, very well done!  Armstrong’s book, Musical Instruments, Part I: The Irish and the Highland Harps, published early in the 20th century, is now out of copyright, and may be found electronically here.

–Sue

The scroll on the O'Ffogarty harp

Design of some of the O'Ffogarty's soundholes.

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