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Encyclopedia > Irish Harp
A clàrsach, now in the Museum of Scotland.
A clàrsach, now in the Museum of Scotland.

The Clàrsach (Gd.) or Cláirseach (Ga.) is the name given to the wire-strung harp of either Scotland or Ireland. The word was originally cruit, but clàrsach begins to make its appearance in the sources by the end of the 14th century. Until the end of the middle ages it was the most popular musical instrument of both Scotland and Ireland, and harpists were amongst the most prestigious cultural figures amongst Irish chiefs and Scottish kings and earls. In both countries, the harpist enjoyed special rights and played a crucial part in ceremonial occassions such as coronation and poetic recital. The Kings of Scotland employed harpers until the end of the middle ages, and they feature promintently in royal iconography. Three medieval Gaelic harps survived into the modern period, two from Scotland (the Queen Mary Harp and the Lamont Harp) and one in Ireland (the Brian Boru harp), although we can tell from the artist evidence that all three were probably made in the western Highlands. The surname MacWhirter, mac a' chruiteir, means son of the harpist, and is common throughout Scotland, but particularly in Carrick and Galloway. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1944x2592, 2035 KB) A celtic harp Photo taken at the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux File links The following pages link to this file: Harp ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1944x2592, 2035 KB) A celtic harp Photo taken at the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux File links The following pages link to this file: Harp ... The Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, is a museum dedicated to the history, people and culture of Scotland. ... Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) is a member of the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages. ... Irish (Gaeilge), a Goidelic language spoken in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is constitutionally recognised as the first official language of the Republic of Ireland. ... The harp is a stringed instrument which has its strings positioned perpendicular to the soundboard. ... Motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (English: No one provokes me with impunity) Scotlands location within Europe Scotlands location within the United Kingdom Languages English, Gaelic, Scots Capital Edinburgh Largest city Glasgow First Minister Jack McConnell Area - Total - % water Ranked 2nd UK 78,782 km² 1. ... This 14th-century statue from south India depicts the gods Shiva (on the left) and Uma (on the right). ... The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ... This is a list of British monarchs, that is, the monarchs on the thrones of some of the various kingdoms that have existed on, or incorporated, the island of Great Britain, namely: England (united with Wales from 1536) up to 1707; Scotland up to 1707; The Kingdom of Great Britain... Iconography usually refers to the design, creation, and interpretation of the symbolism within religious art. ... The ex-comital district of Carrick today forms part of South Ayrshire, Scotland. ... Galloway (Scottish Gaelic, Gall-ghaidhealaibh or Gallobha, Lowland Scots Gallowa) today refers to the former counties of Wigtownshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in southwest Scotland, but has fluctuated greatly in size over history. ...

The playing of this Gaelic harp with wire strings died out in Scotland in the 18th century and in Ireland in the early 19th century. When harp playing was revived in Ireland and Scotland as part of the late 19th century Gaelic revival, the instruments used differed greatly from the old wire-strung harps. The new instruments had gut strings, and their construction anmd playing style was based on the larger orchestral pedal harp. Nonetheless the name "clàrsach" was and still used in Scotland today to describe these new instruments. In Ireland they are usually called "Irish harp" not "cláirseach".

The modern, gut-strung clàrsach has thousands of players, both in Scotland and Ireland, as well as North America and elsewhere. Notable events include the Edinburgh International Harp Festival, which recently staged the world record for the largest number of harpists to play at the same time. World map showing North America A satellite composite image of North America. ...

Since the 1970s there has been a deliberate revival of the older wire-strung instrument, based on Early Music principles and using replica instruments and period playing techniques. The main annual event is Scoil na gCláirseach held in Kilkenny every August. However the early clàrsach remains much less popular than its modern rival. Early music is European classical music before the classical music era and after Ancient music. ... Scoil na gCláirseach is an annual summer school dedicated to teaching the Cláirseach, the historical harp of Gaelic Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. ...


  • John Bannerman, "The Clàrsach and the Clàrsair", in Scottish Studies, vol. 30 no. 3, 1991
  • Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird, "Tree of Strings - Crann nan Teud", Kinmor 1992

External links

  • Edinburgh International Harp Festival
  • Early Gaelic Harp Info

  Results from FactBites:
Irish Harp - Picture - MSN Encarta (86 words)
It is a frame harp (the other two types are the bow, or arched harp, and the angle harp).
The structure, basically the same in all harps, consists of strings of unequal length that run from the neck of the instrument to the sound box.
The Irish harp features a curved pillar and seven ditals (levers) that are depressed by the fingers in order to change the pitch of the notes.
The Irish Harp (737 words)
To tell the history of the Irish harp is to tell the history of the Irish people.
African harps have been made from wood and gourd covered with cowhide, the Burmese sang auk has an arched soundbox similar to the Turkish ceng while European harps feature a triangular frame, There is one feature that all harps share: the strings run vertical (rather than parallel) to the sound box.
The Trinity College Harp and Queen Mary's Harp are the oldest surviving Celtic harps and both date from the 15th or 16th centuries and illustrate the similarity between the Irish and Scottish harps.
  More results at FactBites »



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