The Ancient Celtic Harps

For a thousand years the Celtic harp flourished as a principle instrument of robust and vital culture. My harp making is an attempt to honor that spirit and lineage.

By observing the old harps, I can see that there was change and development representing an aeon of empirical development. My innovations are also an attempt to continue that process. May they be of use to all the players who pick up my instruments.

When I was in Dublin in 1971, I bought a copy of The Irish and Highland Harps by Bruce Armstrong (1904). This is the bible for those of us wanting to recreate the ancient clarsach (metal-strung harp). I brought it with me when I started working with Jay Witcher around 1972. For the next five years it guided us in our recreation of functional copies of these magnificent instruments. During that time, and for years after, I grew to appreciate which of the surviving old harps really worked as work-a-day musician's instruments. A limited list of the ones that really pump out the sound are, in order of size: the Lamont, the O'fforgerty, and the Kildare. Others seemed a bit limited. For example, though exquisitely beautiful, we found the Otway's body is a bit too small for its range, and the lovely little Queen Mary and Trinity were probably wealthy student instruments.

I toured with a Lamont when I was in The Merry Band, and it strongly influenced my Bard's model of yore. By the time Caswell Carnahan was recording I was playing one of my Gwydions (a combination, in a way, of the Lamont, Offorgerty, and the Kildare). I was lucky enough to visit several of these old beasts in my travels and develop an even more intimate relationship with them.

The Lamont

image coming soon

The O'fforgerty

The Kildare

The Otway

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