Harp Traditions of Ireland

Harps have a long and important history in the cultural life of Ireland, where they underscore connections between music, society, and politics. In medieval times, harpers held a high-status, professional role that disappeared in the mid-17th century with the downfall of the Gaelic aristocracy. In 1792, Edward Bunting transcribed melodies from Ireland’s few remaining harpers at the Belfast Harp Festival. The resulting publication, A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music, renewed interest in Ireland’s harp tradition. The harp would come to serve both as a musical instrument and a symbol of national identity. This exhibit uses Irish harps and printed music at the John J. Burns Library to explore the revival of harps in Ireland.