The Celtic Harp, also known as the Irish Harp or Cláirseach in Gaelic, is considered the official emblem of Ireland.
Many official documents including Irish Passports, Irish Euro coins and bottles of Guinness beer show the beautiful instrument.
The current design of the Celtic harp is based on the 14th century Brian Boru harp which is on display in the museum of Trinity College in Dublin.
Historically, harpists were esteemed figures in Celtic society and often playing for kings and at important ceremonies. It’s no wonder the elegant and sweet sounding instrument holds such a special place in Irish folklore, mythology and traditional music.
Two Celtic harp players to look out for
Moya Brennan from Donegal began performing with her brothers and sisters in the folk group Clannad. Their sounds draw on Irish traditions and myths and legends from their native Donegal. She brought her sweet vocals and harp playing to her solo career and applied these traditional sounds to contemporary songs to form a hauntingly stunning distinctive sound.
Laoise Kelly from Mayo in the west of Ireland shows off the foot-tapping rhythm of Irish traditional dance tunes. The catchy percussive element to traditional harp music wasn’t as common in Ireland before her. She is also a wonderful composer and has created music for many films and festivals. As an incredible and highly demanded backing musician, she has appeared in over 50 recordings.