CLARSACHS

For centuries the harp has been the national emblem of Ireland. Evidence of its early use by the Gaelic peoples is left to us on the carvings of the 8th and 9th century Pictish stones. These harps, as well as those throughout Europe for the next several centuries, appear to have been non-standard, and it was not until the 12th (literary evidence) or the 13th century (surviving instrument) that the Gaelic harp or Clarsach was strung with wire and obtained its characteristic and robust form with a sound box carved from a solid piece of wood. These aspects, and the original manner of playing, left hand playing treble right hand playing bass, make the Gaelic harp unique. The enchanting bell-like tones it produced when plucked by the carefully shaped nails of the harpers were much admired throughout Europe and, unlike other European harps, it was to remain essentially the same in concept and technique until the beginning of the 19th century.

N.B. Traditionally there are no access holes in the back of the soundbox (a print out is supplied when you buy a harp which explains about string changing); also none of these harps are fitted with hooks, blades or sharping levers ~ these devices originated in the late 17th century. Most historical harps with a single row of strings were tuned diatonically although some octaves may have been tuned to include sharps and flats if and when required. All my harps can easily be tuned to any key although I do not advise raising the pitch of the fundamental note without altering the string gauges, as this would greatly increase the tension on the instrument as a whole.

Click on pictures for more information

Please ask about similar harps made to your specification.

Based on Queen Mary clarsach c.1500
  • 29 brass strings, tuned G - g'''
  • Height : 80cm approx.
  • Hollowed out soundbox £3100
  • The original Queen Mary harp has traditional fish carving on the pillar and brass cheek bands on the harmonic curve as shown.

  • On the original harp the spacings are very close compared to modern harps and also get closer towards the bass. According to your preference (re. authenticity) I can make the spacing as on the original or alter it to give more clearance in the bass.
  • 29 brass strings, tuned G - g'''
  • Height : 80cm approx.
  • Plain version without carving and brass work
  • Hollowed out soundbox £2200
  • 26 brass strings, tuned c - g'''
  • Height : 80cm approx.
  • Plain version without carving and brass work
  • Hollowed out soundbox £1850
Sound Clip - Played by Dominic Haerinick

Jerpoint harp, based on a 16th century Irish carving

  • 26 brass strings, tuned G - d'''
  • Height : 95cm approx.
  • Weight: 3.8kg (8lb 7oz) approx.
  • Hollowed out soundbox £1850
  • 24 brass strings, tuned c - e'''
  • Hollowed out soundbox £1550
  • 22 brass strings, tuned d - d'''
  • Height : 70cm approx.
  • Weight: 2.2kg (4lb 13oz) approx.
  • Hollowed out soundbox £1100
  • 19 brass strings, tuned g - d'''
  • Height : 60cm approx.
  • Weight: 1.8kg (4lb) approx.
  • Hollowed out soundbox £900
Notation : C" - C' - C - c - c' - c" - c"'

c' = middle c

N.B. Traditionally these clarsachs do not have access holes in the back of the box and this is the way I usually make them; for this reason I supply an instruction sheet on replacing strings when a harp is purchased.

Colouring of white woods is available for all harps from £100 depending on the size of the instrument in question.

I supply spare wire for strings in 4metre coils.

Cases are available on request and prices will vary according to instrument.

Book

History of the Irish Harp by George Stevens. Details of legends, possible origins, players and playing technique associated with Ireland's national instrument. Contains detailed bibliography. 60 pages, illustrated in black and white ~ £16.50 including postage and packaging.