There is evidence that the harp has been played in Ireland for more than a thousand years. There are examples of it found on Christian stone crosses and writings that date back to the eighth century. Even though the history of the harp is shrouded in mystery, historians have discovered images of the instrument dating back more than 5,000 years in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
What is the Irish Harp?
The Irish Harp is a symbol of Ireland and Irish pride. The Irish harp became an emblem of resistance to the Crown and England. The Irish harp, although not as renowned as the shamrock is the official emblem of Ireland. The Irish harp's status as the official insignia of Ireland dates centuries and the elegant instrument's history tells much about the history of the Emerald Isle.
Who was the first person to create the Irish harp?
The origins and history of the Irish harp may be traced back to the Irish ruling class and the Irish nobility. The instrument itself was connected with these social groups. This might be traced back to the period in the 11th century when King Brian Boru was renowned for his proficiency on the harp. During that time, the harp was a popular instrument in Ireland. Display of the Brian Boru Harp at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
The History of the Irish Harp
The Irish harp has a history that may be traced back at least a thousand years, despite the fact that its very beginnings are unknown. It is said that Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland, who passed away in 1014, was a skilled player. However, while he is attributed with a variety of skills for which there is no evidence, surviving annals from the 12th century refer to the Celtic harp as being the only music played during the Crusades.
The Gaelic harp was held in high esteem across Celtic society during this time period (and all over Europe). It was customary for the kings and chieftains of Scotland and Ireland to have their very own resident harper. This harper would, in turn, be accorded a high position and be granted unique privileges. The primary responsibilities of the musician were to provide accompaniment for the reciting of poetry or the singing of psalms. Even though they may have written their own music, there is no record of it since they did not write it down.
In the year 1531, the English ruler Henry VIII proclaimed himself to be the King of Ireland. Due to the notoriety and esteem with which the county's harp was held, it was eventually selected to serve as the official national emblem of Ireland and was imprinted into the currency of Henry's new kingdom.
At this point in time, the Celtic social order was in a state of collapse, and as the years went by, harpers lost a significant portion of their prestige as their numbers decreased. Because their wealthy clients could no longer support them, several of them went to the road as musicians, taking their harps and singing with them. The widespread popularity of the harp eventually turned out to be a challenge. The Gaelic harp, which is still widely known as a symbol of Ireland and Irish pride, evolved through time into an emblem that symbolized defiance against the Crown and England. As a result, it was prohibited near the close of the medieval era, and the centuries-old practice of playing the Celtic harp gradually faded away. The Scottish clarsach was no longer played by the time the 18th century rolled around. After another century, the Irish harp went the way of the dodo as well.
Edward Bunting, a musician, and collector of folk music attended a traditional harp festival in Belfast in 1792 and took down the music that was performed as well as the vocabulary that was used by the harpers. Fortunately, this music and terminology have survived to this day. This was the very first time that traditional Gaelic harp music had ever been captured on paper, and it is largely because of Bunting's efforts that these authentic Celtic melodies have not been lost for good.
What were the reasons for Ireland's ban on the harp?
On the other hand, at this time in Irish history, Celtic traditions were gradually succumbing to the overbearing influence of the British, and the harp became a symbol of the Irish people's defiance against the English crown. At the end of the medieval era, the harp was forbidden, and as a result, the Celtic musical legacy started to die out.
What sets the harp different from other instruments?
It is claimed that the harp has been around since 15,000 BC, which would place it in the ranks of the world's oldest instruments. The verb "to pluck" is whence the English term "harp" comes from; it is also found in German, Old Norse, and Anglo Saxon. It's possible that it has a string.
The harp serves as the national emblem of Ireland, but why exactly?
Following his accession to the throne in 1531, Henry VIII designated the harp as Ireland's official instrument. Harp music died out together with the collapse of Irish aristocracies and kingdoms. The instrument itself has evolved into a potent symbol of defiance against the British government throughout time.