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Commissioning a replica of the Castle Otway Harp

Anyone who has ever visited The Long Room at Trinity College will have seen the Brian Boru harp. Fewer will be familiar with a second harp owned by Trinity College, known as the Castle Otway harp. This harp is not normally on public display, but every year, at the Historical Harp Society of Ireland’s Scoil na gCláirseach field trip, a small group of us get the rare opportunity to view the Castle Otway harp in the Henry Jones Room.

Simon Chadwick and members of the Early Irish Harp summer school 2019 examining the Castle Otway harp in the Henry Jones Room

The Brian Boru harp and Castle Otway harp are both surviving examples of old Irish wire strung harps. This tradition came to an end around 200 years ago, but there is growing interest in reviving and playing this old type of Irish harp with metal strings. Because this tradition was orally transmitted, the way of playing was lost. Present-day players therefore rely on research and on reconstructed playing techniques to learn the old Irish harp and to connect to past traditions.

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