What exactly is a celtic harp? It is a fantasy instrument which was invented in the 19th C. The ancient Irish and Scottish harps had all but fallen into oblivion, when some romantic revivalists decided that they could not live without a nice portable harp, which would remind them of their heritage (think: bards, druids, The wanderings of Oisín, the Celtic Twilight...).
The harp which was then invented had the basic outline of the ancient harps, but it was built and strung like a small concert harp of the time: with the soundbox not carved from one log of wood, but built up, and strung with gut instead of brass. To make semitones, blades or levers were attached to the neck of the harp. The celtic harp found its way into music schools, as an affordable alternative to the concert harp. But it really has its own place in (folk) music, and its original repertoire is steadily growing.
Before I could afford any period instruments, I played everything from ars nova to basso continuo on a celtic harp. Now, with the celtic harp, I stick to folk (Breton, Irish, Scottish) and contemporary music and improvisation. Its is a great instrument to accompany weddings, funerals and other special occasions.
My first harp was a celtic harp, a 'clarsach' by Pilgrim. Being faithful by nature ; ) I will always remain faithful to this my first love. But I had to restring my clarsach in a lighter gauge, as its original stringing became too heavy for my 'historical harp hands'. My other celtic harp was made in 1995 by Mark Lester. With its long mensuration, it is strung in gut down to D, with only four wire-wound bass strings. The sound is brilliant!
What a pity that Mark stopped making harps...
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