Belfast to host a celebration of the Irish harp

In September, the Linen Hall Library will host a unique event to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Irish Harp Society of Belfast. The Library, in the city’s Donegal Square, is renowned for its unparalleled Irish and Local Studies Collection and includes plenty of material related to Ireland’s national instrument.

The event, to be held on 12th September, will feature insights into the library’s famous Beath Collection whose focus is mainly musical, including the papers of Edward Bunting who transcribed and published music from the last official gathering of Irish harp players in 1792.  Without Bunting’s efforts, many famous Irish airs would have been lost forever.

It will also showcase the Belfast Irish Harp Society, which was founded in 1819, and was the catalyst for John Egan's forays into "Irish" harp making.  Egan was a Dublin pedal harp maker who was commissioned to make Irish Harps for the Society's school. As the Irish harp fell out of favour, his new "Royal Portable Harp" became the inspiration for today's lever harps.

That’s the type of harp that many of today’s famous practitioners travel with and performers, including Simon Chadwick and Lily Neil, will be showcasing their talents on the day. Neil said that this will be “The only event taking place to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Irish Harp Society and is a golden opportunity to bring attention to a little-known chapter in Irish music history.”

As well as harpists, there will be poetry from Philip McDonagh – who has collaborated with Neil in the past – and talks from well-known authorities in the area such as Dr. Mary Louise O'Donnell.


A Celebration of The Beath Collection, and the Bicentennial of the Irish Harp Society of Belfast (1819-39)

Linen Hall Library, 17 Donegall Square North Belfast BT1 5GB

Thursday, September 12th 2019 (3:30 – 7:30pm)