The short version

Barbara Karlik, harpress, songwritress, dancer, translator. I play the Early Gaelic Harp – cláirseach – which was an instrument present in Ireland and Scottish Highlands between the 10th and 19th century. My repertoire consists of tunes and songs written by the harpers of old, reconstructed with the HIP premise (historically informed performance) but also traditional Irish music, and my own songs, based on legends, sci fi and fantasy books, and filk – the folklore of made up worlds and the tribes inhabiting the fandom. I also play at live action role play (larp) events, where I portray bards and other characters that add music to the created worlds.

Why harpress?

Harpist is a person who plays a concert harp or historical harps of the continental Europe. A harper or harpress plays a folk harp – a modern celtic harp or an early harp.

The whole story

I always wanted to play the harp, but I didn’t even dream to ask about it, because I had the idea that a harp is an incredibly pricy instrument. In 2000 I joined a local Celtic folk band called Oúld Land, and I learned I could try to get a harp – an Irish harp. I also learned that the harp can have wire strings. When I listened to guitars I preferred the sound of wire, and when I learned that the older Irish harp had wire strings I was hooked. I wanted a wire strung. Thanks to my English teacher, Robert Parry, and the constant support of my mom, I managed to get my first wire strung harp, which I named Shirka (she was a Limerick from Musicmakers Kits), and Ann Heymann’s “Gaelic Harpers First Tunes”.

In 2004 I learned about Scoil na gCláirseach, the summer school of Early Irish Harp. I also flew to Ireland for the first time, and I fell head over heels for that incredible country with a true soul. I also had my first lesson with a real, live teacher – Siobhán Armstrong.

The next year was the first one where I managed to get to Scoil na gCláirseach. Since 2005 I’m there every year, and since 2018 I also help the staff. Through years of attending the summer festical I had the wonderful possibility of learning harping techniques of the modern Early Gaelic harp masters, and learn about the Irish and Scottish tradition from the tradition bearers.

My teachers were Ann Heymann, Siobhán Armstrong, Javier Sainz, Andrew Lawrence King, Paul Dooley, Simon Chadwick, Sylvia Crawford, Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin, Allan McDonald, Barnaby Brown, Róisín Elsafty, Griogair Labhruidh, Éamon Ó Bróithe, Ronan Browne, Virginia Blankenhorn, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, Paddy Glackin, Sarah Ghríallais, Aodán Ó Ceallaigh.

I also had 7 years of classical singing traingin with Donata Hoppel.

In 2006 I had Leszek Pelc make me a student replica of the Queen Mary harp which is in the National Museum in Edinburgh.

I am now a full time harpress. I play concerts, events, bard characters in larps, and I visit schools and preschools with concert lessons. I also teach Early Gaelic harp. I research harping and harps, and I am engaged in a big scientific project, which will culminate in recreating the 17 century Fitzgerald – Kildare harp.