Why this harp? It was love at first sight. One of the big early Gaelic harps, with beautiful winding lines, full of mysterious carved creatures and the lion or wolfhound head at the end of the neck… with a rich beefy base too. This sounds like an instrument I could play some Baroque music in sutiable arrangements. What spices things up a bit is also the fact that I have yet to see a faithful copy of that harp.
Copying extant harps requires examining the instruments but also making decisions. We don’t have tools that would allow us to go back in time, nor do we have ways of taking them apart without destroying them, so we have to decide taking into account all the accessible data: do we want to make a faithful copy of the instrument in the museum, in that state? Or do we try to reverse engineer it, basing on research, to have a “brand new” instrument? I would like to try the latter – have recreation of the harp when it was still intact, without the metal plates and the repairs, with its paint vibrant and unchipped.
Love at first sight
Together with other Scoil na gCláirseach students I entered the storerooms of the National Museum of Ireland in Collins Barracks, Dublin, and I first set my eyes upon the stunning Fitzgerald-Kildare harp.
The decision and talks with Natalie
It was 2014, when I went to the harp school field trip with my fiancé, Lucas, and I showed him the harp I made the decision about undertaking that project. The first person taken on board was Natalie Surina from Eiriu Harps.
In summer 2017 I made a decision to 3d scan the harp, and in September, after getting all the permissions from the museum I took part in measuring, photographing and 3D scanning the harp with Elena Surgue from 3D Printing Ireland and Natalie Surina. The result is a 3D model that can be measured, manipulated and looked at, which helps making a close copy without having to constantly disturb the precious and fragile museum specimen.
NMI Archive visit
I visited the Archives at the National Museum of Ireland and with the help of archivist Emer Ní Cheallaigh I tried to find traces of “my” harp on paper.
New luthier on board
After discussing the problems concerning logistics of harpmaking with Natalie I decided to take on a new luthier on board. In December 2019 I signed an agreement with Pedro Ferreira from Rumor atelier de instrumentos musicais in Portugal.
In 2020 I arranged for a couple of metalworking trials. I contacted excellent artisans and artists trying to create metal pins for my harp. The results didn’t meet my expectations, so I left all the metalwork back in the hands of Pedro Ferreira.