Scottish & Celtic Harp


          The harp is Scotland’s oldest national instrument. It came in two different forms: the earlier Pictish harp, strung with gut or horsehair, and the Gaelic clarsach, strung with wire.

          The clarsach was the primary instrument of the Gaelic courts until the introduction of the bagpipe in the 15th century and remained central to Gaelic courtly music until the mid 18th century. It also played a key role in the music of the early Celtic church.

          Harpers themselves were a highly trained class of professionals who spent years perfecting their art and were held in esteem second only to that of the clan poet, or filidh. However, this ancient tradition died out following the Jacobite rebellion and the subsequent destruction of clan society and repression of Gaelic culture. The music was seldom written down by the harpers themselves and until recently it was believed to be entirely lost.

          By the 1890s a new harp was being developed in Ireland and Scotland as part of a Gaelic cultural revival. It had gut strings and semitone mechanisms (levers), a lighter soundbox, and was small and curved like the historical clarsach. These are the non-pedal acoustic instruments of folk harpers today.

          Edinboro’s 2014 Harp Competition is fully sanctioned by The Scottish Harp Society of America, Inc. (SHSA), a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the Scottish harp, the clarsach, and its music both ancient and modern.

          Competitors must use a non-pedal, acoustic harp.

          Solo Harp Categories
          Beginner, Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master.

          Special Harp Categories
          Early Scottish Music, Harp & Vocal, Harp & Spoken Word, Harp in Ensemble, and Emerging Forms.

          Harpers will be judged on the performance of Scottish or Celtic music. Scoring is based on Scottish style, harp technique, musicality, performing skills, and other criteria specific to each category. Celtic music played for the competition may include tunes from any of the British Isle countries.