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Of historical harp music, composers and arrangements


Historically, almost all ‘harp music’ is attributed to a known composer because harp music was ‘high music’ – the court music of Ireland’s historic past, the patronised music of the ‘big house’, the professional music that served the upper classes. This is the music of O’Cahan, the Connellan brothers and Carolan and they have bequeathed us a treasure of melody – and only melody. This is also the case with all the ‘ordinary’ music in the Irish tradition – it exists in the form of melody only and the presentation of this is open to our creative input. We players will ‘arrange’ this music to our taste and if not acknowledging an arranger, it is implicit that the player is the arranger. And the player is well-entitled to the credit and glory if the setting is good - as our treatment of the music is a lot more than just the ornamentation and variation of the melody….


The ‘arrangement’ dimension is the special deal for us harp players and here is where we can show off our understanding of the music and our creative input. It is worth noting that our roles as arrangers are equally protected by the laws protecting composers. If you perform someone elses’ arrangement, and remember - it is perfectly acceptable to do so! – don’t forget to acknowledge the source!