Calling All Harps and Voices


Colmcille mailchimp strip 2

 Celebrating the 1500th anniversary of St. Colmcille’s birth in 521.

Inviting all harp players and singers of plainsong
(early Christian chant)
to participate in the 
virtual performance of
Janet Harbison's 
Colmcille Suite

Join us and feature in the online concert being uploaded to YouTube
at 6pm on 7th December 2021



Comille suite front cover sm

Hello Everyone!

I hope you have all survived the strangest of years and that we will all be harping happily together – and in public again soon!

It's been a busy time at Harbison Harp HQ, with the Colmcille 1500 Project off to a strong start - and it’s very exciting to see people signing up to participate from all over the world: Canada, USA, Tasmania, Australia, China, Japan, France, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland and of course the UK - just to name a few!

If you haven’t checked it out already, be sure to do so now as all options are still open. Read all details about how to get involved below!. 

For participants, I am planning some live video rehearsals that I will tell you more about in the next newsletter.  

If you wish to perform the Colmcille Suite yourselves with your own ensembles/orchestras and local choirs,  you are also most welcome.

This will be a FREE CONCERT but we will be asking for donations toward costs of the video production – and there will be a percentage of the donations going toward a charitable interest.

So, for now – enjoy your music-making with ‘The Colmcille Suite’ – and have a listen to the tracks! 

What a special year this is becoming – a real celebration of an exceptional holy man and historical figure in Irish, Scottish and Christian history.  

I look forward to welcoming you on board. 





The Colmcille Suite for soprano and community choir singing plainsong,  with harp solo and massed harps in 4 parts, hand-bell and chime, was first performed in 1997 with the Belfast Harp Orchestra, soprano Mairead Healy and choirs from all over Northern Ireland and western Scotland.  Then, we performed over 20 concerts  commemorating the 1400th anniversary of St.Colmcille’s death.

In 2021, we celebrate the 1500th anniversary of his birth
and we will perform ‘Colmcille’ once more – but this time, in a virtual concert that audiences can access online on and from 6 pm on 7th December 2021.


Get involved....

1. Purchase your score

The purchase of the score via our shop automatically registers you to participate in the production.

Choose which part is appropriate (between low intermediate, high intermediate, and advanced standard) – and you are welcome also to consider the solo part (advanced).

The harp scores come in 3 volumes:

Harps Part 1 for novices - low intermediates (easy, 2 years experience +) (Price: €20)

Harps Part 2 & 3 for high intermediates (3-5 years experience) (Price €25) and

Harps Part 4 and Solo for advanced players (6+ years’ experience) (Price €30)

The Vocal Score (Price €10) is available to all singers. Any soprano or tenor soloists interested in participating with the solos, please get in touch!

The Director’s Score – the full work for conductors and directors that would like to consider performing the work with their own choir and ensembles/orchestras independently.

All scores are available in our online shop and you may also wish to purchase the Colmcille – Columban Suite Album(from the 1997 production).

The complete work is also available to stream on Apple Music and Spotify.

2. After your purchase, get practising!

You will receive an email from Janet confirming your participation and giving you the links to the sound files and training videos.

3. Toward the end of June,

You will receive the conducting video with advice on setting up your camera, your background (the plainest possible please!) and the video recording quality. You will also receive a base track for the recording. We will be in contact with you to hear how you’re getting on, and to ask if you need assistance with any aspect of rehearsing.
Janet is happy to offer one-on-one assistance (at her usual lesson rate) between May and August to anyone seeking help with the production – and we can offer other tutors if you wish.

4. Record and submit your video by September 1st 2021! THIS DEADLINE HAS NOW BEEN EXTENDED TO 31st OCT 2021!

All participants are requested to submit their video performances which will be edited into the full production. 

5. Be sure to tell all your friends to tune in to watch

The entire production will be aired online on the evening of 7th December 2021 – at 6pm. 

Video Submission Guidelines 

  • All videos to be submitted as mp4 files on or before September 1st, 2021 

  • Please have the camera positioned about 3 – 5 feet (1m – 1.5m) from you and against the plainest possible background (off-white walls if possible) so to feature you singing or with your instrument. 

  • Also, please ensure sufficient light and camera quality a video quality of 720p minimum 1080p maximum and 30 fps (frames per second) 

  • We will send you a link to submit your video. 

  • Please name your file as 
    ColmcilleHarp _YourName.mp4 

Any questions, please contact Janet at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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Christmas 2020 Newsletter

Dear harpers, fans and friends,CD By Strangford Water

After such a weird year, Christmas is almost here – and I sincerely hope that you all are surviving with some level of fortitude as well as joy in your music. For all of us in the profession, these past 10 months have been a shock to put it mildly. And, the road ahead for 2021 remains uncertain on every level. So, while live concerts, workshops, sessions and festivals are on hold, it is indeed intriguing to find how creative we are getting with moving our art to the internet! It is a new platform – and I for one, have been on the steepest of learning curves!

BSW cover wiro bound smsmHowever, many of us are triumphing and have perfected our teaching skills ‘online. Actually, the convenience of this is proving solidly positive to so many – even if the challenge of being able to play together in ‘real time’ has some way still to evolve. Still, I am in awe of where I am teaching now… Just yesterday alone, I taught Deanna in Tazmania, Yiteng in China, Dasa in Czeck Republic in Dublin, Rose in Wicklow, Lorna in Meath, Nicola in Cambridge and Charlotte in Shropshire! For a maturing soul like me, I still find this thrilling!!

In the course of our strangest of years, I produced my new CD... and the book to accompany it – along with the completion of my 5 volumes of Carolan arrangements celebrating his 350th anniversary. And there is much happening behind the scenes with the projects for 2021. Look out for the Colmcille 1500 project which is exciting me greatly at the moment – and I look forward to hearing about all your projects in these strangest of times.

Please stay safe and well, happy and harpy everyone – and I hope your preparations for Christmas are creative!.

 Carolan collection for web 2. with purple small

Look out for more ahead...

  • June 5 – 12, 2021 Summer school in Donegal celebrating Colmcille 1500 collaborating with the Camino Colmcille
  • Irish Harp Orchestra Tour to Germany, December

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2021 is St. Colmcille's 1500th Anniversary

A Virtual Production of 'COLMCILLE' for 2021!Comille suite front cover sm

Inviting all harpers to participate in the virtual performance of the Colmcille Suite commemorating the 1500th anniversary of St.Colmcille's birth.

With all the uncertainties of life in the arts world now, Janet Harbison’s ‘Colmcille 1500’ project is going ‘digital’! Her suite for soprano, harps, chorus, bells and chimes, entitled simply ‘Colmcille’, was first performed in 1997 with the Belfast Harp Orchestra, soprano Mairead Healy and choirs from all over Northern Ireland and western Scotland. This was to join the churches of all Christian denominations commemorating the 1400th anniversary of St.Colmcille’s death.

In 2021, we celebrate the 1500th anniversary of his birth and we will perform ‘Colmcille’ once more – but this time, it will be a virtual concert that will be a 50 minute video performance. All participants (harps, voices, chimes etc) will video performances of their parts to a ‘base track’ (heard on headphones) prepared from teaching and rehearsal videos – for both singers and harpers. The scores and training videos are available from the end of November 2020, rehearsal videos from January 2021 and performances to be submitted by September 1st – with the launch-date of December 7th, Colmcille’s actual birthday.

There will be two other elements intended for this video production. The first is a series of visual sequences interspersed through the video of places associated with Colmcille. This will include his birthplace in Gartan, Donegal; his chapel in (L’)Derry; his refuge (and pilgrimage trail) in Glencolmcille; and after views of a the Colmcille project boat rowing across the sea to Iona, Scotland (this sequence to be confirmed), and of Colmcille’s Abbey there.. 

The second element is a film of a live ‘Book of Kells’ inspired illumination of the 150th psalm ‘Laudate Dominum’ which completes the Colmcille suite and invites the virtual production audience to join with the choir in chanting the final psalm. This is the psalm that invites us to: ‘Praise the Lord with Lute and Harp’. The illumination will be undertaken by the celebrated medieval calligrapher, Jane Sullivan, who will partner us in this production.

Click to listen to an exerpt of the finale Laudate Dominum



 Visit the CD downloadable tracks - where there is a 30 second clip of each track

How it will work for the participants 

November 2020 

Scores and rehearsal videos are available to all prospective participants. The purchase of the score automatically includes participation in the production and participants will choose from the following: 

Vol 1 - Director’s Score  The full score available in A4 or A3

Vol 2 - Harp Part 1 Low intermediate - Beginner orchestra part Players of at least 2 years experience 

Vol 3 - Harp Part 2 and Part 3 - High intermediate  Intermediate orchestra part Players of 2 – 5 years experience 

Vol 4 - Harp Part 4 and Solo - Advanced  Players of 8 + years experience 

Vol 5 - Choral and Vocal Solos 

Vol 6 - Narrators

Vol 7 - Handbell and C, D & A Chimes

All scores are available from Janet's shop or may be hired or licensed for downloading as appropriate. 

Order your part score and with this comes access to Part Videos to assist with your training; rehearsal tracks and directions for video-ing your part (not expected until the end of August 2021).

January 2021

A conducting video will be posted with a sound-track (for participant’s headphones) for assistance with rehearsal. Between January and August 31st, Janet is available to participants needing assistance with the preparation of their parts – but the technical aspect of production is with the participants! 

September 1st 2021 

All participants are requested to submit their video performances which will be edited into the full production.

This will be launched on December 7th 2021, Colmcille’s birthday. 

Live performances

Live performances of this work are hoped for and harp school directors who would like to arrange their own performances of the full work, or parts of it are most welcome. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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By Strangford Water - The Music Book

By strangford water music cover lr smThe album is already achieving wonderful feedback and people are keen to have the scores.

By Strangford Water - The Music Book - coming soon

November 1st, I am launching ‘By Strangford Water - The Music Book'
containing the scores to all the pieces on the album! 

By Strangford Water, Bright New Morning, Leap of Faith, Farewell Joel, Trip to London, Easter Snow, Lily White, Whelan’s and Janet’s Jigs, My Darling Bridget’s Hand (on Carolan’s theme for Bridget Cruise), Viking, Kyrie, and Dance of the Water Sprites. 

Pre-order By Strangford Water - The Music Book


bystrangfordwaterBy Strangford Water - The Sheet Music

Printed Sheet Music - available now








by Strangford Water sheet music download lrBy Strangford Water - Downloadable 

Download the sheet music direct to your computer


If you are unsure how to download the music try a couple of our free pieces and read the instructions here




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By Strangford Water - The CD

By Strangford Water Janet Harbison CD booklet2 Page 1Bright New Morning, and Viking and Kyrie from my ‘Lion of Ireland’ suite and ‘Whelan’s and Janet’s Jigs’ will be familiar already as Harp Orchestra pieces, but here they are as concert solos.

But, it’s all the newly recorded tracks that are exciting for me to hear your thoughts. So far, the favourites seem to be ‘By Strangford Water’ itself, but also ‘Farewell Joel’ (the tribute piece composed for Joel Garnier of Camac Harps who designed the ‘Janet’ harp for me), ‘Lily White’ (for my mother-in-law) Polina's favourite, and the funky ‘Dance of the Water Sprites’ and Gerry Diver, my engineer, loves the funkiness of ‘The Dance of the Water Sprites’. Dying to hear what are your favs!


 By Strangford Water CD - now available to buy in Janet's shop


What my first reviewers have said "...

Dearest Janet,

I received your precious gift of your beautiful new CD a few days ago and have been listening to it non-stop!  It's absolutely wonderful!l!  Whelen's and Janet's jigs are the earworm before going to bed last night and upon arising. Dance of the Water Spirits particularly touched my heart and soul with our California need for water to quench the fierce fires in our state. I just can't stop listening to it. 

The recording quality is terrific. I love the bright clear tone of your harp and feel in some ways that I’m right in a room with you (I think that may be due to your strong spirit as much as the good micing and recording). And I love that the music is mostly your own compositions.  You stand as my top favorite composer for the Celtic/neo-Celtic harp. And honestly - I'm so impressed - you haven't lost a bit of your harp-dancing abilities over the years!  And it seems to me that life experiences, depth of heart and soul have made your music even more beautiful, brilliant, rich, imaginative.  

Thank-you so much for your efforts to record and share this with our world.  This album is so bright and beautiful and full of everything great and hopeful during these unprecedented times. I'm just so impressed and so grateful!

Sending you oceans of love and light across the miles!

 Stork, California

PS Teed also loves your album and your compositions and arrangements. And great cover!! Just so well done Janet!!


I just had to write and tell you...By Strangford Water is so beautiful!!!  It is easy to close one's eyes and imagine heaven listening to that tune!  I can hardly wait to buy the CD...Something to look forward to, amidst all of this doom and gloom!

Ellarose B, Antigonish, Nova Scotia


I don’t know how you come up with these extremely creative pieces. They’re all so different and at the same time exquisitely beautiful without exception. You are a very gifted and talented lady; this album really showcases your playing skills.

Farewell Joel - The harmonics at the end are stunning and perfect for this music. This is my favourite piece of music on your new album.

Kyrie  - This track is wonderfully ethereal yet strong. It’s beautifully written. Another timeless favourite

Connie C, Okanagen Falls, BC, Canada


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Plans for 2021 move online

Through 2021, Colmcille 1500 celebrates the 1500th anniversary of St. Colmcille’s birth in 521AD.

Performances of COLMCILLE, The Columban Suite (or just ‘The Colmcille Suite’).

Originally performed and recorded by the Belfast Harp Orchestra in 1997 on the 1400th anniversary of St.Colmcille’s death - this piece is being refreshed and performed again in 2021. 

Participation is OPEN TO ALL HARPERS and scores and rehearsal videos are available from October 2020. 

Ensemble leaders are invited to register interest in performing the work in your neighbourhood / at your festivals with your ensemble, a local choir, vocal soloists and chime ringers from your own ranks, or the Irish Harp Orchestra can provide them!  

In the next newsletter, there will be links. to sample sound files and links to videos!  Talk to Janet!

The Irish Harp Orchestra tours again to Germany in December – also performing The Colmcille Suite.

Janet is planning many events  

  • Glencolmcille Summer school weeks June 5th -12th 2021
  • Participate with the ancient annual Colmcille Camino
  • Irish Harp Orchestra touring to Germany
  • Live performances in a number of churches, with the collaboration of chrch choirs, vocal soloist and bell/chime ringers

If you are interested in participating or hosting a performance, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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The Traditional Harp Tutor Books 2020 Edition

The Traditional Harp Tutor Booksjh tutors 1 4
Levels 1-4 are REVISED in a 2020 Edition


Making them more user-friendly for self learners! There’s also more explanations and exercises.


Beginners: All the Basics, and the easiest steps to quick note-reading -
and 24 great tunes including ‘Brian Boru’s March’, ‘Eleanor Plunkett’, ‘Fanny Power’ and ‘The Rakes of Mallow’!

Low Intermediates: Getting to grips with repertoire and tune type,
and 28 more tunes including ‘Give me Your Hand’, ‘Down by the Sally Gardens’, ‘Captain O’Kane’ and ’Shebeg Shemore’

High Intermediates: All about arranging, ornamentation and variation;
and 28 more tunes including ‘The Princess Royal’, ‘Carolan’s Draught’, McLeod’s Reel, and ‘The Bard of Armagh’ 

Advanced: Tall about polishing your skills:
advanced arrangement, accompaniment skills, improve and composition and another 28 great tunes! 
Also, each volume comes with groups of sound files to help with your practise. Email me for the link to the Dropbox and the recordings!

Read more about Janet Harbison's Tutor Books

Traditional Irish Harp Tutor Books available from Janet's Shop

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By Strangford Water CD is launched

CD By Strangford WaterLauching 1st September 2020

This is my first solo album featuring myself alone with my own music almost entirely. 

It is mostly solo harp with just 2 tracks overdubbed with myself!  You will recognise some old favorites, but here they are in solo version. 


By Strangford Water, Bright New Morning, Leap of Faith, Farewell to Joel, Trip to London, Easter Snow, Lily White, Whelan’s and Janet’s Jigs, My Darling Bridget’s Hand (on Carolan’s theme for Bridget Cruise), Viking, Kyrie, and Dance of the Water Sprites. 

You can pre-order By Strangford Water CD from Janet's shop.


bystrangfordwaterBy Strangford Water - The Sheet Music

Pre-order from Janet's shop.






What my first reviewers have said "...

I just had to write and tell you...By Strangford Water is so beautiful!!!  It is easy to close one's eyes and imagine heaven listening to that tune!  I can hardly wait to buy the CD...Something to look forward to, amidst all of this doom and gloom!

Ellarose B, Antigonish, Nova Scotia


I don’t know how you come up with these extremely creative pieces. They’re all so different and at the same time exquisitely beautiful without exception. You are a very gifted and talented lady; this album really showcases your playing skills.

Farewell Joel - The harmonics at the end are stunning and perfect for this music. This is my favourite piece of music on your new album.

Kyrie  - This track is wonderfully ethereal yet strong. It’s beautifully written. Another timeless favourite

Connie C, Okanagen Falls, BC, Canada


Read more

By Strangford Water - The Single

Lauching the recording and score - 1st August 2020

By Strangford Water slide trials for video 2

From my upcoming solo harp album of the same title that has been 3 years in the making!  

This was the piece featured in my ‘Harps for Hope’ series on the ‘Harp Ireland’ website in March that many players have requested the score for. 

You’ll be happy to hear that the score is being launched alongside the recording - on the 1st August, pre-orders available below

Follow Janet’s Facebook page to hear what’s coming. The Single will be available to download on various streaming platforms, listed below, from 1st August 2020.


bystrangfordwaterBy Strangford Water - Sheet Music

available to pre-order from Janet's shop.






"By Strangford Water" single - available to stream from 1st August 2020, from:

Spotify  itunes logoGoogle Play  Apple Music Amazon Music 2  Youtube

TikTok • Deezer • Pandora • ClaroMusica • Saavn • TIDAL • iHeartRadio • Napster • Anghami • KKBox • TouchTunes 


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The Carolan Collection Volumes 1 - 5 is now complete!

I have been busy during the lock-down! - upgrading tutors, and not just finishing Volumes 3 and 4 of the Carolan Collection, but also producing a 5th volume entitled ‘The Carolan Concert Collection’ from my own concert repertoire. 

Very excited by all of this and hope you will be too!

The collection features over 100 of Carolan’s most beloved tunes and I am delighted to have finished this for the Year of Carolan!  He is such a big part of our repertoire and deserves his star role in music relevant for all ages (centuries) and performance opportunities.


carolan collection volume 1 600x600The Carolan Collection Volume 1 

Suitable for Beginners

1 Miss Goulding
2 Lady Gethin
3 John Drury, Planxty Kingsland
4 Planxty Irwin
5 Sheebeg Sheemore
6 Hugh Kelly
7 Eleanor Plunkett
8 Miss Murphy
9 Miss Fanny Power
10 Miss McMurray
11 Young Richard Cusack
12 Bridget Cruise
13 George Brabazon
14 Lament for Charles MacCabe
15 Princess Royal
16 James Plunkett
17 Lord Dillon
18 Captain O’Kane
19 Colonel O’Hara
20 Lady Wrixon
21 Kean O’Hara
22 Madam Maxwell

Volume 1 available from Janet's shop 


The Carolan Collection Volume 2 Carolan2018vol2 sm

Suitable for Low Intermediary players 

1 Batchelor Brabazon
2 Mrs Anne Mac Dermott Roe
3 Doctor O Connor
4 Betty MacNeill
5 Planxty Salaigh
6 Lady St. John
7 Mary O’Neill / Carolan’s Favourite
8 One Bottle More
9 Denis O’Conor
10 George Reynolds
11 Jem the Miller
12 Planxty Galway
13 Planxty Johnston
14 Carolan’s Cap
15 Peggy Morton
16 All Alive
17 Hugh O’Donnell
18 Mr O’Connor and Jig
19 Henry MacDermottRoe,
20 Captain Magan
21 The Landlady

Volume 2 available from Janet's shop 

The Carolan Collection Volume 3
Carolan2018vol3 sm

Suitable for Higher Intermediary players 

1 Bumper Squire Jones
2 Carolan’s Draught
3 Madge Malone
4 Planxty Burke
5 Planxty Brown
6 Carolan’s Welcome
7 Sir Festus Burke
8 Carolan’s Receipt
9 Madam Maxwell (2nd setting)
10 Mrs Keel
11 Mervyn Pratt
12 Planxty Hewlett
13 Captain Sudley / Carolan’s Dowry
14 Mrs Crofton
15 Fanny Power (2nd setting)
16 Eleanor Plunkett (2nd setting)
17 Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill
18 Blind Mary
19 Sir Charles Coote
20 Planxty Drew
21 Mrs Costello
22 Planxty John Kelly
23 Miss Murphy (2nd setting)
24 Planxty Irwin (2nd setting)
25 Carolan’s Concerto 

(2nd setting) designates that this is a 2nd (different) version of a tune in a previous volume.

Volume 3 available in Janet's shop


The Carolan Collection Volume 4Carolan2018vol4sm

 Suitable for Advanced players 

1 Lord Inchiquinn
2 Kitty Maggenis
3 Morgan McGann
4 Mrs Elizabeth MacDermottRoe
5 Henry MacDermottRoe  (2nd setting)
6 Maurice O’Connor
7 John O’Connor
8 Charles O’Connor
9 Michael O’Connor
10 Mrs Cole
11 O’Rourkes Noble Feast
12 Carolan’s Maggot
13 Lament for Terence McDonough
14 Separation of Soul and Body
15 Squire Parsons
16 Catherine Martin
17 Constantine Maguire
18 Mrs Judge
19 John Moore
20 Carolan’s Quarrel with Landlady
21 Tobias Peyton
22 Lady Rose Dillon and Jig  

(2nd setting) designates that this is a 2nd (different) version of a tune in a previous volume.

Volume 4 available in Janet's shop


carolan vol 5 smThe Carolan Concert Collection Volume 5

 Suitable for Concert Artists  

1 Carolan’s Concerto (2nd setting)
2 My Darling Bridget’s Hand (Bridget Cruise)  (2nd setting)
3 Miss Crofton
4 Edward Corcoran
5 Dr Delany
6 Mrs Delany
7 Katherine O’Moore / The Hawk of Ballyshannon
8 Loftus Jones
9 Saely Kelly
10 Mabel Kelly
11 Sir Arthur Shaen
12 Miss Fanny Power (3rd setting)
13 Mrs Harwood
14 Miss MacDermott / The Princess Royal (2nd setting)
15 Carolan’s Farewell

 (2nd setting) and (3rd setting) designates that these are 2nd or 3rd (different) versions of  tunes in previous volumes.

Volume 5 available in Janet's shop



Carolan collection for web 2. with purple smallThe Carolan Collection
Volumes 1 to 5

5 volumes available in Janet's Shop


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Upgraded and revised Harp Tutors

jh tutors 1 4 The “New 2020 Edition”


Lower Intermediate

Higher Intermediate


Originally devised to support ‘the teacher with student experience’,  these revised editions are designed for the self-learner with more explanations and exercises.

These tutors are ideal for classical harpists wishing to get more "Irish Trad" with their playing.

I am also offering sound-files to practise with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) which will serve as an interim measure while I prepare video learning modules.


Irish Harp Tutor For Adult Playersjunior and adults tutors

This course presents a range of material in sequence of difficulty and establishes a great foundation in harp playing for grown-ups with a wide interest in harp music in general.

Starting from lots of favourite Irish songs, Carolan tunes and includes American folk songs, popular hymns, and of course Pachelbel’s Canon.


Irish Harp Tutor Junior Beginners
"New 2020 Edition" available

Designed from 7 to 11 years old, this book for beginners is full of familiar and easy harp tunes with easy arrangements intended to develop confidence and comfort with harp – with chords to accompany singing and easy and adaptable arrangements of instrumental pieces.


Read more about the Traditional Irish Harp Tutors

The Traditional Irish Harp Tutors are available in Janet's shop

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Re scheduled Warwick Harp Courses

COVID LOCK-DOWN from March 2020 

All my courses and weekends at the Harbison Harp Studio in Warwick, and in Glencolmcille, Co.Donegal are closed until further notice.

Please take a look at Janet's Online Learning options until we meet again!

From September 2021, I hope that all my scheduled courses will go as planned.warwick studio 27 sm

Please do stay in touch and revisit me here....  l will do whatever I can to support your harping interest online until we can operate 'in real life' again.  Stay well.  Stay safe!

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Skype lessons with Janet - read what her pupils say

Janet has honed the Skype training ‘to a ‘t’’ for a top experience.   Make your own cuppa, prop up your pc or tablet to show your upper half with the harp and off we go….   Learn something new, enhance something old, develop more skills, experiment and enjoy…..  

I had been playing the harp for six years before I started with Janet and after one year with her my repertoire has tripled and I have developed skills I never thought I’d have. Learning through Skype caused there to be no interruption in lessons when quarantine started and has been really helpful as my parents don’t have to drive the harp long distances. My sister and I have found it much easier to learn new pieces for choir and other events thanks to Janet’s teaching technique.

Katie, aged 16 and her sister is Chloe aged 10.

Read more from Janet’s Skype pupils



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NEW SERIES - Graded Irish Harp Collection in 8 volumes - coming soon

Harbisons irish harp collection 8 books R3Harbisons Irish Harp Collection

A collection of Irish Harp performance-ready pieces in 8 graded volumes 



Come back soon for more details.

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Report on Harp Teachers Symposium

‘Irish Harp by Note, Rote and Reason’.

1st March, 2020 at Ulster University, Belfast Campus 

 Presented by Harp Ireland in association with Ulster University 

 You can see videos of the presentations and demonstations here


ulster university logo harp ireland logo



Symposium March 2020 photo

This Symposium aimed to stimulate debate and to explore the three methods of teaching the Irish / small / folk / Celtic harp in Ireland today.

The 3 methods of Teaching/Learning the Irish harp were defined as:

  •  by ‘note’ - as from the literacy-lead ‘classical’ tradition 
  •  by ‘rote’ - as the oral/aural method reproducing pre-arranged traditional music and 
  • by ‘reason’ - as an oral/aural, organic and improvised artform in the Irish tradition.

Recognising that all of these styles of learning have contributed to the thriving environment of Irish harping today, the symposium focused on the aspects of teaching, by the classical ‘note’ method, and by the oral methods of ‘rote’ and ‘reason’, exploring the differences between them.

The 3 masterclasses presented by Denise Kelly-McDonnell (representing the method of ‘note’), Lucy Birch (representing the method of ‘rote’) and Janet Harbison (representing the method of ‘reason’) demonstrated each – which together with the talks of the other speakers on the evolution of some of the teaching/examination institutions with the harp today, stimulating a fascinating discussion chaired by Aibhlin McCrann at the conclusion of the symposium.

The symposium programme was formally opened by Aibhlin McCrann, chair of Harp Ireland with apologies from Dr Tom Maguire, Head of the School of Arts and Humanities in Ulster University who was also to open the proceedings but who fell ill on the day.

The keynote address was given by Dr Janet Harbison who is currently a Visiting Professor with Ulster University working specifically on harp pedagogy and to the title of the symposium. The key elements of her address were that that the age, professional role and style diversity within the harp tradition offers harpers today with extraordinary choice of repertoire and styles - that can present both challenges and opportunities. She traced the developments in traditional music over the last half century and suggested why Irish harping has become so energised and conscious of its place in Irish culture - and also somewhat confused. The well-established ‘classical’ approach to music  education has provided a consistent standard in music education from the 19th century, and it is apparent that the ‘traditional’ approach diverges significantly from it – not only in the ‘oral’ nature of teaching the music, but also in its physical techniques, values and standard practises. Oral teachers teaching ‘traditional music’ however, are almost entirely self-developed as teachers and the purpose of Harbison’s presentation was to set the scene with live demonstrations of each of the three methods: by ‘note’, ‘rote’ and ‘reason’ so each may be demonstrated, discussed and evaluated. The concluding hypothesis was to highlight the merits of all three methods and to suggest that with a better understanding and embracing of all options, that we teachers of whichever aspect of the Irish harp, continue to hone our collective skills, share our experience and serve our students and tradition well.

Guest speakers were Denise Kelly McDonnell, TU Dublin Conservatoire whose talk was titled: “Irish Harping From a Classical Perspective” and was an excellent perspective from the more formal, classical aspect of harp teaching and learning. While this was presented from her personal experience, it eloquently demonstrated the nature of the classical approach.

Áine Ní Dhubhghaill from the Royal Irish Academy of Music followed with a fascinating presentation illuminating the development of the Royal Irish Academy of Music harp teaching tradition and examination syllabus.

Patrick Davey, Senior Examiner of the London College of Music Examinations Syllabus gave a talk “On Notations for Traditional Music Teaching” highlighting the way traditional teachers mostly use a letter-based teaching systems for the early stages in tune teaching – until the improvised aspect of interpretation follows.
Finally, Dr. Liz Doherty presented a talk “Towards a Traditional Music Pedagogy” highlighting the development of traditional music teaching as a professional occupation and the challenges in teaching a creative, improvisational art. She spoke on the work of the ‘TradLabb’ and the 4 levels of development from the beginning of the learning experience to the integrated session player and performer.

After the lunch-break, there were the 3 (25 minute) Harp Teaching Demonstrations given to demonstrate each teaching method.

The first was presented by Denise Kelly McDonnell of TU Dublin Conservatoire who, teaching ‘by note’, split her class between two students – the first on Grainne Yeat’s arrangement of Carolan’s ‘Madam Cole’ and second on Sheila Larchet’s arrangement of Miss Hamilton from her ‘Irish Harp Book’ published in 1975. Denise beautifully demonstrated with each volunteer student how each note and phrase was to be interpreted prioritising quality of tone, fingering and technique.

Lucy Birch teaching ‘by rote’ followed with teaching a tune from the wider traditional (Scottish) repertoire entitled ‘Cape Breton’s Welcome to Shetland’ in the key of A major (Ionian). This was taught in a fixed arrangement, presumably arranged by Lucy herself which was beautifully demonstrated with her student Cara.

Janet Harbison completed the 3 demonstrations inviting Lucy and the other volunteer students to a group class experience with the tune ‘Rolling in the Rye Grass’ which Janet used to explore the ‘triplet’ ornament. Having taught the basic tune, Janet then demonstrated where the triplets could go and inviting the players to firstly play in a controlled way with triplets deliberately played in particular gaps, finally the players were invited to play their own choices of ornament in a collective playing of the tune.

Then followed the ‘forum’ where the programme was opened up to the audience of teachers with all presenters participating from the top table. The discussion was vibrant and informative and dealt
directly with the issues of the differences between the methods, which traditions each method served and how the ‘Learning by Rote’ could be seen as a natural compromise between the ‘classical’ and ‘traditional’ traditions - where the method is oral, but also fixed (in that it is interpreting an already-set-arrangement of a tune) - where the arranger should be acknowledged equally with the composer as to play without acknowledgement implies that the arranger is the player themselves.

The transcriptions of the discussions and recordings of the presentations will be made accessible to interested parties and also potentially from the Harp Ireland website in due course.

Janet Harbison. 29.03.20

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Harp Teachers' Symposium Videos


Symposium - Irish Harp by Note, Rote or Reason

Videos of the Symposium

 Click to play and pause the videos. 


Janet's Key Note Speech

Denise Kelly McDonnel Lecture

Aine Ni Dhubhghaill Lecture

Patrick Davey Lecture

Liz Doherty Lecture

Denise Kelly Demonstration

Lucy Kerr Birch Demonstration

Janet Harbison Demonstration

Forum & Discussions


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HARP TEACHERS' SYMPOSIUM March 1st 2020 - "Irish Harp by Note, Rote or Reason"

Irish Harp by Not Rote Reason 1This symposium is intended to stimulate debate and exploration of the three prevalent methods of learning today that could be categorised as – by ‘note’ (as from the literacy-lead ‘classical’ tradition), by ‘rote’ (as the oral/aural method based on the imitation of ‘traditional music’) and by ‘reason’ (as an organically developed art - like the development of the mother-tongue – where ‘traditional music’ is intuitive and spontaneous).  

All of these styles of teaching have contributed to the current thriving environment of Irish harping today – but a lack of understanding by the teachers, the students and their parents (the teacher-employers), along with a lack of appreciation of the different areas of expertise offered by the ‘teachers’ - could lead to the restriction, disappointment,  frustration and squashing of enthusiastic students.  To understand the mechanics of each approach, as well as to acknowledge the styles and genres in our diverse tradition, will help to dispel myths and develop a new and better-informed approach to an artform that is unique not only in its history and heritage, but also in the legacy it offers harp players in Ireland and the world today.

 Download full programme here   


ulster university logo            harp ireland logo

University of Ulster In association with Harp Ireland/Cruit Éireann


Presents a One-Day Symposium

‘Irish Harp by Note, Rote or Reason’

An exploration of approaches to harp teaching and learning


Venue: Ulster University, Belfast Campus
on Sunday March 1st 2020

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Janet Harbison Ulster University
with special guests:  Aibhlín McCrann, Chair Harp Ireland and Dr. Liz Doherty


 9.15 am:         REGISTRATION

9:45 am:         Welcome and Introduction

10.00 am:       Keynote Address by Dr. Janet Harbison
                       ‘Irish Harp by Note, Rote and Reason’

10:45 am:       BREAK

11.15 am:       Guest speakers:

                       Denise Kelly McDonnell, TU Dublin Conservatoire:
                       “Irish Harping From a Classical Perspective”

                       Aine Ni Dhubhail: Royal Irish Academy of Music:
                       The Development of the Royal Irish Academy of Music Harp Syllabus”

                       Patrick Davey Examiner, London College of Music:
                       On Notations for Traditional Music Teaching”

                       Dr. Liz Doherty Specialist in Traditional Irish Music
                       ‘Toward a Traditional Music Pedagogy’            

1.005pm:        LUNCH

2.00pm:          Harp Teaching Demonstrations:

                        Denise Kelly: 'Learning ‘by note’

                        Lucy Birch: 'Learning ‘by rote’

                        Janet Harbison: 'Learning ‘by reason’

                        Each giving 25 minute demonstrations of teaching by ‘note’, ‘rote’ and ‘reason’.                 

3:30 pm:          Tea and Discussion ForumChaired by Aibhlín McCrann, Cruit Éireann, Harp Ireland

 5 pm:              FINISH

Light refreshments will be available throughout the day




Dr Janet Harbison, University of Ulster (Visiting Professor (Irish Music), Magee Campus)

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Irish Harp Orchestra - Germany & Luxembourg Tour 2019

IHO 2019 Lee Catrin smlIHO 2019 Brian McNamee and harps sml Janet Solo copy sml
 IHO 2019 Happy dancers sml  

Janet Brian Brian sml


Triumphant from the great stages of Germany and Luxembourg, the Irish Harp Orchestra with harpers Siobhan Brady, Ciana Martin, Muireann O’Dwyer, Emily Greaney, Cliodhna Hennessy and Roisin King, piper Brian Hughes, fiddle and flute with Sinead McKenna, bagpiping with Glen Baxter and drummer Mark Wilson and our new favorite Irish tenor, Brian McNamee – and for the totally wonderful Loughgiel Dance Company with twinkletoes himself, Lee McCrystal. 

What a tour, and what consistently great concerts – getting standing ovations at every venue, and very happy management who have confirmed our return booking in 2021. 

Well done to us – and onward to our new decade!

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About ‘Music Reading’ and ‘Learning by Ear’

You might be surprised that in an oral/aural music training method that you are encouraged to learn how to read music notation! Wouldn’t it be surprising if you were taught a new language and then told you should not learn to read (or write) it? Of course, being able to read music notation opens up a wealth of resources of all kinds of written music from the time that music printing evolved in the mid 15th century – but it also opens up a means of adding a great deal to your learning journey that your memory would not be able to manage. Music notation – whether it is in alphabetical letters grouped in rhythm groups (as is the standard practice for traditional Irish melody instrument learners) or in full-blown 2-stave music notation, which is what the instruments that can play many notes-at-the-same-time use - it is both a memory aid, and an opportunity to discover music you haven’t yet experienced. 

Learning languages after your mother tongue has, in the past, been a technical and written-lead experience. For those of us schooled in the 20th century, French lessons began with ‘Je suis, tu es, il est, elle est….’ and the experience was lead from written instruction manuals. Thankfully, today, language learning is conversation-lead so that fluency in speaking is the priority in learning. 

Music education has a deal of catching up to do – as music is universally acclaimed to be humanity’s ‘universal language’ – but it’s teaching has remained in the note reading zone as reading is prioritised over the playing experience and the recognition of middle C’s prioritised over simple tunes. Almost all formal music learning to date (the year of writing this is 2019) is still book- or ‘note’-lead – and the creative (or free, improvisatory) aspect of music making is rarely considered. 

About Reading Music photoWith the Harbison Harp Method, the creative aspect of ‘conversing’ with the language of music is prioritised – so that the playful, spontaneous and ‘informal’ aspect of music-making leads the learning process and establishes creative fluency before literacy. This involves all aspects of the music – from intuitive ornamenting and variating the melody to the easy and playful choosing of harmony and voicing of the bass and interior parts – or indeed the sensitive and safe ‘undressing’ of arrangements ‘back to the bones’ appropriate for session situations with more than one accompaniment instrument. This is to ensure that ‘arrangement’ remains a fluid process – and that ‘formal performance’ is appreciated as such. 

The ‘session’ (from the Irish word ‘seisiún’) for traditional Irish musicians is at the core of Irish music-making and is the place where the creative conversations occur. This is essentially the same as ‘jam sessions’ for pop or jazz musicians – where music is centred on an ‘agreed’ melody and everyone gets creative around it within the commonly understood parameters of the style and practise of that genre. Creative freedom is one of the core goals of learning - so musicians all may ‘converse’ as well as ‘recite’ with confidence and ease in the musical process - and teachers need to be equipped with the appropriate skills to ensure this outcome for their students. 

The informal aspect of music-making brings community cohesion, cultural enjoyment, energises and relaxes us
By giving the informal aspect of music-making more recognition in our music training, it also ensures that we protect and value an important aspect of our lives that keeps us social and brings community cohesion, cultural enjoyment, energises and relaxes us - and brings many other benefits including enhancing our mental health, cognitive processes, physical agility and finger precision. The experience of ‘practising in solitude’ and struggling with memory or with text/script-reading should be confined to history for those unfortunate enough to have suffered it! Music is the voice that connects you to your community and keeps you sane and safe – and the ability of note reading ensures that you can expand your repertoire, appreciation and learning of it exponentially! 

A very rich history of music – including ‘folk’ or ‘traditional’ music
In Ireland, we have a very rich history of music – including ‘folk’ or ‘traditional’ music – in both oral and notated format. There are many collections of Irish music written down by ‘musically literate’ people at various points in history – usually from an ‘anglo-Irish’ and ‘musically educated / literate’ background who wanted to make the music available for their own use or to other ‘musically literate’ people and composers in their time – including such as Thomas Moore and even Beethoven for their Irish song arrangements. While this was how the music came to be written, our heritage of both published and manuscript collections are now valued as an exceptional resource of music and knowledge that can be accessed by everyone. This heritage is all the more important when the oral nature of our music is considered. 

Passed from generation to generation ‘by ear’
Until recently, Irish traditional or ‘folk’ music was wholly ‘orally transmitted’ – that is: passed from generation to generation ‘by ear’. As you would learn your native language from all your community around you – unselfconsciously and informally, this is also how you would have acquired your music – from all your community around you, unselfconsciously and informally. In a mono-cultural environment, this was not difficult as it was an immersion experience for everyone – but today we have a much bigger experience of the world where many musical languages vie for our attention … 

Since the 1970s, the introduction of TV and tape recorders, and later, the internet and You Tube brought all the cultures of the world into our homes and everyone is able to feast on more exotic and unusual musical interests. Concerned parents and grand-parents were keen to ensure their children carried on their Irish traditional music against the distractions, and so the new role of a ‘teacher’ developed – and the culture of ‘competitions’ flourished with ever more attractive titles or money prizes to engage them. 

Significant differences in approach, between ‘classical’ and ‘traditional’ teaching
Today in Ireland, most musicians are taught and shaped by ‘teachers’ who, hopefully, are grounded in traditional music to start with – but where the harp is concerned – this is often not the case. A considerable confusion has arisen about ‘what is’ traditional Irish harping as many people expected to find technical and musical progress in the classical tradition. Significant differences in approach, method, values and standards exist between ‘classical’ and ‘traditional’ teaching and this can be explored more separately – but the confusion can be quickly dispelled by reviewing the characters of learning by note, rote and reason… 

Classical music learning is ‘by note’
The tradition of classical music learning is ‘by note’. From the start, you learn how to read notes from the book where the composer or editor also instructs the reader how to play them: how fast or slow, how loud or soft, connected or disconnected (legato or staccato). The process is toward ‘recital’ – meaning to ‘recite’ from the page and the player is not at liberty to alter it. In examinations, you would be reprimanded should you change anything from what was intended by the composer – by accident or by design! 

Traditional Irish music is learned ‘by reason’
In contrast to this, traditional Irish music is learned ‘by reason’ – like a child acquires language from the community surrounding them – organically and creatively, unselfconsciously and informally – with the choices of what ornaments or variations, chords or counterpoints or any other aspect of interpretation chosen spontaneously by the player while playing. The process is toward improvised interpretation which can be likened to ‘conversation’ – with the player’s mastery displayed in their inventiveness (within the traditional style). In examinations, you would be considered basic if the player played only ‘the bones’ of a tune – and they would be encouraged ‘to make the tune their own’ by embellishing it liberally to their own taste and choice. 

There is also an in-between category of learning ‘by rote’
which indeed involves learning ‘by ear’ but involves a fixed version of a tune that will have been determined by someone other than the player. This is a method that is the standard practise for many teachers and at ‘workshops’ where students or participants are given a fixed version of a tune complete with ornamentation, variations and arrangement by direct imitation from the source player. It is important to remember that tradition gives the tunes but the arrangements are expected to be created by the performer. This is the same for jazz music. However, if someone performs George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, while it sounds like jazz, is in fact Gershwin who has determined every note and nuance so anyone can make beautiful jazzy music. In Irish music, rote learners often neglect to acknowledge the arranger of the piece they play even though it was learned by ear. A version learned by rote is no different to a printed one and it should be no embarrassment to acknowledge the arranger as there are many great arrangers out there – so, don’t forget to acknowledge the arranger as well as the composer if it wasn’t yourself! 

Come to my harp studio in Warwick to explore this way of learning the harp
Harbison Harp Method can be experienced at my weekend or week courses in Warwick, or during a week or two in Ireland, read more on my courses page.


From Janet Harbison’s ‘Traditional Irish Harp, Level 1’ 


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Warwick Harp Studio

The Harbison Harp Studio at the foot of Warwick Castle

Opened September 2019

StnicholasparkLocated in the beautiful St.Nicholas Park by the River Avon and Warwick Castle, I now live in the medieval water-mill (a preserved heritage building) that served the Castle.  The mill pond is long since filled in and has become the St.Nicholas Park's car-park - and my studio entrance opens directly from the carpark.  This is a wonderful place for all my friends and fellow harp players to come visit and perhaps take a series of lessons, a week or two week course or a weekend

Warwick is Shakespeare’s county and is one of Britain’s best preserved medieval towns with the world-renowned Warwick Castle just beside us! 

The Warwick locality also boasts a vibrant Irish community full of great trad musicians who are always on call for sessions! 

Just a few minutes walk from us is the Castle Limes Hotel where we have an arrangement for our residential event participants, and the great pub across the car-park, the New Bowling Green is where we eat and have our session in the evenings. 

Warwick Castle often hosts spectacular shows of medieval entertainments – including jousting, falconry, music and more so there is a great deal to offer!

warwick studio 27 smWarwick castle








Join Janet and

See the schedule for week, weekend and special interest courses 

at the Harbison Harp Studio, St.Nicholas Park, Warwick, CV34 4QY

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Lots more courses and events for 2019 and 2020




December 8th, Sunday 

At 3pm at Dun Uladh, Omagh, the Irish Harp Orchestra perform their full concert programme prior to departing on tour to Germany where they will perform in some of the country’s most prestigious halls, including the Prinzregentheatre of Munich, Duesseldorf‘s Tonhalle, Hamburg Laeiszhalle and the Dresden Kulturpalast.

Tickets at £15 (£10 concession)





December 13 to 22 December 

Hamburg, Duesseldorf, Munich, Fuerth, Marnach, Dreden
7 Concerts in Germany and Luxenbourg,


See full programme here




- January 11, Saturday 2020

at the Harbison Harp Studio, St.Nicholas Park, Warwick

with Janet Harbison

10 – 11.30am     Free workshop   (with harps available – but first come, first served…)

12 noon              Free Concert

Afternoon           Private lessons available at a TRY OUT PRICE of £20 per half hour.  Must be pre-booked!
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WARWICK HARP WEEKENDS. Spring 2020warwick studio 27 sm
at the Harbison Harp Studio, Warwick

January 18 -19
February 15 -16
March 7 – 8      ON HOLD
March 28-29     ON HOLD
May 16 -17        ON HOLD

Click here for the programme




(residential or non-residential)
at the Harbison Harp Studio, Warwick

January 13 - 17
January 20 - 24

March 23 – 27       ON HOLD
March 30 – April 3  ON HOLD

Click here for the programme



Harp Course at Landschutt, Germany,

A weekend organised by Susanne Kaiser.
February 1 - 2

Click here for more information



"Irish Harp, by note, rote and reason" Methods of teaching explored and explained

Sunday March 1st, 2020 
at University of Ulster, Belfast Campus

This is a first event focusing on the teaching of the Irish harp.  'By note' is the classical training system where learning is literacy based; 'By Rote' is the more usual 'learning by ear' system which is about imitating the teacher in a fixed format; and learning 'By Reason' is based on the ideal of 'Music as a Language' taught organically and intuitively as a creative improvised art.  Organised in association with Ulster University and sponsored by Harp Ireland. 

Click here for more details



IN IRELANDBurren Stone Tomb

2 Weeks of Courses at Glencolmcille, Co.Donegal  

at Ionad Siul, The Walkers' Centre, Glencolmcille

June 6 - 13      POSTPONED 
June 13 – 20   POSTPONED 

Click here for more details



Live or Skype Lessons with Janet Janet Evelyn Hazzard 1 cropped

No more waiting for Janet to come visit you in your country – with a decent broadband connection, no need for flights or venues or parking or waiting – make the direct one-on-one connection….   

Janet has honed the Skype training ‘to a ‘t’’ for a top experience.  
Make your own cuppa, prop up your pc or tablet to show your upper half with the harp and off we go… 

Learn something new, fix something old, develop more skills, experiment and enjoy… 

For more details


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