with Dr Janet Harbison

Janet runs regular workshops, courses and weeks from her Harp Studio in Warwick, click here for dates

But, she is also happy to travel to you, your festival, weekend or summerschool.   Whether it be for a 1-hour / 2 hour, morning / afternoon / all day session, Janet has suggestions to offer ...


Some suggestions for workshop titles:

From Bones and Drones to Big and Beautiful

For all standards or a more focused workshop each for novices, for intermediates and for advanced.
This workshop explores the process of ‘building the music’ from the basic melody and applies it to a range of examples.

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • From whatever standard you are now, you will learn how to ‘grow’ your music from the bare melody (the ‘bones’) adding interest and embellishment (from easy to challenging ornamentation and variation) to it; then for the left hand, starting from identifying the basic harmony, to building the ‘arrangement’ from simple chording to elaborate counterpoints.
  • You will build your confidence in the process of ‘arrangement’ with strategies to effect good results
  • You will learn new tunes with fresh ideas on what to do with them

The Ultimate Titanic Céilí

For all standards Irish dance music is totally accessible for all harp standards – truly! It’s all to do with the number of notes you play! Beginners start from the ‘big notes’ and the more expert fill the gaps with littler notes and ornamentation. Like language, our learning method is ‘organic’ – the music ‘grows’ with you – and Janet is the queen of teaching mixed ability groups so that everybody participates and contributes to the fun and excitement of playing some familiar polkas and slides….

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • Even if you are a total beginner, you will enjoy full participation in this workshop which combines simple rhythmic work on basic shapes evolving to advanced playfulness which is fully challenging to the most advanced players.
  • This workshop offers the full experience of playing in a traditional Irish ‘session’ where all instruments join a vibrant community of music makers
  • You will build your confidence in collaborating informally with others and for the more advanced players, take the opportunity to be challenged in improvising accompaniment.

Ornamentation and Variation, Marmalade and Jam!

For all standards or a more focused workshop each for novices, for intermediates and for advanced.
Ornamentation and Variation has often held aloft as the be-all and end-all of difficult stuff for harp players. This workshop promises to de-mystify all to do with the subject by showing you the how, what and where to do it, from the easiest to the most impressive and creative!
What you achieve in this workshop:

  • For novices, this workshop is an adventure into the character of traditional musicianship where the elements of ornamentation and variation are explored and discovered
  • For intermediate players, this workshop is an adventure into understanding and practising the various ornaments that comprise the character of Irish music, developing the skills and confidence in using them in the right contexts
  • For advanced players, this workshop refreshes their abilities in and usability of ornamentation and explores the adventure of ‘melodic variation’ which is often the last added skill in the master’s skill-base.

Carolan, the Creative!

For intermediate to advanced
Ireland’s most creative historic harper is often referred to as our ‘National Composer’ and certainly his repertoire of work is extensive. This workshop introduces some known and lesser known but nevertheless wonderful Carolan tunes for harpers of intermediate to advanced levels.

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will learn new Carolan tunes and/or acquire new set arrangements of known ones
  • You will increase your repertoire with very pleasant tunes to play
  • You will learn more about Ireland’s ‘National Composer’


6 Steps to Dressing a Tune – the Art of Arrangement

For Novice to Intermediate or a more focused workshop each for novices, for intermediates and for advanced
Arrangement is neither anarchy (where anything goes) nor the 3 chord trick (the harmony limit). There are logical steps to take in ‘dressing’ a tune and this workshop invites you to an Irish ‘dress-up’ party….

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will learn how to structure the process of arranging your own choice of music
  • You will build your confidence in your own creative potential
  • You will increase your understanding in the skill of great arranging


‘Chordscapes’ – The Accompaniment Training

For all standards or a more focused workshop each for novices, for intermediates and for advanced
Janet has taken the 3 chord trick to the cleaners! Using a system of ‘close-position chording’, she has brought the Art of Accompaniment to a most accessible place where the skills she teaches will allow you to accompany any kind of music (except perhaps opera, avant-garde; oh, and heavy metal).

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • From a simple start, the exercises build one by one on skill and advancement and when you find your comfortable level, you stick with that pattern exploring the ‘plans’ for different tunes and rhythms
  • You learn how to identify the ‘chord plan’, make choices on play-patterns, develop the arrangements
  • Increase your listening and group working skills
  • Build your confidence in performing with others


Tradition and Innovation

For all standards
Taking a standard tune – O’Keefe’s Slide – and ‘getting funky’ with it…. This workshop is not for the feeble or conservative.

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will experience the journey from learning the basic tune to an up-beat modern rendition
  • You will play the tune with the presenter from whatever level you are at now.
  • You will add an excellent tune to your repertoire that you can grow with – or develop from the presenter’s arrangement


Sally Gardens meets Pachelbel

For all standards
This workshop takes a piece from the Irish Harp Orchestra’s repertoire and invites all to participate in a beautiful arrangement….

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will experience a journey in music from a simple accompaniment to a beautiful music construction with hints of Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D
  • You will participate in a concert-finished arrangement that is adaptable to all instruments and song
  • You will discover a most enjoyable, relaxing and rewarding piece to bring to your own ensembles

Improvisation made Immediate

For all standards
Even those who think themselves to be totally uncreative will loosen up here. Music is a language, and our decisions about the words we use to communicate are spontaneous – exactly as the decisions we make about what notes to play next in the improv. Janet leads an exercise that is in itself a relaxation and creativity therapy for the audience as well as the players that could last 15-20 minutes at a time. So relax, enjoy and improvise with ease and fluency.

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will loosen your inhibitions about improvising and experience creative liberation!
  • You will become more adventurous and playful
  • You will enjoy the challenge and exercise your imagination in the comfort and anonymity of a group experience


Learning by Ear – the most natural way

So many musicians who have learned by eye don’t think that they could ever learn ‘by ear’ – but the fact is that it is a far more natural way of learning. This workshop connects you with your most powerful sensual resource, your hearing. This is the first of your senses to come alive in the womb, and the last to die – and by opening the world of being able to voice what you hear on your instrument, another world of music possibilities opens up ….

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will focus on your listening abilities and find that playing by ear is simplicity and nature itself
  • You will explore your own listening skill and increase your discernment
  • You will learn about the importance of your hearing and how your instinctual listening responses connect you to your world
  • You will learn how good listening skills impact on your communication skills


Holistic Harping

This workshop explores how the total experience of music-making impacts on the player, their purpose, health and joy.

What you achieve in this workshop:

  • You will learn how harping can enhance your mental, physical and emotional health
  • You will learn why harp music is particularly special with an examination of its character
  • You will learn why harp music has particularly comforting qualities on its audience
  • You will learn why the harp is the most prevalent musical instrument in the Christian bible!

Healthy Harping

This workshop is a technique clinic and can be run either as a general ‘solving of common issues’ or a masterclass where harpers may present themselves and can seek assistance with finding solutions for challenges - with their technique / stance / body use / stage performance / mental discipline / learning challenges / ear training / stumbling blocks / performing nerves - The Doctor is In!

What you achieve in this workshop:

  •  In this workshop, you will learn what is ‘good practise’ and the merits of a good ‘warm-up’ and technique building regimen
  • You will explore the hazards of not paying attention to technique!
  • You will learn the ‘fixes’ for many ills and participant’s are invited to present their technique problems for diagnosis and prescription
  • You will improve your understanding of the mechanics of ‘harping healthily’ and learn to look out for the danger signs


Brian Boru, Lion of Ireland

Celebrating the millennium of his death, this is the title of a one-hour concert presentation for harps (in 4 parts), bagpipes (a solo and full band with drum corps), and voices (adult (SATB) and children’s (2 part) choirs.

This workshop will prepare

  • The full work
  • 12 minute exerpt (including 5 edited tracks)
  • ‘Brian’s Theme’ (an animated exerpt of 8 minutes duration)

Potentially for concert performance