This 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.


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:        3 guest speakers:

                        Dr. Liz Doherty: ‘Toward a Traditional Music Pedagogy’

                        Aine Ni Dhubhail: Development and Assessment of the RIA Harp Syllabus

                        TBC: ‘On notations for traditional music teaching’


12.45pm:         LUNCH

2.00pm:        Harp Teaching Demonstrations:

                        Denise Kelly: 'Learning ‘by note’

                        TBC  A leading trad harp teacher: '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

4 pm:               Forum - Chaired by Aibhlín McCrann

 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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