Thursday, April 3, 2014

C Is for Clarsach!

#3 on the April 2014 A-to-Z Blog Challenge.

C: Coll, Hazel in the Scottish Gaelic alphabet.

Scottish Clarsach

Clarsach is the Scots Gaelic word for harp, one of their three national instruments. (Yes, bagpipes. And fiddles.)  For more info on the 1,000-year-plus history of them in Scotland, read Tree of Strings by Allison Kinnaird and Keith Sanger.

Pedal Harp
These aren’t the gilded classical/orchestral harps you might’ve seen, but wooden-framed, sized from around (small) 20 strings up to (large) 38. Instead of pedals to change pitch, they may have levers on some/all/no strings, which can be gut, nylon, wire or carbon-fiber. 

I come by my passion for folk harps honestly; one of my earliest memories is standing at my grandmother’s knee while she played the bardic harp handed down in her family for over 300 years, I fingered the carving at the bottom of the forepillar and we both sang. She promised to teach me when I was 12, but died the month before and my aunt threw it out. (Barra's harp horror story…)

Dreansinger & me
28 years later, I found out about the folk/lever harp renaissance, and bought a midsized Dusty String FH-26, with 26 nylon strings, walnut frame and cherry/  mahagony soundboard. I love my Dreamsinger (named for Granny’s)! If I ever win a big Powerball, I’d have hers replicated. Until then, I play mine, collect harp-shaped objects, and tell harper tales. If I combine telling with playing, it’s a harptelling!

Some harp-related sites:

The Clarsach Society

International Society of Folk Harpers &  Craftsmen (ISFHC) 

Scottish Harp Society of America 

Wire-Strung Harps 


  1. Hazel! :) And harps! I love harp music :)

  2. Your aunt threw the harp out!?! Horrors.

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

  3. Really lovely! I'd love to hear your harptelling!


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