New Christmas tune for Irish Harp

The last time my parents visited the stunning Glenveagh National Park in Donegal (somewhere we used to visit as children), they brought me back this wonderful CD by Manus Lunny.

By the time I got to track 4, Nollag sa Gleann, I didn’t get any further! I just had to learn this tune on the harp! It is so beautiful. You can listen to the tune on Manus Lunny’s website here.

I always look forward to teaching Christmas tunes to my pupils at this time of year, but this is something so different and special. As it is not well known as a Christmas tune, it is something that can be played all year round too which is a real bonus! Such an elegant tune would be well suited to perform at any event.

I have included this tune, along with many other beauties, in my book, Ancient and Contemporary Irish Music for Harp, in which I have selected beautiful ancient and contemporary melodies and arranged them for lever harp. It is a stylish and unique addition to any Irish harp repertoire.

Feel free to play my arrangement of this tune, just please acknowledge me as the arranger and link to my website. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I do! I would love to hear your performances too so please link to me if you record a performance 😊🎼. Enjoy!

Ancient and Contemporary Irish Music for Harp, Volume 3

Dunluce Castle, Portrush, County Antrim

This iconic castle on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland is a stunning reminder of the ancient past on which we stand. Ireland’s rich musical heritage is embodied in the harp. The harp of ancient kings, bards and of the people. There was once a time when every great house had its harper. The harper would play for times of ceremony, for times of joy and dancing, for mourning and weeping and to bring peace upon those listening to its ethereal music.

This book is a tribute to the music of the harpers of the past. It contains my arrangements of some of my favourite pieces from the Bunting Collection, which resides at my alma mater, Queen’s University, Belfast.

It also contains music of contemporary Irish traditional musicians who are performing and composing today in a rich and vibrant traditional music scene in Northern Ireland and Donegal. I have arranged music for harp by contemporary Irish musicians, Manus Lunny, Jason O’Rourke, Catherine Sands, Patrick Davey and Rowan Leslie. This book is a tribute to the inspirational work of musicians in the north of Ireland today. I am indebted to these musicians for the inspiration they have given me.

I am so excited to use this book in my harp school as I teach my more advanced pupils of the great heritage of the Irish harp and also of the vibrant Irish music scene of the present. I am looking forward to developing harp players with a practical knowledge of their musical heritage and of the endless possibilities for new music for the Irish harp. This book is a stunning mix of old and new and promises to enrich your harp repertoire with authentic and stylish music from the north of Ireland.

To order a beautiful paperback copy of ‘Ancient and Contemporary Irish Music for Harp’, or to purchase a PDF copy, please visit the shop page.

“Delighted to receive a copy of this beautifully-produced publication by the wonderful Katy Bustard, which includes Katy’s arrangements for Irish harp of an impressive range of tunes from across the centuries, with a good number of modern compositions included, with great tunes by fabulous musicians including Jason O’Rourke, Catherine Sands and many more.”  Patrick Davey

Happy harping and best wishes, Katy xx

Traditional Irish Music for Harp Vol 2

Bruach na Carraige Báine / The Edge of the White Rocks

I took this picture at White Rocks beach in Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland; my favourite beach in the world ever! It seemed an appropriate setting for this book as it contains my harp arrangement of one of my favourite Irish slow airs, Bruach na Carraige Báine (The Edge of the White Rocks).

This book is suitable for intermediate harp players and is a useful resource for teachers and pupils preparing for grades IV-VI in Irish Traditional Harp. It contains a variety of tune types: reels, harp airs, jigs, polkas, slip jigs, hornpipes, slow airs and tunes by Turlough O’Carolan. I have carefully selected tunes that sound beautiful on the harp and that my pupils and I love playing.

Although these arrangements are for harps with 34 strings, it is not necessary to have full levers to play these tunes. As all the pieces in this book are in the keys of G and D (like much traditional music), F and C levers are sufficient.

I have included examples of ornamentation and left hand variation in these arrangements.

I am so excited to use these books at my own harp school and I hope you find them to be an excellent resource on your own journey with the harp.

To order a beautiful paperback copy of the book, or indeed the full set at a discounted price, please visit the shop page on my website. PDF copies are also available.

Best wishes and happy harping, Katy xx

New Series of Books by Katy Bustard

I am delighted to announce the publication of my series of books, designed to lead the harp player from beginner to advanced in Irish traditional music for harp. The series is designed to support both pupils and teachers in developing a stylish and authentic repertoire of Irish traditional music on harp.

Although I teach my pupils using the traditional aural method, I recognise the need to develop musical literacy alongside learning by ear; thus enabling the learner to become a more independent musician. This is particularly important for harp as much of the original Irish harp repertoire is contained within collections of music such as the Bunting collection. Without the ability to read music, one is disadvantaged in accessing the original music scores. It is my hope that these books will help support both teachers and pupils on their adventures with the Irish harp.

Volume 1: Traditional Irish Music for Small Harps: Arrangements for 20 and 26 strings

Many of my beginner pupils start on small harps. It is for this reason that Volume 1 is written specifically for small harps. At Causeway Harp School, I run hugely popular and successful harp classes for both children and adults on small harps, and this volume contains my arrangements of the tunes I teach in my classes (and to my beginner individual pupils). I have carefully selected tunes that my pupils thoroughly enjoy playing and that sound fabulous on the small harp.

As it can sometimes be tricky catering for small harps with different numbers of strings, I have included arrangements for both 20 and 26 string harps. The 26 string arrangements also contain some simple forms of ornamentation, which is required for grade 3 in Irish traditional harp. Each tune in this volume is arranged in the key of G, so it is not necessary to have levers on your harp to play the tunes in this book. Simply tune your F strings to F sharp and away you go!

Purchase a beautiful paperback copy of Volume 1, or a PDF copy, on the shop page.

Volume 2: Traditional Irish Music for Harp: Arrangements for 34 strings

Volume 2 contains stylish arrangements of a wide variety of tune types: harp airs, reels, jigs, slip jigs, polkas, hornpipes and slow airs.  Melodic ornamentation and accompaniment variations are included in each arrangement.

This book is suitable for intermediate players and is a useful resource for teachers and students preparing for grades IV-VI in Irish Traditional harp. I have carefully selected tunes that sound especially beautiful on harp and that my pupils and I thoroughly enjoy playing. 

This book will help you build a beautiful and stylish repertoire of authentic Irish traditional music on harp.

Although these arrangements are written for full size lever harps, it is not necessary to full levers as each tune is arranged in the keys of C, G or D, so F and C levers are sufficient.

Purchase a beautiful paperback copy of Volume 2, or a PDF copy, on the shop page.

Volume 3: Ancient and Contemporary Irish Music for Harp: Arrangements for harp from ancient, traditional and contemporary sources

This is a book of music designed for intermediate-advanced harp players interested in developing a stylish and interesting repertoire of Irish traditional music, from ancient, traditional and contemporary sources.  

I have selected some of my favourite pieces from the ancient Irish harp repertoire, namely the Bunting Collection.  Hailing from Northern Ireland, this collection is of particular interest to me as it was at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792 that the young Edward Bunting transcribed the music of the harpers who attended, thus preserving the unique musical heritage of the Irish harp. Indeed, my pupils performed at the Edward Bunting Festival 2019 and they thoroughly enjoyed learning all about Edward Bunting and the musical heritage that he helped to preserve. It is very special to think that through our harp playing we are also helping to keep this beautiful musical heritage alive.

This volume also includes recent compositions by contemporary Irish traditional musicians, from the north of Ireland and Donegal.  I love to draw inspiration from the vibrant traditional music community performing and composing today, which is an endless source of creativity and inspiration.

This volume is a stunning collection of music, old and new.  The ancient Irish harp repertoire is fused here with contemporary trad.  This book is, without doubt, a stylish and authentic addition to your harp repertoire.

Purchase a beautiful paperback copy of Volume 3, or a PDF copy, on the shop page.

Book Bundles and PDF bundles of all 3 books are available on the shop page at a discounted price. I can also offer a trade price discount for harp schools and teachers seeking to purchase sets of books for their pupils. Please get in touch for more details on this via the contact page.

“Thank you for these fabulous books. Mine arrived yesterday; they are such a wonderful resource for all levels of harpers.” Sinead McLaughlin

New Book: Traditional Irish Music for Small Harps

I am delighted to announce the publication of my first book of Traditional Irish Music for harp. This is a book of arrangements for small harps of 20 and 26 strings. It is the culmination of my work teaching harp to beginners, many of whom begin on small harps. It is a fabulous way to begin learning the harp and you will soon know whether or not you would like to eventually move on to a larger harp. Indeed, many experienced players (myself included) enjoy playing a smaller harp in addition to a full size harp as it is much more portable and therefore suitable for taking out and about to play in sessions and with friends.

‘Traditional Irish Music for Small Harps, Arrangements for 20 and 26 string harps’ by Katy Bustard

This is an ideal resource for teachers to use with beginner-lower intermediate players. The range of tune types also makes it a useful resource for preparing pupils for graded exams in Irish Traditional Music. The tunes and arrangements included in this book are suitable for grades Step-Grade III.

Each tune includes a 20 string and 26 string arrangement, with just slight changes in the accompaniment to make best use of the strings available. Simple ornamentation is also included in the 26 string arrangements. I have omitted ornamentation from the 20 string arrangements as it is a good idea to learn the basic tune first, adding ornamentation as confidence and fluency develops.

To accommodate harps without levers, all of the arrangements in this book can be played with the harp tuned in G Major (with the exception of the 26 string arrangement of Elizabeth Kelly’s Favourite which has an F natural in the accompaniment).

‘Traditional Irish Music for Small Harps: Arrangements for 20 and 26 string harps’ by Katy Bustard is available to purchase in paperback or PDF on the shop page of my website.

Sets of books for harp schools and teachers are available at a trade price discount. For more information, please get in touch via the contact page.

Covid-19 Update

My contribution to Harp Ireland’s Online Concert Series, ‘Harps for Hope’

It was my pleasure to contribute to Harp Ireland’s ‘Harps For Hope’ concert series during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Sadly, all classes and workshops were cancelled due to the Covid 19 lockdown. However, I am still offering individual tuition online via Skype and have a limited number of starter harps available for beginner pupils.

In September 2020, I am looking forward to the popular Saturday Morning Adult Harp Classes beginning again, with limited numbers to ensure proper social distancing is adhered to. Classes will run with full adherence to government guidelines regarding Covid-19. I am delighted to offer a new class for adult beginners commencing September 2020. To pre-book your place, please get in touch via the button at the bottom of the page.

I shall also be offering Beginner Harp Classes via Zoom to members of Causeway U3A. These classes will take place on Monday mornings 9.30-10.45am. To book your place, or to find out more information, please get in touch via the button below.

The Irish Harp: UNESCO status as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Katy Bustard, Janet Harbison and Aibhlin McCrann
Photo credit: Mal McCann

On Thursday 20th February 2020, I had the honour of speaking at ‘The Irish Harp: Reception to Celebrate the recent UNESCO status designation of the Irish Harp as an Intangible Cultural Heritage’.

I spoke about my own journey of learning the harp, which was quite a lonely one, and of how I have come to create a thriving community of harpers on the North Coast of County Antrim through Causeway Harp School.

Through my harp school, it is my aim to provide learners with a sense of community and fun around learning their instrument, as well as preparing pupils for exams. It is my passion for this beautiful heritage instrument to become more accessible, regardless of age, formal musical education or cultural background. I have a real passion for the harp and its repertoire and I am seeing this ignite in so many of my pupils now too, which is so rewarding.

Organisers of the Edward Bunting Festival at the Irish Secretariat, Belfast

It was such a pleasure and honour to be speaking alongside Aibhlín McCrann, Chair of Harp Ireland, who pioneered the UNESCO status designation of the Irish Harp. World renowned harper, composer, teacher and academic, Dr Janet Harbison also spoke and entertained us with a stunning performance of her arrangements and compositions for harp. It was such an inspiring evening in honour of this beautiful instrument and our unique cultural heritage. I am thrilled that my work through Causeway Harp School is helping to keep the living tradition of Irish harping alive.

NEW Bespoke Irish Harp Workshops for Groups and Families on the Causeway Coast

I am delighted to now be in a position to offer bespoke group workshop experiences to groups, families and visitors to the Causeway Coast, offering an ‘Introduction to the Irish Harp’. We are located just a short walk away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giants’ Causeway. We are blessed to have such a wealth of beautiful scenery, coastline, stunning sandy beaches and dramatic cliff walks around us here in Portballintrae, but when it rains (as it often does), it’s nice to just enjoy the views from indoors!

I have teamed up with the inspiring creative hub, The Designerie, Bushmills, to create a workshop experience for families and groups to get together for an ‘Introduction to the Irish Harp’. We will learn about the history of the Irish Harp as part of Ireland’s cultural heritage, the background of the music we play, basic harping technique and we will, of course, learn to play a traditional Irish tune.

The Designerie hosts the work of local artists and crafters, including some of the artists themselves, and offers a beautifully creative and inspiring space in which to hold our workshops.

The Designerie, Bushmills

To my delight, there is also an artisan coffee corner, hosted by Graham of Causeway Coffee! Naturally, we will have a break for coffee and scones during our workshop and sample some of Graham’s speciality coffee!

Causeway Coffee Corner

Irish Harping has recently been awarded UNESCO status as an intangible cultural heritage, recognising the instrument’s unique place in Irish music and cultural life. The harp is Ireland’s national symbol and has been played in Ireland for more than 1000 years. This is a super opportunity to have a go at playing the harp yourself and learn to play a traditional Irish tune.

Turmennan Harp, handmade in Northern Ireland

I play a handmade Irish Harp by Mervyn Waugh of Turmennan Harps, County Down, Northern Ireland. This is a stunning heritage instrument with a beautifully warm and resonant tone. Workshop participants play small 20 string lap harps, which sound so sweet and are lightweight, portable and sit on the lap comfortably.

Playing on the lap harps at a workshop in Portballintrae Village Hall

To book a workshop for your group, please get in touch via the Contact page. Also keep an eye on for details of upcoming workshops!

Christmas and New Year at Causeway Harp School

Christmas is always a super busy time for harpists! This year pupils played at Dunseverick Primary School’s annual carol service at Ballintoy Parish Church. A group of 5 harpists played a selection of pieces as guests arrived and also did a special group performance of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and ‘Carol of the Bells’. We had lots of fun practising for this together during school time!

Impromptu harp practice in the Principal’s office!

We also had the privilege and pleasure of playing as guests arrived at Causeway Coast Vineyard’s annual Christmas Eve Carol Service. This was very exciting as it is a huge event. The girls did an excellent job. Such experiences are wonderful for the development of young musicians. Performing can be so nerve-wracking! Performing as part of a group can help as we can help one another along and keep it going, regardless of mistakes. This is a really important aspect of performance: if you make a mistake, just carry on as if it never happened and continue to give it your best!

We are very much looking forward to plenty more harping in 2020. We have a busy schedule of classes for both children and adults this term. I’m very much looking forward to it! This year our classes are supporting help refugees who are doing amazing work supporting people caught up in the conflicts in the Middle East and those feeling devastation and terror. I love sharing joy and beauty through harp and I love that so many women are taking time out for themselves and getting together to learn something new. I love that we get to experience the fun of playing traditional music together. I love that the children I teach love their harps, love practising and are achieving so much! I’m so proud of them!

Wishing you peace and joy in 2020, Katy xxx

Causeway U3A Irish Harp Classes

Causeway U3A Traditional Harp Class in Portballintrae Village Hall

On Monday mornings it is my pleasure to teach two Traditional Irish Harp Classes as part of the Causeway U3A activity programme. The Causeway U3A has a wealth of activities and groups on offer and there is sure to be something to appeal to everyone!

Playing tunes in ensemble during our second lesson together

The harp is such a beautiful instrument to learn because it sounds gorgeous from the very beginning! There is no music reading required in this course as we learn tunes using the traditional aural method. This is a very enjoyable and musical way to learn an instrument as we get to play tunes together from day one, rather than spending many months learning to read from notation. It is also very good memory training as we commit tunes to memory, eventually being able to play a repertoire of tunes without any notation.

Learning correct finger placing and technique

Small class sizes mean I can get around each individual to help with technique and finger placing. I have found that small group teaching is ideal: learning in isolation is definitely not as much fun and as rewarding as learning in a group. Playing together as ensemble adds a whole other dimension of learning as you learn to listen and play together with the group as a whole. This develops a good sense of fluency, tempo and rhythm. The sound of many harps playing together too is a lovely experience in itself and it is very rewarding to be a part of that!

View from Portballintrae Village Hall car park

And look at that view! I can’t think of a nicer place to be on a Monday morning than playing harps by the sea in Portballintrae; even in the wild weather we had this week!

Turmennan Harp made by Mervyn Waugh in County Down, N Ireland

This is my beautiful Irish harp made by Northern Irish harpmaker, Mervyn Waugh of Turmennan Harps. My pupils play Derwent Adventurer 20 harps during lessons. Pupils also rent out these small harps for the duration of the beginners’ course to enable them to practise what they have learned at home. I am absolutely delighted at the progress of my pupils so far and I’m very excited of what they will achieve! Many of my pupils who have recently completed the 6 week beginner course have went on to purchase their own Irish harps and some are now aiming to achieve their first exams in Irish Traditional Harp through the London College of Music in June 2020. It is such a pleasure and privilege to lead others in their musical journeys with the Irish harp. It really is a very special instrument!