National Harp Day 2021

Harpists playing at the beach for National Harp Day 2021

This year for National Harp Day, seventeen harpers from Causeway Harp School gathered together at the beautiful East Strand in Portrush, County Antrim to play in ensemble together.

Whilst this was a wonderful experience, it was difficult to capture the sound as the sea was so rough that day!

Following on from this, two pupils of Causeway Harp School, Mollie Flack and Phoebe Kelly performed my arrangement of Planxty Hewlett by Turlough O’Carolan in beautiful Portballintrae. You can watch our performance here:

Causeway Harp School, National Harp Day 2021

Cambrian Harp Festival

Harp Workshops in the sun ☀️

What a treat for me to travel to beautiful Wales to teach an Irish Harp Workshop as part of the very first Cambrian Harp Festival, in association with the wonderful Derwent Harp School. Participants of all ages and abilities leaned to play Planxty Irwin, by 17th century composer and harper, Turlough O’Carolan, followed by a beautiful slip jig by contemporary musician and composer, Liz Carroll.

Harp Workshop in the Festival Bell Tent 🏕

The fabulous Welsh harpist, Harriett Earis, also taught a workshop on Welsh tunes and I was absolutely delighted to take part and learn two beautiful Welsh tunes: Dwr Glan and Ar Ben Waun Tredegar.

Harp Workshops ☀️☀️🎼🎼🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

The festival culminated in a concert in which we had the pleasure of performing our new tunes (amongst much more) for a live audience in Aberystwyth. The highlight for me was listening to the immensely talented Harriet Earis perform a solo set of her original compositions.

Cambrian Harp Festival Concert, featuring Harriet Earis

Another highlight of the weekend was the wonderful Welsh storyteller who entertained us by the fire in the evening!

Traditional Storytelling by the fire

It’s wonderful to be part of a revival of traditional arts and culture. I love how people of all ages can get together like this, learning and playing music together, sharing songs, tunes and stories. Traditional music has such a special place today in connecting people with their land, history, culture and with each other. I have made some great friends this weekend and we are already looking forward to a harp weekend with me next year in Ireland!

Harping by the fire pit

You can watch some of the videos and hear some of the tunes from the weekend on Facebook: Irish Tunes; Welsh song

Group Lessons at North Coast Trad

Group Classes at North Coast Trad, Portrush

I am delighted to be teaching the harp classes at North Coast Trad on a Tuesday evening during term time in Portrush. We currently have a kids’ class and an adults’ class running.

This is a wonderful opportunity for pupils to enjoy the social aspect of learning music. Traditional music is inherently social, so learning and playing together is a fundamental element of the music. We will be learning tunes from the North Coast Trad repertoire as well as learning some special harp tunes from the Irish Harp repertoire.

North Coast Trad offers many opportunities for us to get together with other musicians throughout the year through sessions, concerts and summer schools. All events are family friendly and suitable for all age groups.

Get in touch if you would like to find out more. Classes recommence in September 2021.

Harp Class at North Coast Trad

Dunseverick P.S. Summer Harp Concert

Dunseverick P.S. Pupils performing together

I teach harp at Dunseverick Primary School to pupils in P3 and above. Irish harping has been thriving in this wee school since 2017 when I first introduced harp lessons to the school. These young pupils perform regularly for school and community events and in their local church communities. In February 2019, they performed for the Remembering Edward Bunting Festival in Belfast and in March 2020 they were invited to perform for the Joint British and Irish Intergovernmental St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast. Sadly, this event was cancelled due to Covid-19.

In March 2021, we were delighted to have been awarded funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to purchase harps for the school. Since then, Irish harping is going from strength to strength in the area.

We learn a mixture of Irish and Scottish traditional tunes to reflect our shared heritage here in North Antrim. The pupils thoroughly enjoy their lessons and the many opportunities they have to perform for their families, friends and local communities.

Watch Part 1 of our summer concert here

Colmcille 1500, ‘Strings of Heaven’

Harpists representing Harp Schools from the Causeway Coast and Glens area at Downhill Demesne. Photo Credit: http://www.causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk

I was delighted to take part in this wonderful project by Nodlaig Ní Bhrollaigh of Scoil Ruaidhrí Dall which celebrates 1500 years since the birth of Colmcille. Comcille, also known as St Columba, is linked with the Causeway Coast and Glens area. Nodlaig’s original piece of music for harp and voice is entitled ‘Strings of Heaven’. You can watch the beautiful video here: https://youtu.be/BSzCxCzEfeI

The video includes footage from the stunning Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne and was filmed at St Aiden’s Church in Magilligan. This is also the burial place of Dennis Hempson, the last of the great Irish harpers.

There is an incredible revival of Irish harping in the Causeway Coast and Glens area right now, and it was very special for Scoil Ruaidhrí Dall, Dungiven, Ballycastle Harp School, Hempsey Harp School, Garvagh and Causeway Harp School, Portballintrae to all get together to celebrate our very special shared heritage and tradition.

You can read about the project in more detail here: https://niarchive.org/projectitems/colmcille-1500-strings-of-heaven/

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.