Rose Mooney

Rose Mooney played the harp. But what kind of harp did she play? It certainly was not the modern orchestral pedal harp! But neither was it the modern neo-Irish harp or lever-harp.

The type of harp she played is nowadays referred to as the "early Irish harp". With a soundbox typically carved from a single block of willow wood, and strings of brass wire, it has a unique sound - rich, resonant and sustaining - quite different to what most people expect from a harp. Though the original tradition was to play with long fingernails, Rose followed 18th century practice in playing with the tips of her fingers for a softer sound. The long resonance of the strings is individually stopped with the fingertips in a complex and difficult playing technique. The early Irish harp was played in Scotland and Ireland from over 1000 years ago but died out in the 19th century. Recently there has been a revival, using replica historic instruments to play the old repertory.

An 18th century harp preserved in the National Museum of Ireland, matches a description of Rose Mooney's harp:

Rose Mooney's harp

Rose Mooney's harp

Kept at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins barracks, Dublin, Ireland.

"High Headed" design;
33 strings, longest c. 104cm

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