Nothing can make me feel more at peace than curling up in my favorite chair with a mug of Irish coffee and a good book as I soak in the serene melodies of Celtic music.
And no collection of Celtic music would be complete without some CDs featuring the music of the legendary Celtic Irish harp.
If you love Celtic harp music as much as I do, whether it's just listening or you also love to learn all about it on the web, I'm going to share with you my personal favorites.
Although I would love to learn to play the Celtic harp myself, so far I am just a learner, a listener, an admirer. If you are ready to go beyond that, read on...
If you are serious about playing the Celtic harp, you need one of your own at home with you. But it's a major investment, so how do you choose? And how do you pay for it?
Here are just a few ideas to make your decision easier:
A good harp, like any instrument, is a significant expense...but a sound investment if you're serious about playing. Be prepared to spend at least $300 at the low end and as much as $5000 for a high-quality Celtic harp.
For example, HarpConnection.com has Celtic harps that are handcrafted by some of the best harp manufacturers in the world. Offering harps made by companies like Lyon & Healy and Triplett, these lever Celtic harps are quite expensive, but the price is well worth it (even if it takes a while to pay it off) if you are a devoted Celtic harp player.
There are less expensive harps available if pricey harps like that just aren't your cup of tea. There is one small online music store which specializes in harps and has a website that's very easy to use. HarpsOnly.com has several handcrafted Celtic harps that are unique, authentic, but also very affordable.
If you know you want a Celtic harp, but aren't sure which type would work best for you, they also feature a handy chart that will help you choose your harp wisely.
If you're just getting started, you should consider buying a complete beginner's package especially designed for people who want to learn how to play a harp, like HarpsOnly's 36" Adare Beginners Harp Package, presented by Fantasy-Ireland in association with Amazon.
In the spirit of the harps once embraced by Irish bards and troubadours, this Adare Harp is even engraved by hand with Celtic designs.
A package like this will give you everything you need to learn to play the harp from the beginning. The book and video will guide you every step of the way. You'll also receive a music stand and an electronic tuner.
Even with a package like this to guide you, no book or manual can take the place of an experienced instructor. If you live near a large city, especially one with an active folk music culture, look in the phone book for local harp stores and professional players who may be able to refer you to an instructor.
You can also find professional harp instructors in your area online! CelticHarper.com and HarpConnection.com both feature comprehensive lists of harp teachers all across North America, listed by state. You'll also find great advice about selecting the right teacher for you.
Another way to save money in selecting a harp to play is to buy or rent a used one from a professional harpist. Since it is such a serious investment, it's a good idea if you're just starting out to rent at first and see how you take to it. That way if you lose interest (or for some other reason don't continue playing) you haven't lost much.
To make their high-quality harps more accessible, Harp Connection has flexible financing programs, including rent-to-own programs!
Online, you have a much wider selection of manufacturers and prices, because you actually have merchants from all over the world competing for your business. A couple of drawbacks to buying online are that shipping charges may be high and it's not as easy to get local service and support. On the other hand, because of the nature of the online marketplace, most merchants will also be very valuable Celtic harp resources, with a wealth of information to offer.
Another online merchant, whose site is very user-friendly, is IrishHarps.net from Co. Meath, Ireland. Jan Muyllaert specializes in personalized harps for each client...no two are exactly alike. With a clear understanding of what a milestone buying a harp will be for you, he says, "As you might have waited a long time to see your dream come true it's very important to get things exactly right."
If you are yearning for the serenity and peace that only listening to Celtic harp music can bestow, perhaps you'll find it with some of my favorite Celtic harp CDs.
Carolan's Receipt was one of the first recordings in modern times to capture the essence of this all-but-forgotten art. You'll have the pleasure of hearing authentic O'Carolan, with the stylish accents of the inimitable Derek Bell. He recorded this collection in 1975, the same year he became the harpist for the Chieftains.
Working in collaboration with the Belfast Harp Orchestra, Derek Bell and the Chieftains won the Grammy award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1994 for this recording. It was one of the first in my collection of Celtic music and I still enjoy it after all these years...
Áine Minogue: Exquisite Celtic Music
More to come...