2024 Workshops

Asinus et lyra – the Donkey with the Harp (Nancy Thym)

Images of donkeys playing the lyre, harp or harp psaltery are found frequently in medieval iconography, often as sculptures on cathedrals. The L-shaped wooden hooks on late medieval and early Renaissance harps that cause the strings to buzz were called bray pins, because the sound resembles that of a braying donkey. Why is there such a deep connection between harps and donkeys? Were harp players considered ignorant, foolish and arrogant or does the donkey have other attributes, faded into obscurity today? Donkeys and other animals such as lions or monkeys playing harps and lyres are found in the iconography of many cultures including that of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. This presentation examines figures, sculptures and paintings of animals playing the harp and explores possible symbolism of these representations. Because many of the depictions are sculptures, it is possible to build functional reproductions of the instruments, which will be demonstrated during the presentation.


Reimagining the Medieval Wire-Strung Harp as Accompaniment to Filidh Poetry (Sandra Fromm)

This presentation will focus on what we know about how harpers accompanied the poets’ (filidh, singular file) ‘dán díreach’(‘classical’ verse) in Ireland and Scotland from 1200-1650 CE, with a focus on the time period 1200-1400. Although there is a dearth of information about what kind of music the harper might have performed, we can take the historical information to “sketch a picture” of how and when the harper accompanied the poet’s poetry, what type of poetry was accompanied, and discuss possible ideas about how the harper accompanied a poet.


Comparing Original Compositions for Solo Harp with Modern Editions (Jan Walters)

Jan Walters explores ways to identify and  approach modern arrangements and often complex modern transcriptions of early harp music by seeking historical sources and practices contemporary with specific pieces of harp music.  Focusing  on a popular 18th century harp composition by Dussek as an example, we will compare original publications with modern transcriptions and teachings with a view to be able to inform our own performance practice. By expanding our investigations to include a variety of sources relevant to the period we can better connect with 18th century instrumental performance style and rediscover the nuances giving rise to the elegance and character of the harp music of the era.


A Most Excellent Adventure from Chant to Polyphony (Shira Kammen)

Explore how chant developed into polyphony, hands-on! This workshop will include some basic improvisation exercises to help us learn about the style more completely.



Meet the Medieval Modes (Cheryl Ann Fulton)

Bring your harps for a hands-on workshop with a master of medieval music and harp. Learn the basics of the four medieval modes (Protus, Deuterus, Tritus, and Tetrardus): their melodic scale patterns, cadence structures, and the significance of Pythagorean tuning. At the end of the workshop, we will have a group play of Salve Virgo Virginum.

Hailed as a “genuine virtuosa of her instrument” for her solo album The Airs of Wales on the triple harp, in her 40 year career Cheryl has performed and recorded with prominent ensembles worldwide including the medieval music groups Ensemble Alcatraz, Sequentia, Anonymous 4, Camerata Mediterranea, The Boston Camerata, Chanticleer, and P.A.N. She received a Grand Prix du Disque (the French Grammy) for her performance on the recording Tristan et Iseult on the Erato label. She has also recorded film scores and video game soundtracks, performed in numerous music festivals and taught at distinguished workshops in the US and abroad, was principal harpist of a major European orchestra, gave the first modern performance of Handel’s Harp Concerto on an original Welsh triple harp, and has recorded with many Baroque ensembles as both a continuo player and soloist. In 2017 she produced the film The Harps in the Trees illustrating the connection between harps, music and nature.

She performs on and teaches Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque (triple, arpa doppia and single-action pedal), and contemporary “Celtic” lever harps. She earned BS (pedal harp), MM and DM (historical harp/musicology) degrees from the Indiana University Jacob’s School of Music and was awarded a Fulbright grant in 1987. You can hear her music on Spotify, Pandora, Magnatune, YouTube, Amazon and Apple Music.