Ann Heymann

Ann Heymann












Ann Heymann

A master in the performance and traditions of the Gaelic harp, Ann Heymann continues to spearhead the instrument's revival. From the start she chose to play in the traditional manner: resting the harp on her left shoulder so the right hand plays the bass and the left hand plays the treble, striking the brass strings with her fingernails, and damping with the fingerpads. Known for her symbiotic relationship with her instrument and her ability to wed performance practice with the recorded literary tradition, Ann is the first modern harper

  • to interpret fingernail and damping techniques detailed in the Welsh Robert ap Huw harp manuscript;
  • to adapt piobaireachd's highly ornamented variations to the clairseach;
  • to interpret and perform repertoire of Denis O'Hampsey from the original Bunting manuscripts in Belfast (also using a replica of O'Hampsey's instrument and O'Hampsey's tuning);
  • to interpret and perform the compositions of Cormac MacDermott, an Irish harper at the Elizabethan court;
  • to use monofilament gold as well as silver strings;
  • to establish a plausible role for the clairseach in the performance of Gaelic poetry.

Other contributions Ann has made to the instrument include:

  • Ann authored the first tutor for the instrument, based upon the first tunes taught student harpers in the old tradition (Secrets of the Gaelic Harp and A Gaelic Harper's First Tunes);
  • She created the "Combination" and "Forked Finger" playing techniques, only later to find historical evidence for their use;
  • She created an idiomatic approach to Gaelic harp performance, coined the term "Coupled Hands" for it and authored a book to teach it;
  • Ann and husband Charlie have discovered and elucidated a gendered tripartite symbolism embedded in Gaelic harp tradition & mythology.

Under the name "Clairseach" (Irish for "Gaelic harp"), Ann and Charlie perform a broad spectrum of repertoire--from traditional and historical to Ann's own compositions--throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. Their collaboration extends to giving presentations on their research in related areas such as Gaelic harp mythology and the performance of medieval bardic poetry. Ann inspires professionals and learners alike, and is frequently asked to lead workshops and masterclasses. Her definitive solo CD "Queen of Harps" documents the virtuosic capability of the Gaelic harp. Current projects with Charlie include investigating the symbiotic relationship between the harp and Gaelic bardic poetry; religious chant of the Celtic rite; medieval monophonic dance music; the presentation of Gaelic oral narrative poetry; the role of the clairseach in palliative care; and completing their investigation into the metallurgy of historical clairseach stringing.