<I>A Musical Donation for Burns </I>

A Musical Donation for Burns

An Irish harp handcrafted in Dublin in the 1820s during a revival of interest in Celtic traditional music has been acquired by the Burns Library, and given a place of honor in the rare books library noted for its Irish holdings.

Detail of the early 19th-century Egan harp recently donated to Burns Library. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
The 35-inch wooden harp decorated with gold shamrocks was crafted by John Egan, a leading Irish harp-maker of the day, at a time when such portable instruments and sheet music of traditional Irish music were finding popularity in middle-class Irish homes.

The Egan harp in recent years was bought at auction by a concert soprano from New York, Heidi Nitze, and sat in need of restoration in her attic as she set out to find a proper home for the historic instrument.

Discussions with Nancy Hurrell of the Historical Harp Society and Burns Irish Music Librarian Beth Sweeney led to the instrument's being presented to the Burns, where it now sits in the Irish Room alongside a second Egan harp, on loan to the library.

"The harp is not only the symbol of Ireland, but it also symbolizes the Burns Library's commitment to the preservation of Irish music, especially as it crossed the Atlantic," said Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill.

"The Egan Harp is a beautiful instrument. It emerged in the early 1800s in response to the tremendous enthusiasm generated by the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival.

"The library already exhibits an Egan harp that is on loan to us. The two harps are slightly different, however, and musicologists will find comparisons between the two instruments of great interest."

-Mark Sullivan


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