Even if you don’t know what a clàrsach is, chances are you’ve heard one before. A Gaelic triangular, wire-strung harp, the clàrsach has been played in Scotland and Ireland since around the 10th century (and more recently, in many other parts of the world). It produces a plucked yet shimmering music full of melody, emotion and history.
TED Translator and Language Coordinator, Ellen Maloney, who hails from Edinburgh, Scotland, began playing the clàrsach when she was six (though her interest in harps started three years earlier, after she saw one for the first time on TV). A natural for the instrument, it wasn’t long before Ellen was performing regularly at a variety of venues: wedding receptions, local church halls, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and even a zoo once.
Most of the clàrsach music Ellen plays is Celtic, derived from her Scottish and Irish backgrounds. However, there’s a fair amount of Jewish music in her repertoire, too; in fact, she cites her theater performance of The Diary of Anne Frank as her favorite to date.
Curious to hear Ellen on the clàrsach? Check out the clip below, which is part of the soundtrack to a short film made by an Edinburgh arts project.