The history of the harp in Wales can be traced to the 9th and 10th centuries, but the instrument of that period resembled a type of lyre.
The harp developed into an instrument standing five feet high with 30 strings during the Middle Ages and unlike present day practice, the finger nail as well as the finger tip was used to play, and the instrument was rested on the left rather than the right shoulder. One of the main functions of the harpist during this period was to accompany dancers and poets.
The end of the 17th century saw the introduction of the triple harp from Italy, and it became very popular. It had three rows of strings with the outer two tuned to a diatonic scale and the inner row to chromatic notes.This harp was also played on the left shoulder.
In 1810, Sebastian Erard from Paris developed the pedal harp and gradually the triple harp became less popular, although some leading harpists continued to play both instruments; John Parry the blind harpist and John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia) being two of the most prominent.
Many of the Welsh harpists were engaged by the aristocracy during the 18th century - the household of Lady Llanofer being one of the most noted , but as these privileged positions gradually diminished, they had to turn to the inns and taverns to earn a living.It was as accompaniment for dancing and penillion singing that the harp was prominent in Wales, with a special place at the Eisteddfodau, of course.
Bethan Roberts

nantgarw band