Rejigged Festival

Saturday Oct 25, 2014

Celtic Harp Workshop

Level:  Novice-Intermediate – Irish/Scottish style

Time:  9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Place:   Christ Church Hall – Room #2 (downtown Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)
Price: $30 adults/$25 students
InstructorAlys Howe
To register:


Questions about the festival:


RE-JIGGED is all about learning, sharing and exploring new directions in traditional Celtic music and dance. From beginner through to advanced levels, our welcoming workshops are designed to help you learn new techniques, discover new connections and find your own unique musical style.

  • Workshops are open to adults and children aged 11 years and up.
  • For music classes, bring your own instruments, as none will be provided.
  • Recording devices are permitted and encouraged; as a courtesy, however, always checkwith your instructor first.

All workshop participants are asked to check in first at Christ Church Hall, Main Level. From here, we’ll direct you to your workshop venue.

Registration desk opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. Please try to arrive one-half hour before your class starts. 



More workshops are currently being scheduled, so check back here for updates!






“Advanced harp workshop” Wells BC, 2013:

Thanks for all the cheerful encouragement, tips and tunes! – Shoshanna

Thanks for an amazing week!  – Pat

Thanks!  You’ve given us so much.  – Marilyn B

Thank you Alys for all your encouragement!  This has been a most meaningful time – Bette

Big and warm thanks – Marilyn R

Thank you so much for a challenging and wonderful week! – Sarah

Thanks so much Alys.  Really enjoyed meeting you, learning from you, and hearing you play!  – Kirsty


“Intermediate harp workshop” Naramta BC, 2011:

This has been a wonderful musical experience Alys – we were so lucky to have this time with you – utterly inspiring and SO much fun. – Pam

Really enjoyed your thorough and compassionate approach, encompassing all learning styles.  Thank you so much. – Michelle

You are a marvelous teacher and amazing musician.  Thank you 🙂 – Kate

Thoroughly enjoyed your method of teaching and ideas for us to learn. – Donna

Thank you SO much for the amazing workshop!  You’ve inspired me!  I hope to see you again soon.  Thanks again! – Siobhan

A very inspiring weekend!  Thank you so much for all the great ideas and the chance to hear such beautiful music! – Brenda

You “ornamented” our harp weekend and inspired us all.  Thanks so much. – Jane

You are inspiring Alys, and a great instructor.  Thanks so much. – Mary Ann

Thanks Alys!  Enjoyed the weekend and learned a lot.  You’re amazing! – Sharon

Love the way you teach.  Thanks! – Tina

You have given us all a new lease on our Celtic music.  Thanks for everything! – Caroline

Thanks for an enthusiastic presentation of new ways to harp.  – Colleen

You are a musical inspiration.  My muse. – Susan

Thank you! I so enjoyed listening to you and learning from you.  You’ve given me new inspiration. – Debbie

You’re the BEST! – Jane M

What a wonderful workshop.  Thanks so much. – Allanah


“Beginner harp workshop”, Wells BC, 2010:

Thank you so much for your patience, warmth, encouragement and of course…your wonderful talents.  It is an honour to have had you as my teacher.  Please come back again. – Sue

What a pleasure to be in your class, you are also an amazing performer.  – Lynne

Through your kindness, your patience, and your talent, you have truly inspired me.  Thank you for sharing your blessings with us. – Leah Kabotoff

Please come again!  Thank you, thank you. – Shirley

What a joy to be able to play with you!  I will always remember your positive ways!  Thanks so much.  – Libby

What a trip!  You were wonderful for us all.  Thanks.  – Cathy

Thank you Alys for teaching us with such patience!  I love your encouragement!  – Sascha





August 12 – 16, 2013: IMA International School of Celtic Harp  Alys returned to Wells, BC to teach the Advanced Class.  To learn more or to register, visit

ADVANCED HARP course description: Building on the fundamentals of melody and rhythm, the Advanced class learned repertoire from the traditions of Scotland, Ireland and Cape Breton. In the context of a Gaelic song-air, a march, reel, strathspey, jig, and puirt-a-beul (mouth music), we touched on the subjects of variation, ornamentation, modes, stylistic interpretation, improvisation and innovation in traditional music. Exploring the dynamics of ensemble playing, we also worked creatively on solo material, phrasing and musicality, accompaniment, chord inversions and substitutions, bass lines, and the use of syncopation and damping in the left hand to augment rhythmic drive. There discussed some key technical aspects of playing the harp, including fluidity and relaxation, finger independence, speed and agility, volume and tone. 

It is suggested that the Advanced level course is right for students who: have a strong background in music and have played the harp for several years; are familiar with fingering and placing rules, tuning, key signatures common to the lever harp, and are comfortable playing in a variety of time signatures. All course materials will be taught by rote, however the ability to read both bass and treble clef, and willingness to learn by ear will be an asset. Participants will be encouraged not to rely on written materials, however these will be provided to take home. Recording devices are welcome. Expect to play, sing, learn a few Gaelic words, memorize, perform as a group, work hard, have fun, and of course – practice, practice, practice! Bring your harp and sense of humour, and leave with a treasure trove of new repertoire and ideas!



Alys joined the amazing roster of performers and instructors who appeared at Boxwood 2013. The Boxwood Festival in Lunenburg, NS, is a wonderful interdisciplinary approach to traditional and baroque music, song and dance, across the spectrum of instruments, style, and approach.  Alys taught a class of mixed-ability level harp students (advanced beginner through advanced intermediate), and enjoyed the many opportunities to perform during the week.



August 14 – 18, 2012: IMA International School of Celtic Harp

Alys returned to Wells, BC to teach the Intermediate Class.  To learn more or to register, visit

INTERMEDIATE HARP course description: Building on the fundamentals of melody and rhythm, the Intermediate class learned tunes mainly from the Scottish and Irish traditions (along with some treasures from Cape Breton!)  In our repertoire, we touched on stylistic interpretation, variation, ornamentation, and musical forms in a variety of keys, modes and rhythms.  We increased our multi-tasking abilities at the harp: counting, fingering, brackets and placing – with phrasing and musicality of course!  While creating arrangements for our tunes, we explored chord inversions and substitutions, choosing the “right” chords and enjoying the “wrong” ones, reinforcing accompaniment patterns and left hand skills, composing interesting bass lines, using syncopation, damping and muffling to augment rhythm and drive in dance tunes.  The Intermediate Class explored the rationale behind some key technical exercises, increasing fluidity and relaxation, finger independence, speed and agility, volume and tone.  We continued building ensemble skills to play collaboratively with others (accompanying singers, or other instruments), covering useful practice habits, performance preparation and comfort.  Alys closed the week with an “audio tour”, introducing some of the many and varied worlds of the harp today.

It is suggested that the Intermediate level course is right for students familiar with the following: tuning their own harp; crossing over/under; placing in advance; and playing RH tunes with simple LH accompaniment.  Some knowledge of keys, chords, and time signatures is recommended (concepts of music literacy may be reviewed, as appropriate to the group).  All materials will be taught by rote, however the ability to read both bass and treble clef, and willingness to learn by ear is an asset.  Learners will be provided with written materials to aid memory.  Where possible, there will be less- and more- challenging options. Bring your harp, sense of humour, love of music – and leave with a treasure trove of new repertoire and ideas!



In the morning, simpler material was taught at a gentle pace, for harp players with less experience.  After a “music and munchies” play-along during our lunch break, more challenging material was taught at a faster pace, for harp players with more experience.  Details available at 



March 30 – April 1, 2012: High Spirits Music (Naramata, B.C.) Under the blossoms of the Okanagan orchards, Alys returned to instruct the 12th Annual Harp Retreat & Workshop in Naramata, BC.  This workshop was taught at the level of intermediate harp students.  There was Scottish, Irish, and Cape Breton repertoire, with information about ornamentation, variation, arranging, and some technical work to build speed and skill.  For more information about High Spirits Music or Caroline Mackay, contact:, phone: (250) 768-0930, or



May 7, 2011: Kiwanis Festival in Langley, BC Alys adjudicated the harp and guitar categories. For more information, visit


April 1 – 3, 2011: High Spirits Music (Naramata, B.C.) Under the blossoms of the Okanagan orchards, Alys instructed the 11th Annual Harp Retreat & Workshop in Naramata, BC. This workshop was taught at the level of intermediate harp students. It was so much fun, we’re doing it again in 2012! For more information or to register, please contact Caroline Mackay:, phone: (250) 768-0930, or




August 15 – 19, 2010: IMA International School of Celtic Harp

Beginner Harp Class: This supportive and inspiring class was for those with limited or no prior experience on the harp. The primary goals for the week were to learn a lot about the harp, and have fun!

Topics covered included:
Basic hand positioning and optimal posture at the harp
Playing with strength, relaxation, and good tone
Multi-tasking: counting, phrasing, fingering, brackets and placing!
Scales and arpeggios: technique and exercises to build skill and speed
Building your repertoire: simple tunes with LH accompaniment
Creative chords, improvisation and arranging skills
Where can you take the harp from here: finding your own style vision

Feis Shiatail (Slighe nan Gaidheal), Fort Worden USA (June 2009) Intermediate harp workshop. Technical exercises to build comfort with strathspey rhythms, a Scottish jig, and exercises to develop 2:3 rhythms for a fun variation in the jig!

Edmonton Kiwanis Festival (2009) Adjudication and intermediate – advanced harp workshop.  This workshop was a mini-sampler of some of the greatest “harp goodies” Alys has gathered while exploring three strands of Celtic musical tradition: we learned an Irish jig and reel, a strathspey from Cape Breton, and a Scottish air.  We discussed stylistic idioms, ornamentation, variation, and context.  We developed awareness of the traditions in which the music was created, while remaining open to its living state  – and where we can take it from here!


Gaelic College of Celtic Arts (harp), Cape Breton (2003; 2004; 2005; 2014) beginner harpintermediate harpadvanced harp workshops. Technical exercises to build skill and speed, and repertoire from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, and other parts of Canada.