The harp, or harpsichord, is a multistringed instrument, which stands vertical on the floor, perpendicular to the way a musician plays a guitar. Harmonicas can also be referred to as harps in North America but are not necessarily aligned with harp festivals in a traditional sense. A musician who plays the harp is called a harper or harpist. Harp festivals cater to these types of musicians and those interested in classical music. These festivals are generally comprised of a combination of the following elements: concerts, courses, workshops, and art exhibitions.
Harp festivals are most common in Europe, but they take place all over the world. They are most often held outdoors in the summer months of June, July, and August. Harp festivals are funded primarily by ticket sales along with advertising and sponsorships.
Concerts usually headline as the main events and feature renowned performers, whether they be locally, nationally, or internationally known. These festivals feature guest artists who are veterans to their instruments and knowledgeable about the harpist scene. Collaboration among musicians is an important element of any music festival, and patrons will likely see these artists playing together during the concerts and forming new combinations of music lineups involving a great deal of improvisation.
Esteemed instructors may also offer courses during the festival. They commonly require additional course fees. Different levels of courses are available to offer the best results to players of given ability and experience levels, running from beginner to advanced. They combine various teaching methods, some teaching by ear, some teaching by written music, and some by a combination.
Distinguished tutors lead individual and group workshops. Workshops can differ from courses in that they are not necessarily playing music. Some examples would be dancing, how to make traditional strings, or how to get on the right path to a particular music career. These workshops are popular with The Edinberg International Harp Festival, hosted in the UK, which is in its 30th year. The Somerset Folk Harp Festival and the Caernarfon Harp Festival are other popular harp festivals.
Art exhibitions grant patrons the opportunity to try different instruments by harp makers and purchase or rent harps to their liking. Numerous brands gather in an exhibition center, similar to a guitar show or guitar exhibition, only with harps instead. Vendors sell accessories such as strings and music CDs at these exhibitions.