Celtic Lyre Project

An instrument for new achievements

A grant from the Camphill Foundation to help with the development of a new musical instrument - the Celtic Lyre - resulted in a dynamic project providing valuable employment, developing social and artistic skills, and demonstrating the high level of achievement of people with special needs.

The project began as a means of providing more fulfilling and creative work for the wood workshop at Camphill Community Mourne Grange, Northern Ireland. The Camphill Foundation grant funded the development of the Celtic Lyre by Sam Irwin, a self-employed master instrument maker who acts as the project's consultant. A Soprano Celtic lyre was fully developed, followed by Alto, Solo and Concert Celtic Lyres.

The design of the instrument had to lend itself to production methods suitable for a special needs Camphill workshop, so jigs and templates were developed for use by those employed in the workshop, allowing them to work with confidence in a safe environment.

Between six and eight Mourne Grange residents began working every day to build the Celtic Lyres. The quality of workmanship achieved resulted in the Celtic Lyre being awarded First Prize in the musical instrument category at the 2001 Royal Dublin Society Arts and Crafts Competition as well as the Siemens Award for new musical instrument design.

But the Celtic Lyre Project was much more than just an employment project. It also involved social and cultural development of those with special needs. A Celtic Lyre Orchestra involving up to eighty people from Camphill communities in Ireland demonstrated in a very public way the achievements of people with special needs, playing instruments made to a very high standard.

It helped to show others how Camphill provides opportunities for people to grow and achieve a great deal. The Celtic Lyre Orchestra went on to perform to great acclaim in many different venues, large and small, including the Waterfront Concert Hall in Belfast and the National Hall in Dublin, in Belgium, Switzerland the Czech Republic. Without the grant from the Camphill Foundation UK & Ireland the project could not have progressed so far in such a short time.