National harp competitions to be held at next year’s Highland Games

Category:  News
Thursday, September 17th, 2015 at 7:25 PM
National harp competitions to be held at next year’s Highland Games by Tracy Geibel
Jon Lilley, above, is an experienced piper, who made his own quilt. This past summer, he also began playing the harp. | Photo by Tracy Geibel

Visitors at the 22nd annual Highland Games on Saturday, Sept. 12, might have navigated through the crowds to stop by vendors and try a haggis puff; they may have watched the fire-eating show while listening to a Celtic musical group; maybe they ventured into the student center where the bagpipe competitions took place on the third floor.

Then, perhaps, they stopped on the first floor of the student center, where a group of harpers held a competition among themselves and a workshop for those who were interested in playing. Visitors could be transported to a different world, as the calm, peaceful harp music contrasted sharply with the rest of the Highland Games.

This was the fourth year that Edinboro’s Highland Games have included harp competitions.

Next year and in 2017, the Scottish Harp Society of America (NHSA) has awarded Edinboro University the national harp competitions.

Maia Chisholm, whose ancestors came from a Scottish Highland clan, became interested in playing the harp after she watched other people play them at a workshop.

Chisholm had been helping at a recorder workshop, but in the evenings, she would visit the harp workshop.

“I was just looking for someone to show me how it worked,” she said.

As the week long workshop came to an end, she heard someone talking about selling a harp.

“One of the girls said, ‘this harp is too small; I’m going to sell it,’” Chisholm said, “and I said, ‘how much do you want for it?’”

However, without a teacher, she could not play the harp for several months. She eventually attended the Ohio Scottish Arts School at Oberlin College, but after some training, she worked alone to learn more.

Before playing the harp, Chisholm had experience with the recorder and the piano, but since then, she has also played several others, as well, the bass being her favorite.

She and the other harpers also attended a showcase on Friday, Sept. 11. This is the third showcase that has been held.

“We have many harpers that come in and stay overnight, so we wanted to give them a chance to just showcase their talents,” Chisholm said, “and we also wanted to give the community an opportunity to hear (the harp music)."

Tracy Geibel is the campus life editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

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