Irish Music Essays

Topics: Turlough Carolan, Irish language, Ireland Pages: 8 (1819 words) Published: March 20, 2011
Irish Music Essays
The Harping Tradition
Symbol on coins
Up to 16th Century
An aristocratic art tradition – highly skilled – opposite to peasant class music of jig, reels on fiddle, flutes, etc. Patrons:Catholic and irish speaking employed a harper, poet (file), reacaire . Harping was a good, stable, well paid job.

Handed down from father to son.
English Rule in Ireland – 16th Century
Patrons lost power, money, land
Could no longer afford to employ harper
Harpers had to travel from house to house – itinerant harpers Harpers tended to be blind – only job for someone that had lost their sight They travelled on horseback with a guide
They played the wire harp and plucked with their fingernails – bell-like sound Had to dampen the strings a lot – held on the knee
17th Century
These new patrons had other tastes in music so harpers had to satisfy their Baroque influenced musical tastes Turlough O’Carolan tended to play Irish music with Baroque elements Mostly played by male

O’Carolan: 1670 – 1738
“Last of the Great Irish Bards”
Born in Meath and grew up in Roscommon – father employed by McDermott-Roe family Blinded by smallpox
Education arranged by Mrs. McDermott-Roe – got harp lessons Recieved horse, guide and money and travelled as Itinerant Harper Very pleasing personality and an excellent composer of harp tunes Pieces:‘Carolan’s Concerto – played by The Chieftains ‘Planxty Irwin’ – a planxty is a tune written in honour of a patron ‘Carolan’s Farewell to Music’ – written on his deathbed Music published as he was so popular and his music was very respected Neale Bros. Collection: ‘A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes’ 200 tunes attributed to him

However, harping was in decline at the end of the 18th Century Belfast Harp Festival 1792
An attempt to revive the decline in the Irish harp
Also tried to promote and make popular
A competition
Only 11 turned up – 10 irish, 1 welsh
Success: Edward Bunting was employed to notate the tunes played Start of collecting – writing down tunes to preserve the music for generations Bunting published ‘Ancient Music of Ireland’ Volumes 1-3 Why did the Old Irish Harp decline?

Wire-strung – played with fingernails
Could only play in 1 key
Not fully chromatic
Not enough noted on the instrument to play music being composed The Neo-Irish Harp – 19th Century
Invented by John Egan in 1820s
Notes (open strings) could be raised by semitones using levers Played with flesh of fingers
34 gut strings
Didn’t need to dampen strings as much
Played by middle class and females
Sean O’Riada and the Harp
Revived interest in Irish Music and the ‘Old Irish Harp’ of O’Carolan’s time O’Riada didn’t like the Neo-Irish Harp
Preferred the sound of the Old Wire Strung Harp
Thought that the Harpsichord was closer in sound to the Old Irish Harp than the Neo as it was plucked with a quill – like fingernails He played the harpsichord in his group ‘Ceolteoiri Chualann’ Today

Most tunes played on the harp are by O’Carolan
Doesn’t really mix with the Dance Music (Sessions) – separate Competitions for the harp organised by Comhaltas
Derek Bell was harpist in The Chieftains
Laoise Kelly – album ‘Just Harp’
Janet Harbison – well known harpist today

Singing and Sean Nos
Song Types
Love, lament, work, drinking, lullaby, carols, religious, humorous, patriotic, aisling, macaronic Must include some song titles
Sean Nos
Centuries old Irish Language Song
Passed on by ear through the generations
Still strong in Gaeltacht areas today – also affected by the different dialects of the Irish Language Highly skilled and individual, always sung solo
Unaccompanied (some groups like Altan can accompany)
Words tell a story and are most important feature
No dynamics
Singer is a...
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