Irish Traditional Music - Harp
The harp is the national symbol of Ireland, the Celtic harp appears on Irish Currency and features in many Irish Mythology stories. The most famous harp was called Uaithne and belonged to the Dagda who was an important God in Irish Mythology. The Dagda was a protector of the people and legend tells us that his magical harp played itself! One of the most famous Irish harp players was Turlough O'Carolan who was blind. Born in Ireland in the 18th century, he was famous for playing the Harp but was also a composer and a singer. He is commonly known as Irelands national composer.
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument, the strings are made from a variety of materials including wire, silk, nylon or gut. The plane of the harp's strings are positioned perpendicularly to its soundboard. Musically the harp is in the category of Chordophones (as are all stringed instruments) but it has its own sub category, Harps. All harps are made up of a neck, resonator and strings. Frame harps also have a pillar, Harps without a pillar are known as open harps. The harp can be played while held in the lap if it is small enough but more often the Harp stands on the floor and the harpist sits next to it on a small chair or stool to play the instrument.
Irish Traditional Music - Green Harp
The green harp flag shown in the image below dates back to Confederate Ireland in 1642 and was initially a plain gold harp on a green background. The version shown below was used in Ireland during the 1800's, the original harp was changed to include a mythical woman's head and torso complete with wings which formed the head of the harp! She was known as the 'Maid of Erin'.
Traditional Irish Music - Image of the Irish Green Flag
Irish Traditional Music - Accordion
The Accordion was invented by Friedrich Buschmann in 1822 in Berlin, Germany and was called the Handäoline. Cyrill Demian (1772–1847) of Vienna created another version of the accordion with buttons in 1829. His patent of the name 'Accordion' was officially granted in May 1829 and many credit Cyril Demian with the invention of the accordion while others give credit to Friedrich Buschmann's invention. Today there are many variations of the accordion, some with buttons and others with keyboards, essentially they are all constructed in a similar manner, two boxes separated by a bellows.
It is a very popular instrument in modern Irish folk and traditional music and is available in different forms. The two row button accordion as shown in the picture below is popular with traditional Irish accordion players. There are several types of accordions available, for example the Melodeon and Concertina versions are also popular in Irish traditional music as well as the piano accordion which is often played by marching bands popular all across Ireland. Traditionally the accordion was popular with the lower classes as opposed to the harp which was played more by the upper classes. The accordion comprises three components, these are:
The Bellows. These are squeezed which in turn pushes air through to the reeds
The Keys or Buttons. These are pressed producing the notes
The Reeds. The reeds vibrate inside the body of the accordion and make the sound
Traditional Irish Music - Image of a Traditional Irish Accordion
Irish Traditional Music - Bodhrán
The Bodhrán is a traditional Irish musical instrument and consists of a frame drum covered in either synthetic material or goatskin. The inside of the drum is open and the player holds the drum by grasping the cross bars on the inside of the drum as shown as shown in the picture above. The drum is hit with a small wooden bone which is also known as a tipper, beater or cipín. Occasionally the Bodhrán is played by hand.
Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Bodhrán viewed from the back
Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Bodhrán viewed from the front
Traditional Irish Music - Tin Whistle
The tin whistle or metal whistle as shown in the image below is very popular in Irish traditional music and the whistles are made from a variety of materials including brass, steel and aluminium. Most Irish school children are taught to play the tin whistle, for most it is their first experience of playing a musical instrument.
Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Tin Whistle
Traditional Irish Music - Fiddle
The fiddle is a vital component of Irish traditional music and it is played in a variety of styles depending on the region of Ireland where the fiddle is played. The regions of Ireland with particular fiddling traditions are Sligo, Donegal, Clare and Sliabh Luachra which is a small area between the counties of Kerry and Cork.
Traditional Irish Music - Picture of an Irish Fiddle (Gaelic: Fidil)
Traditional Irish Music History - Irish Diaspora
What is diaspora? Diaspora is defined as 'the movement or settlement of people away from their ancestral homeland'. The Irish Diaspora are descendants of the native Irish immigrants forced to move away from their native country for a variety of reasons including conflict and more recently in the 19th century due to the great Famine, known in Gaelic as 'An Gorta Mor'. The Irish diaspora spread all over the world and it is estimated that globally there are more than 80 million Irish Diaspora! Some are second or third generation Irish whilst others are fifth and sixth generation Irish! The Irish Diaspora have kept their culture, heritage and traditions alive through traditional music. St Patrick's day is a celebration of Irish culture and traditional Irish music forms a huge part of this now globally celebrated event.
Traditional Irish and Celtic Music
Singing, performing and dancing is a huge part of Irish culture, it is the land of music and dance! Ireland has produced some amazing singers and musicians; U2, and Enya are both perfect examples! Riverdance and Lord of The Dance are examples of the way that traditional Irish music and dance has been brought into the 21st century. Both are world famous shows enjoyed by the Irish diaspora and those who wish they were!
Traditional Irish Music - Facts
Henry VIII of England was believed to be a great lover of Irish harp music and when he took control of Ireland he had a harp embossed on the currency
Shakespeare refers to eleven Irish tunes including the famous 'Callino Casturame'
Queen Elizabeth was particularly fond of Harp music and kept the Irish harpist Donogh in her court
The Clairseach is a large Irish harp and was known as "the festive or heroic harp of the chiefs and ladies, as also of the bards"
Ireland is the only country to have a musical instrument as their national emblem
Harp music was often played to accompany 'bards' reciting poetry
The Celtic Triangular Harp was known as the instrument of the Bards!
The Harp was associated with the more affluent Irish whereas the accordion was played more by the lower classes
During the 9th century it is reported that twelve different musical instruments were used by the people of Ireland
The music school in the Swiss city of San Gallen was established by the Irish monk Gallus (ca 550–620 or 640) later known as St Gall
The tin whistle is often referred to as a beginners flute
Irish Traditional Music