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Harping Tradition and Collectors of Irish Music

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Harping Tradition and Collectors of Irish Music

  1. 3. <ul><li>The harp is Ireland’s national emblem </li></ul><ul><li>It is also Ireland’s oldest instrument, with evidence for its presence going back to the 9 th century </li></ul><ul><li>In many ways we can track the history of Ireland through the history of the harp </li></ul>
  2. 4. <ul><li>From the 15 th to the 18 th century the harp was especially popular in Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>It was an aristocratic instrument played by professional harpers </li></ul><ul><li>Harpers were patronised by wealthy Gaelic land owners to provide entertainment for special occasions </li></ul>
  3. 5. <ul><li>These harpers were highly trained and very important members of society (next only to the file in importance!) </li></ul><ul><li>They provided accompaniment for the poems recited by the file. </li></ul>
  4. 7. <ul><li>In the 17 th century Irish society changed dramatically under English rule (penal laws) </li></ul><ul><li>Patronising of the arts began to die away as few could afford to keep harpers as they had once done </li></ul><ul><li>This forced the harpers to become itinerant </li></ul><ul><li>One such itinerant harper was Turlough O’Carolan </li></ul>
  5. 8. <ul><li>Turlough O’Carolan is Ireland’s most famous harper </li></ul><ul><li>He was born in 1670 in Nobber, Co. Meath </li></ul><ul><li>He was blind , like many other well-known harpers </li></ul>
  6. 9. <ul><li>O’Carolan was very famous throughout Ireland and even abroad </li></ul><ul><li>He composed hundreds of songs and solo harp pieces </li></ul><ul><li>Planxty Irwin and Fanny Power are amongst his most famous compositions </li></ul>
  7. 10. <ul><li>As O’Carolan travelled the country he tended to adopt and play popular music to suit his audiences </li></ul><ul><li>This resulted in O’Carolan using many of the features (sequences, scale passages, suspensions and strong cadences) found in Baroque music </li></ul><ul><li>Musical examples: Carolan’s Concerto and Captain O’Kane </li></ul>
  8. 11. <ul><li>O’Carolan played what we now call the Ancient Celtic Harp </li></ul><ul><li>What does it sound like? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it remind you of another instrument? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it loud/soft? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it echo? </li></ul>
  9. 12. <ul><li>The ancient Celtic harp had metal strings </li></ul><ul><li>Harpists plucked these strings with their fingernails </li></ul><ul><li>This gave this harp a rich bell-like tone </li></ul><ul><li>This type of harp began to die out in the 17 th century </li></ul>
  10. 13. <ul><li>This type of harp was taller and thinner and had gut strings </li></ul><ul><li>Harpers plucked these strings with their finger pads </li></ul><ul><li>These changes resulted in a mellower tone </li></ul><ul><li>Brass levers were also introduced to raise strings by a semitone </li></ul>Laoise Kelly
  11. 14. <ul><li>The Belfast Harp Festival was organised in 1792 to help revive the ancient harp music </li></ul><ul><li>10 Irish and 1 Welsh harper played in the 4-day event </li></ul><ul><li>At 96 Denis Hempson was the oldest participant and the only one to play with long fingernails </li></ul>
  12. 15. <ul><li>As well as promote Irish music, the festival served to preserve music of the ancient harp tradition for posterity </li></ul><ul><li>Edward Bunting , aged 19, was employed by the festival committee to notate the music that was played at the festival. </li></ul><ul><li>Though there are some flaws with his notations, they effectively saved the ancient Gaelic harp tunes from extinction. </li></ul>
  13. 16. <ul><li>Bunting is very important because he was the first collector to collect tunes in a systematic and informative way . </li></ul><ul><li>Other collectors include John and William Neal who printed the first collection of Irish music, A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes , in 1724. </li></ul><ul><li>Neal’s tunes included Taimse im Chodladh and were arranged for violin, flute and oboe </li></ul>The site of Neal’s Music Hall on Fishamble St (near Christchurch), where Handel’s Messiah was first performed in 1742
  14. 17. <ul><li>For many trad. musicians Francis O’Neill is considered to be the most important collector of dance music </li></ul><ul><li>In 1903 he published O'Neill's Music of Ireland  containing 1,850 pieces of music </li></ul><ul><li>Then in 1907 he published The Dance Music of Ireland , sometimes called &quot;O'Neill's 1001“ or simply “ The Book ” </li></ul><ul><li>The tunes he collected from Irish immigrants in Chicago include many reels, jigs, hornpipes, marches, airs and tunes by O’Carolan </li></ul>Francis O’Neill was Chief of Police in Chicago from 1901 to 1905
  15. 18. <ul><li>Improvements in recording technology have meant that 20 th century collectors have been able to make more accurate recordings of traditional music and have been able to bring the music to a wider audience </li></ul><ul><li>20 th century collectors include Seamus Ennis , Breandan Breathnach and Ciaran MacMathuna </li></ul>

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