Irish traditional music
The traditional music played in Ireland is one of the most wonderful aspects of our muddled culture remaining with us today. The story of traditional Irish music is as fascinating as any other aspect of Irish culture, and it is interwoven with the mythology and the landcape of the island.
There is a long tradition of music and melody coming from the landscape of Ireland. Music is featured throughout Irish mythology, for example when the harper Corann, a musician to the Dagda at Newgrange, puts the rampaging sow Cail Cheis to sleep with his enchanting music; this magical musical energy spills out from the caves in the mountain of Kesh Corann in County Sligo. This raw enegry is perfectly captured by the Bothy Band on the Kesh jig set at the start of their first album.
Hearing the Bothy Band inspired me to give the fiddle a try; I brought one in Grehan's of Boyle not long before the shop closed, and enrolled in the Drumshanbo school of music, where Roscommon fiddle player Paddy Ryan was the tutor. Now I play fiddle, banjo, and a fabulous three-quarter set of uilleann pipes made by Limerick musician Mickey Dunne.
The harp is the symbol of Ireland, and is frequently mentioned in Irish mythology. Older tunes tend to be simpler, such as some of the medieval marches like O'Moores March and Brian Boru's march.
The Irish clarseach is much different to the modern Celtic harp - smaller, and so much more portable, wire strung and played with the nails, which must be kept long and strong, and no levers to change key.
The clarseach has two bass strings tuned to G called the Sisters. There is evidence that ogham inscriptions may be related to harp music and notation. For more information see www.wirestrungharp.com.