“There’s no other profession in the world where you can get to meet such amazing characters – the real people of the country that you go to. Music kind of invites you to walk into these lives. They’re not great academics, or geniuses – they’re just ordinary people, like you and me. That’s the lovely thing about music, and it’s the same with art and the same with poetry.” – Brian Finnegan
Last week people from all over the world celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, a religious holiday dedicated to the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He was a saint who brought christianity to Ireland, probably born in Britain around 385 AD; after spending six years as a slave in Ireland he returned there as a missionary among the Celtic pagans. He died on March 17th and that’s why on this day people organize a big feast in order to commemorate his life and great actions.
Saint Patrick’s day is an international event, therefore music is a remarkable sign of unity and tradition: during the day people listen to traditional irish music and also celtic music, especially at the parade where people dressed in green gather together, dancing and singing all the time. However it should be useful, if not essential to distinguish Celtic music and traditional Irish music; in fact traditional music created in Ireland is considered Irish music, but sometimes it is referred as Celtic music from many people nowadays who are born of Celtic origins. So, Irish music may be Celtic, but Celtic music isn’t always Irish.
The following song is a traditional Irish song by Brogan’s Bar – Ennis:
Celtic music represents the traditional music of the Celtic countries such as Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain) as well as influenced areas (particularly the US and Canada’s maritime provinces) and takes his name from people who live in these locations, meaning the Celts. Celtic music is described as a type of folk music with a distintive music and lyrics, whereas instead the instruments played are violin, lute, flute, bagpipe, hard. Celtic music is known for its dancing tunes, but it can easily shift from a rousing dance tune to a tender song, usually a ballad. What separates a normal song from a Celtic song is the absence of an appropriate accompaniment against the continuous, melodic flow of the notes without the harmony or the chords, typical elements of classic or pop music; basically Celtic music is melodic music rather than harmonic. Since its origins, Celtic music is a solo musical form: that’s what happens when you listen to a traditional Irish band formed by fiddle, flute and accordion, you’ll eventually hear the sound of three solo parts executed simultaneously.
The following song is a Celtic song by The Corrs- Toss The Feathers:
As for Irish traditional music, in 1954 the International Folk Music Council provided a definition stating that folk music is the product of a musical tradition that has been evolved through the process of oral transmission. In Ireland, the distinction between “traditional” and “folk” music; traditional music could be divided into two categories: instrumental music which is mostly dance music and the song tradition which is usually unaccompanied solo singing whereas instead folk music can refer to contemporary songs with guitar accompaniment.
Irish traditional music is different from the Scottish one for example, but it has also many similarities with it. However, even in Ireland there are many differences between traditional music: the music of West Cork is different from the music of Donegal, probably because of the diversity of their dialects and accents.
One of the features of traditional music is its capacity for absorption, retention and change. Traditional music has always drawn on many influences and sources: for example, the ballroom schottisches and polkas of polite 19th-century society, English music-hall songs, Scottish bagpipe music, and even the music of visiting blackface minstrel troupes.
Following the example of traditional group De Danann (who have made a hornpipe from the Beatles’ song ‘Hey Jude’), Irish traditional music means absorbing other influences and making them feel at home.
Last but not least, according to W.H.Grattan Flood who wrote A History of Irish Music (1905), in Gaelic Ireland, there were at least ten instruments used in traditional music such as:
the cruit (a small harp)
and clairseach (a bigger harp with typically 30 strings)
the timpan (a small string instrument played with a bow or plectrum)
the feadan (a fife)
the buinne (an oboe or flute)
the guthbuinne (a bassoon-type horn)
the bennbuabhal and corn (hornpipes)
the cuislenna (bagpipes – see Great Irish Warpipes)
the stoc and sturgan (clarions or trumpets)
As already said, Celtic music and Irish traditional music have ancient origins but still nowadays they’re up-to-date and loved by a countless number of people.
Written by Ludovica Buda