Sounds of Ireland

You may recognize St. Patrick's Day as a holiday that provides a good excuse to be jolly and cheers with your friends way past the setting sun, but have we lost touch with the meaning of this holiday?

Who was Saint Patrick anyway? “Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century, he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped but returned about 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches, and schools.” After this, Saint Patrick became a pillar within society representing freedom from oppression. To this day, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over the world and has evolved into a day of celebration with friends, family and carefree thankfulness for the seemingly simple gifts of life and freedom. 

Sounds of Ireland.jpgLet’s touch on the topic of Traditional Irish Music. In Gaelic Ireland, the same ten instruments were the main focus on all original music. The genre could be compared to a mix of folk with a few dashes of classical & slow pop, but mostly lying on the edge of folk. 

As for instrumentation, the traditional ten were made up of “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), and the cnamha (bones).

One of the most characteristic instruments of traditional Irish music is known as the “Irish flute”. These flutes hail from the mid-nineteenth century and were famous within the Irish, Scottish and Cuban traditional folk music of that time. Irish flutes are typically made of Boxwood, African Blackwood or Rosewood and feature six tone-holes that accompany from zero to thirteen keys. 

One cannot discuss the sounds of Ireland without touching on the art of the harp. The Celtic harp, of square shape, is known as the cláirseach in Irish. The difference between the Celtic harp and a traditional harp comes down to sizing and the fact that the Celtic is strung with wire. As for the symbolization, royalty is the meaning of the Irish Harp, which is on its Coat of Arms. Legend says that the strings of the harp represent the arms of the king.

How about modern day music? When it comes to Ireland, many do not realize how many incredible bands and musicians hailed from those lush hills. One of the most famously known Irish bands is the Celtic rock group Dropkick Murphys. They are known for their extreme uplifting energy. Two other incredible bands who are worshipped and love by the entire world are My Bloody Valentine and The Cranberries. Finally, in the band department, is U2. U2 is a household name and their songs have been the soundtrack to many of the special moments in our lives. 

As for solo artists, one of the most world-renowned songwriters is none other than Van Morrison. It’s quite a feat to create classical pop mixed with sincere and raw, yet lighthearted lyrical content. Van Morrison does this without an ounce of effort. 

Ireland continues to feed our musical quests with soulful, down-to-earth, pure sounds. We can only hope to continue to be graced by their unique perspective of the world that is drawn from their often lush, yet rainy and demure lands.