- Music of Ireland
Life in Ireland
Irish Music is the generic term for music that has been created in various genres on the island of Ireland.
The indigenous music of the island is termed Irish traditional music. It has remained vibrant through the 20th, and into the 21st century, despite globalizing cultural forces. In spite of emigration and a well-developed connection to music influences from Britain and the United States, Irish music has kept many of its traditional aspects and has itself influenced many forms of music, such as country and roots music in the USA, which in turn have had some influence on modern rock music. It has occasionally been fused with rock and roll, punk rock and other genres. Some of these fusion artists have attained mainstream success, at home and abroad.
In recent decades Irish music in many different genres has been very successful internationally. However, the most successful genres have been rock, popular and traditional fusion, with performers such as Clannad, Celtic Thunder, Enya, Westlife, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, Rory Gallagher, Bob Geldof, The Corrs, The Chieftains, The Irish Rovers, Riverdance, The Irish Tenors, Van Morrison, The Saw Doctors, Snow Patrol, The Cranberries, U2, The Undertones, Ash, The Script, Sinéad O'Connor, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard and Eleanor McEvoy achieving success nationally and internationally.
Early Irish music
By the High and Late Medieval Era, the Irish annals were listing native musicians, such as the following:
- 921. Cú Congalta, priest of Lann-Leire, the Tethra (i. e. the singer or orator) for voice, personal form, and knowledge, died.
- 1011. Connmhach Ua Tomhrair, priest and chief singer of Cluain-mic-Nois, died.
- 1168. Amhlaeibh Mac Innaighneorach, chief ollamh of Ireland in harp-playing, died.
- 1226: Aed mac Donn Ó Sochlachain, erenagh of Cong, a man eminent for chanting and for the right tuning of harps and for having made an instrument for himself which none had made before, distinguished also in every art such as poetry, engraving and writing and in every skilled occupation, died this year.
- 1269: Aed Ó Finn, master of music and minstrelsy, died.
- 1329: Maol Ruanaidh Cam Ó Cearbhaill, tiompanist, murdered during the Braganstown Massacre in County Louth.
- 1330: Mael Sechlainn Mac Carmaic, a general entertainer, died.
- 1343: Donnchad Clereach Ó Maol Braonáin, a choral canon of Elphin, was killed by an arrow.
- 1357: Donn Shléibhe Mac Cerbaill, an accomplished musician ... died.
- 1360: Gilla na Naem Ó Conmaigh, music ollamh of Thomond ... died.
- 1361. Magraith Ó Fionnachta, Chief Musician and Tiompanist to the Síol Muireadaigh, died.
- 1364: Bran Ó Brain, a skillful tympanist ... died.
- 1369: John Mac Egan, and Gilbert Ó Bardan, two accomplished young harpers of Conmaicne, died.
- 1469: Ruaidrí mac Donnchad Ó Dálaigh, the most musical-handed harpist in all Ireland.
- 1490: Diarmait MacCairbre, harper, executed.
- 1553: Tadhg, son of Ruaidhri Ó Comhdhain, i.e. the ollamh of Éire and Alba in music, died.
- 1561: Naisse mac Cithruadh, drowned on Lough Gill.
- 1589. Daighre Ó Duibhgeannáin, a most affable, musical man, died.
Early Irish musicians abroad
Some musicians were acclaimed in places beyond Ireland. Cú Chuimne (died 747) lived much of his adult life in Gaelic Scotland, and composed at least one hymn. Foillan, who was alive in the seventh century, travelled through much of Britain and France; around 653 at the request of St. Gertrude of Brabant, taught psalmody to her nuns at Nievelle. Tuotilo (c.850–c. 915), who lived in Italy and Germany, was noted both as a musician and a composer.
Helias of Cologne (died 1040), is held to be the first to introduce Roman chant to Cologne. His contempory, Aaron Scotus (died 18 November 1052) was an acclaimed composer of Gregorian chant in Germany.
Donell Dubh Ó Cathail (c. 1560s-c.1660), was not only musician of Viscount Buttevant, but, with his uncle Donell Óge Ó Cathail, harper to Elizabeth II.
Early Modern times
Up to the seventeenth century, harp musicians were patronised by the aristocracy in Ireland. This tradition died out in the eighteenth century with the collapse of Gaelic Ireland. Turlough Carolan (1670–1738) is the best known of those harpists, and over 200 of his compositions are known. He wrote in a baroque style that is usually classified as classical music, but his music has entered the tradition and is played by many folk musicians today. Edward Bunting collected some of the last-known Irish harp tunes at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. Other important collectors of Irish music include Francis O'Neill and George Petrie.
Other notable Irish musicians of this era included Cearbhall Óg Ó Dálaigh (fl. c. 1630); Piaras Feiritéar (1600?–1653); William Connellan (fl. mid-17th century) and his brother, Thomas Connellan (c. 1640/1645–1698), composers; Dominic Ó Mongain (alive 18th century); Donnchadh Ó Hámsaigh (1695–1807); poet and songwriter Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin (1748–1782); Arthur O'Neill (fl. 1792);Patrick Byrne (musician) (c.1794-1863); poet and songwriter Colm de Bhailís (1796–1906).
Irish traditional music includes many kinds of songs, including drinking songs, ballads and laments, sung unaccompanied or with accompaniment by a variety of instruments. Traditional dance music includes reels (4/4), hornpipes and jigs (the common double jig is in 6/8 time). The polka arrived at the start of the nineteenth century, spread by itinerant dancing masters and mercenary soldiers, returning from Europe. Set dancing may have arrived in the eighteenth century. Later imported dance-signatures include the mazurka and the highlands (a sort of Irished version of the Scottish strathspey). In the nineteenth century folk instruments would have included the flute the fiddle and the uilleann pipes.
A revival of Irish traditional music took place around the turn of the 20th century. The button accordion and the concertina were becoming common. Irish stepdance was performed at céilís, organised competitions and at some country houses where local and itinerant musicians were welcome. Irish dancing was supported by the educational system and patriotic organisations. An older style of singing called sean-nós ("in the old style"), which is a form of traditional Irish singing was still found, mainly for very poetic songs in the Irish language.
From 1820 to 1920 over 4,400,000 Irish emigrated to the USA, creating an Irish diaspora in Chicago (see Francis O'Neill), Boston, New York and other cities. Irish musicians who were successful in the USA made recordings which found their way around the world and re-invigorated musical styles back in the homeland. For example American-based fiddlers like Michael Coleman, James Morrison and Paddy Killoran did much to popularise Irish music in the 1920s and 1930s.
After a lull in the 1940s and 1950s, when (except for Céilidh bands) traditional music was at a low ebb, Seán Ó Riada's The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, The Irish Rovers, The Dubliners, Ryan's Fancy and Sweeney's Men were in large part responsible for a second wave of revitalization of Irish folk music in the 1960s. Several of these were featured in the 2010 TV movie "My Music: When Irish Eyes are Smiling". They were followed by the likes of Planxty, The Bothy Band and Clannad in the 70s. Later came such bands as Stockton's Wing, De Dannan, Altan, Arcady, Dervish and Patrick Street, along with a wealth of individual performers.
Classical music in Ireland
In the eighteenth century a number of musical clubs were formed, mainly in Dublin, for charitable purposes, which led to an upsurge in performances. Handel arrived in Dublin in 1742 to superintend the first performance of his famous oratorio. The Passerini and Damici families were favourite performers in Dublin at the operas, concerts and oratorios which were then popular.
Among the next generation of musicians was John Stevenson (1761–1833), who is best known for his publications of Irish Melodies with poet Thomas Moore. His works include religious music, catches, glees, odes, operas, songs and symphonies and accompaniments to airs. His contemporaries in the musical field were Michael Kelly and Doctor Carter. John Field, who lived in the early Romantic Era has been credited with the creation of the Nocturne form, later developed by Frédéric Chopin. Michael W. Balfe composer of 38 operas for the houses of London, Paris, Milan and Vienna; William Vincent Wallace composer of six operas and Charles Villiers Stanford achieved popularity in Europe and the UK during the 19th and early-20th centuries, but success for Irish composers has come primarily from outside the Irish state.
Michele Esposito, a figure of seminal importance in the history of Irish music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, arrived in Ireland in 1882. He became chief pianoforte professor at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and remained in Ireland for forty-six years, teaching two generations of musicians and composing notable works. A notable contributor to Irish music since the 1930s was Cork professor of music Aloys Fleischmann. Today, the best-known living Irish composer is Gerald Barry whose operatic works have been particularly successful in the UK and Europe.
Performers of note
Performers of classical music of note include Catherine Hayes, (1818–1861) Ireland's first great international prima donna and the first Irish woman to perform at La Scala in Milan; tenor John McCormack (1884–1945), the most celebrated tenor of his day; opera singer Margaret Burke-Sheridan (1889–1958); the concert flautist Sir James Galway and pianist Barry Douglas. Douglas achieved fame in 1986 by claiming the International Tchaikovsky Competition gold medal. Mezzo-sopranos Bernadette Greevy and Ann Murray have also had success internationally.
Choral music in Ireland has produced Anúna, known for their contribution to Riverdance in the early 1990s. They have also been nominated for a Classical Brit Award in the UK and were invited to give the first ever Irish Prom at the BBC Proms series in the Royal Albert Hall in 1999. The National Chamber Choir and Resurgam are two important professional choral groups that have begun to make an impact upon the awareness of vocal music beyond that of opera or contemporary popular music, while there are several high-quality church choirs, particularly in Dublin: The Palestrina Choir (St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral), Christ Church Cathedral Choir (Christ Church Cathedral) and St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir.
In the 1980s Shaun Davey composed The Brendan Voyage, a mix of classical orchestral and Irish traditional styles with the uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn as the soloist. He continued and expanded this genre with his compositions The Pilgrim, Granuaile, and The Relief of Derry Symphony.
Piano Concerto No.1, Guitar Concerto No.1 and the Variations on Bach's Inventions are some of the works of Richard Kearns who is another of Ireland's classical composers.
Showbands in Ireland
Showbands were a major force in Irish popular music, particularly in rural areas, for twenty years from the mid-1950s. The showband played in dance halls and was loosely based on the six or seven piece Dixieland dance band. The basic showband repertoire included standard dance numbers, cover versions of pop music hits, ranging from rock and roll, country and western to jazz standards. Key to the showband's success was the ability to learn and perform songs currently in the record charts. They sometimes played Irish traditional or Céilidh music and a few included self-composed songs.
Country and Irish
- Main article: Country and Irish.
With the rise in popularity of American country music, a new subgenre developed in Ireland known as 'Country and Irish'. It was formed by mixing American Country music with Irish influences, incorporating Irish folk music. This often resulted in traditional Irish songs been sung in a country music style. It is especially popular in the rural Midlands and North-West of the country. It also remains popular among Irish emigrants in Britain. Big Tom and The Mainliners were the first major contenders in this genre, having crossed over from the showband era of the 1960s. Other major artists were Philomena Begley and Margo, the latter even being bestowed the unofficial title of Queen of Country & Irish. The most successful performer in the genre today is Daniel O'Donnell, who has garnered success in the UK, US and Australia.
Traditional music played a part in Irish popular music later in the century, with Clannad, Van Morrison, Hothouse Flowers and Sinéad O'Connor using traditional elements in popular songs. Enya achieved international success with New Age/Celtic fusions. The Pogues, led by Shane MacGowan, helped fuse Irish folk with punk rock to some success beginning in the 1980s, while the Afro-Celt Sound System achieved fame adding West African influences and drum n bass in the 1990s while bands such as Kíla fuse traditional Irish with rock and world music representing the Irish tradition at world music festivals across Europe and America. The most notable fusion band in Ireland was Horslips, who combined Irish themes and music with heavy rock.
Riverdance is a musical and dancing interval act which originally starred Michael Flatley and Jean Butler and featuring the choir Anúna. It was performed during the Eurovision Song Contest 1994. Popular reaction to the act was so immense that an entire musical revue was built around the act.
The 1960s saw the emergence of major Irish rock bands and artists, such as Them, Van Morrison, Emmet Spiceland, Eire Apparent, Skid Row, Taste, Rory Gallagher, Dr. Strangely Strange, Thin Lizzy, Mellow Candle.
In 1970 Dana put Ireland on the pop music map by winning Eurovision with her song All Kinds Of Everything. She went to number one in the UK and all over Europe and paved the way for many Irish artists. Dana had a number of follow up hits throughout the 70's when she was signed to Decca and the GTO record label, whose artists included Donna Summer, Heatwave and Irish pop groups the Nolan Sisters and the Dooleys. Groups who formed during the emergence of Punk rock in the mid-late 1970s included U2, Virgin Prunes, The Boomtown Rats, The Undertones, Aslan, Gavin Friday, and Stiff Little Fingers. Later in the 80s and into the 90s, Irish punk fractured into new styles of alternative rock, which included That Petrol Emotion, My Bloody Valentine and Ash.
In the 1990s, pop bands like the Corrs, B*Witched, Boyzone, Westlife and The Cranberries emerged. In the same decade, Ireland also contributed a subgenre of folk metal known as Celtic metal with exponents of the genre including Cruachan, Primordial, Skyclad, Geasa and Waylander.
Other artists well-known as popular music performers include Paddy Casey, Jack L, Declan O'Rourke, Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club, Phil Coulter, Dolores Keane, Damien Rice, Damien Dempsey, Eleanor McEvoy, Finbar Wright, Maura O'Connell, Frances Black, Sharon Shannon, Mary Black, The Frames and Stockton's Wing.
Since the 2000s the music industry is continuing to grow with well established acts such as Snow Patrol, The Coronas, Bell X1, Julie Feeney, The Thrills, Gemma Hayes, Villagers, The Script, Codes, The Blizzards, and The Answer.
Top 5 biggest selling Irish acts of all time
Irish acts Sold Genre Years active Notes 1. U2 170 Million + Rock 1976–Present (33 Years)  2. Enya 80 Million + Celtic/New Age 1986–Present (22 Years)  3. Van Morrison 55 Million + Soul 1967–Present (40 Years)  4. The Cranberries 50 Million + Rock 1990–2003, 2009–Present (13 Years)  5. Westlife 44 Million + Pop 1998 – present (13 Years) 
Top 5 'most standout' Irish acts of all time
In 2010, PRS for Music conducted research to show which five Irish musicians or bands the public considered to be the 'most standout'. U2 topped the list with sixty-eight percent while Westlife, Van Morrison, Boyzone and The Cranberries came in 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively. The research also suggested that the 'top-five' had sold over 341 million albums up to March 2010.
Irish act Percent Genre 1. U2 68 Rock 2. Westlife 10.5 Pop 3. Van Morrison 10 Soul 4. Boyzone 7.5 Pop 5. The Cranberries 4 Rock
- Celtic music
- Sean-nós song
- Irish traditional music session
- List of Irish ballads
- Irish rebel music
- List of Irish musicians
- List of All-Ireland Champions
- List of Irish music collectors
- List of artists who reached number one in Ireland
- List of songs that reached number one on the Irish Dance Chart
- List of songs that reached number one on the Irish Singles Chart
- One Hit Wonders in Ireland
- Top selling singles and albums in Ireland
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- Mathieson, Kenny. "Ireland". 2001. In Mathieson, Kenny (Ed.), Celtic music, pp. 10–53. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-623-8
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- Geoff Wallis and Sue Wilson "The Rough Guide to Irish Music" ISBN 1-85828-642-5
- Barra Boydell: Music and Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, 1985, ISBN 0-903162-22-9
- Walsh, Basil; Michael W. Balfe; A Unique Victorian Composer ISBN 978-0-7165-2947-7 www.britishandirishworld.com
- Walsh, Basil; Catherine Hayes; The Hibernian (Irish) Prima Donna, ISBN 0-7165-2662-X
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- ^ Whistle Workshop
- ^ Sawyers, June Skinner (2002), The Complete Guide to Celtic Music, London: Aurum , p 48-49.
- ^ Inside Ireland
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- ^ Concertinas in Ireland
- ^ Country House music
- ^ Sean nos
- ^ Irish emigration
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- ^ Boylan, Henry (1998), A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition, Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, p. 411, ISBN 0-7171-2945-4
- ^ Jeremy Dibble, Michele Esposito (Dublin, Field Day Publications 2010)
- ^ "Gerald Barry". Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland. http://www.cmc.ie/composers/composer.cfm?composerID=4. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- ^ Niall O’Loughlin/Richard Wigmore, 'Galway, Sir James', Grove Music Online, . Retrieved 12 August 2007.
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- A History of Irish Music, by W. H. Flood
- Contemporary Music Centre, Dublin Ireland's national resource and archive centre for contemporary Irish classical music.
- Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann A global movement promoting Irish traditional music and culture
- The Journal of Music in Ireland Ireland's bi-monthly music magazine: reviews, interviews, in-depth articles, sessions
- TheSession.org an online tune database and discussion site for adherents of Irish Traditional Music
- IRMA.ie - The Irish Recorded Music Association
- BreakingTunes.com Arts Council of Ireland Website that specializes in the promotion of contemporary Irish Music.
- Ni Band list Full list of bands in Northern Ireland.
- Music of Ireland - Welcome Home 2010 documentary film charting the development of Irish music and its influnece worldwide.
- TradTune.com Online database of traditional celtic tunes with many from Ireland.
Ireland topics History TimelinePrehistory · Protohistory · Early history EventsBattle of Tara/Battle of Glenmama/Battle of Clontarf · Norman invasion · Bruce campaign · Black Death · Tudor conquest · Desmond Rebellions · Spanish Armada · Tyrone's Rebellion · Flight of the Earls · Plantation of Ulster · 1641 Rebellion and Confederate War · Cromwellian conquest and Settlement of 1652 · Williamite War · Penal Laws · First Great Famine · 1798 Rebellion · Act of Union 1800 · 1803 Rebellion · Tithe War · Second Great Famine · Land War · Fenian Rising · Dublin Lockout · Home Rule Crisis · Easter Rising · War of Independence · Anglo-Irish Treaty · Civil War · The Emergency · IRA Northern Campaign · IRA Border Campaign · The Troubles Other topics Geography Natural Human Culture People Languages Literature Mythology Music Dance Cuisine Sport Symbols Other Politics Ideologies Republic of Ireland Northern Ireland Music of Europe Sovereign
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