Nadia Birkenstock ft. Roxane Genot – “Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill”.

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ย  ย This mournful piece Iโ€™d like to share with you today was composed by Turlough Oโ€™Carolan, an Irish harper and composer whose many compositions, played by different harpists, Iโ€™ve shared on here so far. Nadia Birkenstock is also someone whose music has been featured on this blog a couple times before. This time round, she plays this together with the French cellist Roxane Genot. I love the combination of harp and cello so much, though cello always makes me sad because it reminds me of my late friend Jacek from Helsinki who played this instrument. As for Owen Roe Oโ€™Neill, he was a soldier and leader of one of the Irish Catholic revolts against the rule of England.ย 

Song of the day (6th December) – Clannad – “Mrs. McDermot”.

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Unfortunately I wasn’t able to share the song for yesterday on time as I had a migraine so I’m doing it today. I thought I’d share with you another song composed by the Irish 19th century harper Turlough O’Carolan, whose compositions, played by different artists, I’ve already shared many times on here. He dedicated a lot of his tunes to people that were important in his life, particularly his patrons who supported his career and development as a musician, and it’s no different with this piece. Mrs. MacDermot Roe was actually someone of key importance in O’Carolan’s life because it was thanks to her and her family that he became a harper. It is in her house that he seems to have found a second family home and that’s also where he died. She was the wife of his father employer, who took care of young Turlough’s education when he lost his sight at eighteen due to smallpox. She paid for his training, and then gave him money, a guide, and a horse, so that he could travel round the country and compose his music and earn a living this way. Most often I’ve shared with you O’Carolan’s pieces played by the Irish harpist Lynn Saoirse, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared his music played by Clannad before. Specifically, it’s Maire/Moya Brennan (who’s also the vocalist) who plays the harp in their family band.

Lynn Saoirse – “Mr. O’Connor With Jig”.

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Time for another piece from the Irish Celtic harpist Lynn Saoirse’s album The Seas Are Deep, with music composed by the 18th century Irish blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan. As I mentioned when talking about several other pieces from this album, O’Carolan often dedicated his music to his various patrons who supported him throughout his career, that’s why many of his tunes have different people’s names in their titles. I’m not sure who Mr. O’Connor was for him exactly though. As you’ll be able to hear, this piece consists of two parts. The first, longer one is a waltz, and the second, as is easy to figure out from the title, is a jig, although usually this piece is simply called Mr. O’Connor/O’Conner unlike on Lynn Saoirse’s album. While this piece is delightful in its entirety, I really really love this first, floaty waltz part.

Lynn Saoirse – “Carolan’s Dream”.

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Today I have for you yet another piece composed by Turlough O’Carolan played by the Irish Celtic harpist Lynn Saoirse, and at the same time yet another rendition of “Carolan’s Farewell to Music” on this blog. You might wonder why I’m talking about “Carolan’s Farewell to Music” when the song title that’s in the post title is “Carolan’s Dream”. The explanation is as simple as could be – this song is known under these two titles. – Actually more than two titles, as originally it was called “Molly McAlpin”. I was wondering for a long time how come “Carolan’s Dream” and “Farewell to Music” are essentially the same tune. A while ago I finally did some research and it turns out that the “Carolan’s Farewell to Music” name seems to be incorrect, but still in use nevertheless. Also, it’s apparently not O’Carolann himself who wrote the tune, but William Connellan. O’Carolan really liked it though and might have modified it. I’ve read that he is claimed to have said that he’d like it much more if he composed “Molly McAlpin” alone than all the other tunes he did compose himself. That would make the story of him composing “Farewell to Music” on his deathbed, that I mentioned when sharing

Nadia Birkenstock’s interpretation of this piece,

not true. Perhaps he just played it before his death and people assumed it was original? Another version of it that I’ve shared on here is by

Celia Briar.

Lynn Saoirse – “The Seas Are Deep”.

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I’ve shared with you quite a few track from the Irish Celtic harpist Lynn Saoirse, specifically from her album called The Seas Are Deep, with music composed by Turlough O’Carolan. Today I thought we’d listen to the title track, which I absolutely love for its melancholic and slightly dark feel.

Lynn Saoirse – “The Princess Royal/Miss MacDermott”.

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Today, let’s listen to another composition by the Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan, played by Lynn Saoirse. I recently shared one that was dedicated to Mrs. MacDermott, and I wrote there that the MacDermott family was very significant in O’Carolan’s life, as they were his patrons with whom he had a really good relationship. Even though there is a / in the title of this piece, which is common with Irish sets, this is only one piece, but simply known under two names. This is because the MacDermot Roe family also used the title of princes of Coolavin, and so naturally the daughter of a Prince of Coolavin was Princess of Coolavin. This is one of the most well-known compositions by O’Carolan.

Song of the day (17th June) – Nadia Birkenstock – “Carolan’s Farewell To Music”.

Hi to all you lovely people after a bit of a break! ๐Ÿ™‚

I was on a trip to Masuria with my family, hence there were no posts from me for a while. Among all the amazing harpists I love whose music I’ve introduced to you on here, never before have I shared anything from Nadia Birkenstock, so now is the time. Nadia Birkenstock is a Celtic harpist as well as singer from Germany, but known in Celtic music circles around the world. I’ve been aware of her music for many years but only recently started listening to her music a lot more. She learned to play harp at a young age but received formal training later in the US, from, among others, the American Celtic harpist Kim Robertson, whose one piece I’ve shared on this blog as well. She plays a lot of traditional Celtic music but also composes her own material.

This particular tune is a traditional one. Last year I have already shared with you a tune called

Farewell To Music by Celia Briar,

and said how I think it’s very depressing and wondered why such title. Then months later I decided to broaden my knowledge about Turlough O’Carolan a bit. I always found him very interesting but decided I really want to get to know him a bit better than just the basics. What I learned has interested me further and now I’m looking for some books about his life and also music. Over that period of time, I finally learned why such a depressing title of Celia Briar’s tune, as it is the name of the last composition of O’Carolan, that he played shortly before his death. He could feel that his life was about to end, and thus decided to go to the home one of his patrons, the one with whom he had a very close relationship – Mrs. McDermott Roe – and played this song while there. That was where he later died, surrounded by friends.

Lynn Saoirse – “Mrs. Maxwell and Mrs. Nugent”.

And, for today, I picked for you guys a piece played by Lynn Saoirse, from her album The Seas Are Deep, which features compositions by Irish Celtic harper Turlough O’Carolan. As I’ve already written on here before, what was characteristic to Turlough O’Carolan’s music was that he composed a lot of tunes in honour of his patrons, as a way of showing his gratitude. That’s what we can find on this Lynn Saoirse’s album. This is a piece which, as you can figure out from the title, is dedicated to the two mentioned ladies. Unfortunately I don’t know who they were in his life, but he has composed multiple pieces for people with the surname Nugent, so I guess all we can assume is that they must have been some family he knew, whereas there is more than one piece dedicated to Mrs. Maxwell, so she must have been an important person in his life. Seeing all those people’s names though and hearing the music he composed for them, I’d really like to know a bit more about them to have a clearer picture of things.

Lynn Saoirse – “Isabella Burke/Planxty Burke”.

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Today I’m sharing with you two harp pieces performed by Irish harpist Lynn Saoirse, and composed by the famous 18th-century Irish Celtic harpist Turlough O’Carolan. I wrote about him before when sharing some piece composed by him. He was travelling a lot and staying in the houses of rich people, playing for them. At the end of his stay, he would typically present his hosts with a piece that he wrote especially for them, as a way of expressing his gratitude. And these pieces that he composed specifically for his patrons are called planxty, just like the second piece in this set. I don’t know who the Burkes were, or maybe it was just one person, in his life, nor who was Isabella Burke to whom the first piece is specifically dedicated, beyond quite an obvious fact that they must have been his patrons. I really like both these pieces and I can’t even decide which one is more beautiful.

Celia Briar – “Eleanor Plunkett”.

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Not long ago, I shared with you a harp piece performed by Sue Richards and composed by Irish national bard and composer who was also a harper – Turlough O’Carolan. – Today, I’m sharing another tune that was composed by him and that is one of his most popular compositions, very frequently played by harpers and harpists. The version I chose to share with you is by Celia Briar, whose music I’ve also shared with you quite a few times before. From what I’ve read, it used to be a song with Irish Gaelic lyrics, which are now unknown. O’Carolan wrote this song in praise of Eleanor Plunkett from Robertstown in co. Meath.

Song of the day (8th November) – Sue Richards – “Clergy’s Lamentation”.

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So I’ve shared a lot of harp music – especially Celtic harp music – with you lately, but as far as I can remember I haven’t shared anything at all from the rich legacy of the most famous Celtic harpist ever – Turlough O’Carollan. – It’s quite funny that people always associate harp, be it classical or Celtic or any other, primarily with women, and these days it’s mainly women playing this instrument and seems very unusual when it’s otherwise, while the most famous Irish Celtic harper was male. Turlough O’Carolan was born in late 17th century, and was a harper, composer and also a singer. He is regarded as Ireland’s national composer. At the age of eighteen he was blinded by smallpox. He spent most of his life journeying through the country on horseback, composing and playing his music.

A lot of contemporary harpists play his tunes, and this piece is no exception. I am sharing it with you performed by Sue Richards – Celtic harpist from North Carolina – but I’ve heard quite a few other versions. In Sue Richards’ version, there are also other instruments as you’ll be able to hear, which makes it feel nicely richer.