Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/31

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
IRISH MUSIC.
19
 

of Christ Church Yard, in the vicinity of the cathedral of that name in Dublin, a few years later; and by the son of Carolan in 1747. But these being for flute or violin, supply no idea of the polyphonic style of the music for the Irish Harp, an instrument with many strings of brass or some other metal: the Harp preserved in Trinity College, Dublin (commonly but erroneously called the Harp of Brian Boru), having 30 strings; that of Robin Adair (an Irish chieftain), preserved at Hollybrooke in co. Wicklow, 37 strings; and the Dallway Harp (1621), 52 strings. [See Harp, vol. i. p. 686a.] During the incessant wars which devastated the island in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the art of music languished and decayed: there had indeed been many famous performers upon the Harp, the national instrument had appeared on the coinage of Henry VIII, and had also been appended to some State papers a.d. 1567; but the powers of the law had been brought to bear upon the minstrels who sympathized with the natives, struggling at this time against the English power. When the wars of Elizabeth, Cromwell, and William III ceased, the distracted country had peace for a while. Soon afterwards the Hanoverian Succession was settled, and foreign musicians visited Ireland, and remaining there, introduced the music of other countries; the nobility and gentry too, abandoning their clannish customs, began to conform to the English model: and the Irish melodies went out of fashion.

Some of the celebrated harpers of the 16th and 17th centuries were Rory Dall O'Cahan (whom Sir W. Scott makes the teacher of Annot Lyle); John and Harry Scott; Gerald O'Daly (the composer of Aileen-a-Roon); Miles Reilly (born 1635); Thomas and William O'Conallon (1640); Cornelius Lyons; Carolan (1670); Denis Hempson (1695), who in 1745, when 50 years old, went to Scotland and played before Charles Edward; Charles Byrne (1712); Dominic Mungan (1715); Daniel Black (1715); Echlin Kane (1720), a pupil of Lyons, before named—Kane, who travelled abroad, also played for the Pretender, and was much caressed by the expatriated Irish in Spain and France; Thaddeus Elliot (1725); Owen Keenan (1725); Arthur O'Neill (1734); Charles Fanning (1736); and James Duncan, who having adopted the profession of a harper in order to obtain funds to carry on a law-suit in defence of his patrimony, was successful, and died in 1800, in the enjoyment of a handsome competence.

Among efforts to arrest the decay of the Irish Harp School may be mentioned the 'Contentions of Bards' held at Bruree, co. Limerick, 1730–50, under the presidency of the Rev. Charles Bunworth, himself a performer of merit; a meeting of harpers at Granard, co. Longford, organized by an Irish gentleman, James Dungan of Copenhagen, in 1781; and the assemblage of harpers at Belfast, 1792, when the promoters engaged the subsequently well-known collector, Edw. Bunting, to write down the music as performed. From this arose Bunting's three volumes of Irish Music, dating 1796, 1809, and 1840: accurate drawings, biographical notices, and some hundred airs have been left on record by Bunting, to whom indeed the subject owes whatever elucidation it has received. Ten performers from different parts of Ireland attended the meeting of 1792, and their instruments, tuning, and use of a copious Irish musical vocabulary agreed in a remarkable manner. The compass of the Harps was from C below the bass stave to D above the treble one. Their scale was sometimes C, but mostly that of G. Each string, each grace, each feature had a name peculiar to it. It was proved that the old harpers had played with their nails, not the fleshy tip of the fingers. They used other scales beside those above, but agreed that G major was the most ancient: in this lies 'The Coolin' (temp. Henry VIII):—

{ \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"orchestral harp" \time 3/4 \key g \major \partial 4 \relative d'' { d8 e16 fis | g4 g a8. fis16 | g4 d \times 2/3 { g,8 b d } | g8. fis16 \times 2/3 { g8 a b } a8. g16 | g4 fis g8. fis16 | e4 e8 fis16 g a g fis e | d4 b8[ d] g[ d] | fis16 e d c b4 a | g2 \bar "||" d'8 c | b8.[ a16 g8. a16 b8. c16] | d4 d8 e fis d | g8. fis16 \times 2/3 { g8 a b } a8. g16 | g4 fis g8 fis | e4 e8 fis16 g a g fis e | d4 b8 d g d | fis16 e d c b4 a | g2 \bar "||" } }

One of the most striking of the Irish airs is that called Colleen dhas, etc., to which Moore's lines, 'The valley lay smiling,' are adapted: it lies on a scale from A to A, but with semitones between 2-3 and 6-7, as follows:—

{ \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"orchestral harp" \time 9/8 \key g \major \partial 8 \relative a' { a16 b | c8 e c b d b a g a16 b | c8 e c b d b a4 a16 b | c8 e c b d b a g g' | e16 d c b a g e8 a a \grace { c16[ b] } a4 \bar "||" a16 b | c8. d16 e fis g8 a fis g b, a16 b | c8. d16 e fis g8 e g a4 a8 | g e e d b b a g a16 b | c8. a16 b g e8 a a \grace { c16[ b] } a4\fermata \bar "||" } }

It was of course to be expected, that singers, pipers, whistlers, or violinists, would not always adhere to the fixed semitones of a harp scale; hence this air is sometimes corrupted, and its pathetic beauty impaired by the introduction of G♯. This scale, it may be remarked, is that used for the Scottish pipes, where the upper G♮ is however frequently false; such Scotch airs as 'Johnnie Cope' are suitable to it.

An example of the scale

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \key e \minor \relative e' { \cadenzaOn e1 fis( g) a b( c) d e s } }

E to E, semitones between 2-3 and 5-6, is found