Discussion Forum

Ask questions, share resources and connect with our Learning the Harp community around the world!

Home Forums Styles of Harp Music Celtic Harp Music Turlough O’Carolan’s Music

  • Turlough O’Carolan’s Music

     Tiffany Schaefer updated 3 weeks ago 5 Members · 14 Posts
  • Alyssa Cowell

    Member
    23 March, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    I’ve been looking at some collections of O’Carolan’s music and have a question that maybe someone more knowledgeable can answer.

    If I have this right, it seems that we have many of his original melodies, but not necessarily original chord progressions/original harmonies. How do modern arrangers know what to choose for the left hand? Is there an established tradition/standard for choosing chords/rhythms, or is it whatever the arranger likes?

  • Nancy Beal

    Member
    23 March, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    great question. I’ve always wondered this. Thanks for asking this! Sessions.org has a done of Celtic music, none of which seems to have any harmony at all.

    • Alyssa Cowell

      Member
      23 March, 2021 at 8:37 pm

      Ultimately, I don’t mind if the answer is “we don’t really know, but this is how we’ve been doing it for the last hundred years or so,” but I’d at least like to make an attempt to interpret the music as originally intended. Of course, I’m assuming there must have been some sort of LH support, or maybe figured bass-type notation typical of the late-baroque period – maybe my modern sensibilities have it completely wrong and it really should be played as a single melody line shared over two hands?

  • Tiffany Schaefer

    Member
    23 March, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    Hi Alyssa! That’s true, we have just over 200 of Carolan’s melodies existing today, but not his original arrangements. Since he played the wire harp and an older style, he probably would’ve chosen some different chord progressions than we commonly use today (and probably less complex since the wire harp is so ring-y, you’ve got to damp the bass hand about as often as you pluck), but the great thing about folk music is you are “allowed” to do whatever sounds nice, essentially. Think about how you’d arrange something like Silent Night – It’s a major key so you’ll have a lot of 1-4-5 chords. You could get away with just C F and G chords (if you were playing in C, for example). But to make it interesting you might substitute the minor that’s two strings below your chord (the relative minor) or two strings up from your chord, depending on where your melody is going. You can use the same idea for Carolan tunes or other folk tunes.

    Some collections:

    Last Summer Asya Sergeeva started the “Lockdown O’Carolan Challenge” in which she assigned volunteers a tune, we arranged them according to our taste and level, and she has put all of the arrangements for free in a collection. I believe you can download it here if you’re interested: https://www.facebook.com/groups/celticharp/permalink/10160517494473102

    (You’ll have to join the Facebook group first, but I can send you Asya’s contact info if that doesn’t work for you)

    Catriona Rowesome has arranged all of his works for harp: https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Carolan-Songs-Airs-Arranged/dp/185720218X

    In 1792, several years after Carolan had died, there was a harp festival in Belfast in which Edward Bunting was tasked to write down what he heard played (many Carolan tunes) and arrange them. I think you can find some of his online for free, but since he was an organist/pianist he chose some interesting keys, chords and accidentals for the music.

    You can find the melodies for free here: http://www.oldmusicproject.com/occ/tunes.html

  • Tiffany Schaefer

    Member
    23 March, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    Some people who could probably answer your question of how it was originally intended to be played are Ann Heymann (I can message her email over if you like)

    Siobhan Armstrong http://www.siobhanarmstrong.com/contact

    or Chad McAnally https://ceadachharps.weebly.com/contact.html

  • Victoria Johnson

    Member
    23 March, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    I was flipping through my copy of “Carolan: The Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper,” which is a pretty comprehensive book on Carolan and his work. ( https://www.amazon.com/Carolan-Times-Music-Irish-Harper/dp/1900428717). The book contains the melody for Carolan’s tunes, but there was one page in the book with a picture for a full score for the tune “Mr Connor,” and the picture was titled “Page from the book of Carolan’s tunes published in his lifetime.” I imagine that would resemble how LH accompaniments were like for his tunes back in Carolan’s days.

    • Alyssa Cowell

      Member
      23 March, 2021 at 10:15 pm

      I was looking at this book yesterday – do you find it a valuable reference? I’m checking my local library for copies to get a good preview before committing to buying it.

      • Victoria Johnson

        Member
        23 March, 2021 at 10:51 pm

        It is a very comprehensive book if you are interested in learning about Carolan and his work. The book is well researched and it goes into a lot of details (such as his patrons). The book also has the melodies of all of Carolan’s music, which can be handy to have. Tiffany posted a link to a website which has all the Carolan melodies for free though, so the book might not be necessary if that’s what you needed. Definitely borrow it from a library to check it out if you could!

  • Tiffany Schaefer

    Member
    13 May, 2021 at 9:03 pm

    Siobhan Armstrong is offering a zoom workshop May 22nd on this subject:

    “In celebration of Turlough Carolan’s 350th birthday, Siobhán Armstrong will share her latest discoveries on Carolan’s playing style, which has largely been lost in the sources of his tunes generally available nowadays. Join her as she shares 18th-century printed sources of his music that give hints to his unique playing style. Then explore his compositions as they were copied down live, at speed, from Irish harpers in the 1790s, surviving in rare, original field transcriptions. This workshop gives a fascinating glimpse of Carolan’s surprising melodic idiom that we don’t hear any more, and also his accompaniment style: what his lower hand really played. It will also include the latest information about his playing style as remarked on by those who actually heard him play!”

    http://galwayearlymusic.com/production/zoom-workshop-uncovering-carolan/?fbclid=IwAR2tsv7V_sy75FqnSgIxv9-csmhfjEndJRAlq9tEzuIQ3-5XWB63W98tEus

    • Alyssa Cowell

      Member
      13 May, 2021 at 10:51 pm

      This looks right up my alley! Do you happen to know what time zone the workshop is being conducted in?

      • Tiffany Schaefer

        Member
        26 May, 2021 at 11:47 pm

        Sorry just saw this now. It was UK time. I heard that it was being recorded, so maybe it is still available for purchase!

  • Alyssa Cowell

    Member
    24 May, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    For those who are still interested in O’Carolan – I took the workshop that @tiffanyharpandsong posted about! I encourage anyone interested in this subject to check out Siobhan Armstrong’s website linked above. In a nutshell (and really, this is an oversimplification of her passionate decades-long research): Bunting’s original transcripts suggest that the tunes didn’t really have a LH line in the way that we recognize them today – the left hand often seemed to be very simple single notes, an extension of the RH melody, or used in a call-and-response fashion that Armstrong described as antiphony. When demonstrating the music on her reproduction harp the resonance of the brass strings makes it obvious why the LH would be more sparse compared to the arrangements we’re used to seeing – anything too complex would sound very muddled and dissonant.

    I don’t know if the recording of the lecture is available for people to purchase, but I found it fascinating.

    • Claire Lécuyer

      Member
      25 May, 2021 at 11:12 pm

      Hi Alyssa, that sounds very interesting, thanks for the feedback! I love O’Carolan tunes. I note this in a corner of my head with the thousands things I have to explore when I’ll have more time!

      • Tiffany Schaefer

        Member
        26 May, 2021 at 11:48 pm

        Oh I am glad you were able to take it!

Log in to reply.

Original Post
0 of 0 posts June 2018
Now