Member23 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.
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