The Info List - Irish Music

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IRISH MUSIC is 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 globalising cultural forces. In spite of emigration and a well-developed connection to music influences from Britain and the United States, Irish traditional music has kept many of its elements and has itself influenced many forms of music, such as country and roots music in the United States, which in turn have had some influence on modern rock music. It has occasionally been fused with rock and roll , punk and rock and other genres. Some of these fusion artists have attained mainstream success, at home and abroad.

In art music, Ireland
has a history reaching back to Gregorian chants in the Middle Ages, choral and harp music of the Renaissance, court music of the Baroque and early Classical period, as well as many Romantic, late Romantic and twentieth-century modernist music. It is still a vibrant genre with many composers and ensembles writing and performing avant-garde art music in the classical tradition.

On a smaller scale, Ireland
has also produced many jazz musicians of note, particularly after the 1950s.


* 1 Early Irish music
Irish music

* 1.1 Modern interpretation

* 2 Early Irish musicians abroad * 3 Early Modern times * 4 Traditional music

* 5 Classical music in Ireland

* 5.1 Composers of note * 5.2 Performers of note * 5.3 Choral
music * 5.4 Opera

* 6 Popular music

* 6.1 Early popular performers * 6.2 Showbands in Ireland
* 6.3 Country and Irish * 6.4 Fusion * 6.5 Pop/Rock

* 7 Top 5 biggest selling Irish acts of all time * 8 Top 5 \'most standout\' Irish acts of all time * 9 See also * 10 Bibliography * 11 References * 12 External links


A 16th century Irish Warpipe player

By the High and Late Medieval Era, the Irish annals were listing native musicians, such as the following:

* 921BC: 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. * 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
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 skilful 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, was 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 poetry and song has been translated into modern Irish and English by notable Irish poets, song collectors and musicians. The 6th century hymn Rop tú mo baile by Dallán Forgaill for example, was published in 1905 in English by Mary Elizabeth Byrne , and is widely known as Be Thou My Vision . The Blackbird of Belfast Lough (Old Irish : Int én bec; Irish : An t-éan beag) has been notably translated by poets such as Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
, Ciaran Carson and Frank O\'Connor . Notable recordings of modern interpretations of early Irish music include Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin 's Songs of the Scribe , various music albums by choral group Anúna
, and the recordings of Caitríona O\'Leary with Dúlra and the eX Ensemble.


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 contemporary, 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 I .


Give Me Your Hand Instrumental featuring viola da gamba and recorder, performed by Dancing Willow

------------------------- Problems playing this file? See media help .

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. Some of his pieces use elements of contemporary baroque 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
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 (c.1794–1863); world-renowned piper Tarlach Mac Suibhne (c. 1831–1916); poet and songwriter Colm de Bhailís (1796–1906).


Main article: Folk music of Ireland
Folk music of Ireland
A traditional music session, known in Irish as a seisiún.

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
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
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 Ceoltóirí Chualann , The Chieftains , The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem , The Irish Rovers , The Dubliners
The Dubliners
, Ryan\'s Fancy and Sweeney\'s Men were in large part responsible for a second wave of revitalisation of Irish folk music in the 1960s. Several of these were featured in the 2010 TV movie "My Music: When Irish Eyes are Smiling". Sean O'Riada in particular was singled out as a force who did much to save Irish music from disappearing through programming on Radio Éireann in the late 1940s through the 1960s. During this time he worked to promote and encourage the performing of traditional Irish music, and his work as a promoter of music and performer led directly to the formation of the Chieftains. His work inspired 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.

More and more people play Irish music
Irish music
and many new bands emerge every year Téada , Gráda , The Bonny Men , Caladh Nua , Cran , Dervish
, Lúnasa being some (to name a few).


John Field , one of Ireland's foremost classical composers.

There is evidence of music in the "classical" tradition since the early 15th century when a polyphonic choir was established at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and "city musicians" were employed in the major cities and towns, who performed on festive occasions. In the 18th century, Dublin was known as the "Second City" of the British Isles, with an active musical life culminating in, among other events, the first performance of Handel 's famous oratorio Messiah
. The Ballad
Opera trend, caused by the success of the Beggar\'s Opera , has left noticeable traces in Ireland, with many works that influenced the genre in England and on the continent, by musicians such as Charles Coffey and Kane O\'Hara .


Apart from the harper-composers of the 16th century, composers in the 16th and 17th century usually came from a Protestant Anglo-Irish background, as due to the discrimination of Catholics no formal musical education was available to them. Composers were often associated with either Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle
or one of the Dublin cathedrals (St Patrick\'s and Christ Church ). These include immigrants such as Johann Sigismund Cousser , Matthew Dubourg , and Tommaso Giordani . Thomas Roseingrave and his brother Ralph were prominent Irish baroque composers. Among the next generation of composers were the Cork-born Philip Cogan (1750–1833), a prominent composer of piano music including concertos, John Andrew Stevenson
John Andrew Stevenson
(1761–1833), who is best known for his publications of Irish Melodies with poet Thomas Moore
Thomas Moore
, who also wrote operas, religious music, catches, glees, odes, and songs. In the early 19th century Irish-born composers dominated English-language opera in England and Ireland, including Charles Thomas Carter (c.1735–1804), Michael Kelly (1762–1826), Thomas Simpson Cooke (1782–1848), William Henry Kearns (1794–1846), Joseph Augustine Wade (1801–1845) and, later in the century, Michael W. Balfe (1808–1870) and William Vincent Wallace (1812–1865). John Field (1782–1837) has been credited with the creation of the Nocturne form, which influenced Frédéric Chopin . John William Glover (1815–1899), Joseph Robinson (1815–1898) and Robert Prescott Stewart (1825–1894) kept Irish classical music in Dublin alive in the 19th century, while mid-19th-century emigrants include George William Torrance and George Alexander Osborne . Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) and Hamilton Harty (1879–1941) were among the last emigrants in Irish music, combining a late romantic musical language with Irish folklorism. Their contemporary in Ireland was the Italian immigrant Michele Esposito (1855–1929), a figure of seminal importance in Irish music
Irish music
who arrived in Ireland
in 1882. The years after Irish independence were a difficult period in which composers tried to find an identifiable Irish voice in an anti-British climate, which included ressentiments against classical music as such. The development of Irish broadcasting in the 1920s and the gradual enlargement of the Radio Éireann Orchestra in the late 1930s improved the situation. Important composers in these years were John F. Larchet (1884–1967), Ina Boyle (1889–1967), Arthur Duff (1899–1956), Aloys Fleischmann (1910–1992), Frederick May (1911–1985), Joan Trimble (1915–2000), and Brian Boydell (1917–2000). The middle decades of the 20th century were also shaped by A.J. Potter (1918–1980), Gerard Victory (1921–1995), James Wilson (1922–2005), Seán Ó Riada (1931–1971), John Kinsella (b. 1932), and Seóirse Bodley (b. 1933). Prominent names among the older generation of living composers in Ireland
today are Frank Corcoran (b. 1944), Eric Sweeney (b. 1948), John Buckley (b. 1951), Gerald Barry (b. 1952), Raymond Deane (b. 1953), Patrick Cassidy (b. 1956), and Fergus Johnston (b. 1959) (see also List of Irish classical composers ).


Performers of note in classical music 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 Barton McGuckin (1852–1913), a much-demanded singer in the late 19th century; tenor Joseph O\'Mara (1864–1927), a very prominent singer around the turn of the century; tenor John McCormack (1884–1945), the most celebrated tenor of his day; opera singer Margaret Burke-Sheridan (1889–1958); pianist Charles Lynch (1906–1984); tenor Josef Locke (1917–1999) achieved global success and was the subject of the 1991 film Hear My Song ; 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.



music has been practiced in Ireland
for centuries, initially at the larger churches such as Christ Church Cathedral , St Patrick\'s Cathedral , and St Mary\'s Pro-Cathedral , as well as the University of Dublin Choral
Society (founded in 1837).

In the early 1990s, Anúna
, known for their contribution to Riverdance , contributed significantly to popularising choral music. 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
Royal Albert Hall
in 1999. In 2012 they featured as the voices of Hell in the video game Diablo III .

The Chamber Choir Ireland , formerly National Chamber Choir of Ireland, is principally funded by the Arts Council of Ireland . Their artistic director is Paul Hillier . The choir has produced a number of CDs with international (including Irish) repertoire. There are many semi-professional choirs in Ireland
at local level, too. Many perform and compete at the annual Cork International Choral
Festival (since 1954).


Although Ireland
has never had a purpose-built opera house (the Cork Opera House is a multi-purpose theatre), opera has been performed in Ireland
since the 17th century. In the 18th century, Ireland
was a centre for ballad opera and created important works that helped to develop the genre in the direction of operetta, with works by Charles Coffey and Kane O\'Hara . Nationally identifiable Irish operas have been written by immigrants such as Tommaso Giordani and Johann Bernhard Logier as well as by native composers such as John Andrew Stevenson and Thomas Simpson Cooke , continued in the 19th century with works by John William Glover and Paul McSwiney . Michael William Balfe and Vincent Wallace were the most prominent representatives of mid-19th-century English-language operas.

The Celtic Renaissance after 1900 created works such as Muirgheis (1903) by Thomas O\'Brien Butler , Connla of the Golden Hair (1903) by William Harvey Pélissier, Eithne (1909) by Robert O\'Dwyer , and The Tinker and the Fairy (1910) by Michele Esposito . Muirgheis and Eithne have librettos in Irish, as have a number of 1940s and '50s works by Éamonn Ó Gallchobhair . Most of the Irish operas written since the 1960s have a contemporary international outlook, with important works by Gerard Victory , James Wilson , Raymond Deane , Gerald Barry , and a number of young composers since the turn of the century.

More recent years have seen renewed attempts to revive the Irish-language tradition in opera. A brother-sister team previewed sections of the opera Clann Tuireann publicly, and musician John Spillane has told the Evening Echo that he is working on a new Gaelic opera to be titled Legends of the Lough.


Enya fused traditional Irish elements with New Age
New Age
to create a unique sound which has made her Ireland's second biggest-selling act of all time.


Performers of popular music began appearing as early as the late 1940s; Delia Murphy popularised Irish folk songs that she recorded for HMV
in 1949; Margaret Barry is also credited with bringing traditional songs to the fore; Donegal's Bridie Gallagher shot to fame in 1956 and is considered 'Ireland's first international pop star'; Belfast-born singer Ruby Murray achieved unprecedented chart success in the UK in the mid-1950s; Dublin native Carmel Quinn emigrated to the US and became a regular singer on Arthur Godfrey\'s Talent Scouts and appeared frequently on other TV variety shows in the 1950s and '60s. The Bachelors
The Bachelors
were an all-male harmony group from Dublin who had hits in the UK, Europe, US, Australia and Russia; Mary O\'Hara was a soprano and harpist who was successful on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1950s and early 1960s; Waterford crooner Val Doonican had a string of UK hits and presented his own TV show on the BBC from 1965 to 1986.


Main article: Irish showband

Irish 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.


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
Country music
with Irish influences, incorporating Irish folk music. This often resulted in traditional Irish songs being 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 Great 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 "> Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy
in concert, 1981

In 1970 Dana put Ireland
on the pop music map by winning the Eurovision Song Contest 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. Gilbert O\'Sullivan went to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1972 with a string of hits, and the all-sister line-up of The Nolans gained international chart success in the late 1970s. Chris de Burgh
Chris de Burgh
achieved international acclaim with his 1986 hit "Lady in Red ".

Groups who formed during the emergence of Punk rock
Punk rock
in the mid-late 1970s included U2 , Virgin Prunes
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 , In Tua Nua , Fatima Mansions , 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 , Geasa , and Waylander .

In recent decades Irish music
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 (in alphabetical order): Altan , The Answer , Ash , Aslan , Axis Of , B*Witched , Bell X1 , Frances Black
Frances Black
, Mary Black
Mary Black
, The Blizzards , The Bothy Band , Brendan Bowyer , Boyzone
, Paul Brady , Chris de Burgh
Chris de Burgh
, Paddy Casey , The Cast of Cheers , Celtic Thunder , Celtic Woman , The Chieftains , The Clancy Brothers , Clannad
, Codes , Rita Connolly , The Coronas , The Corrs , Phil Coulter , Nadine Coyle (of Girls Aloud ), The Cranberries
The Cranberries
, Peter Cunnah (of D:Ream ), Dana , De Dannan
De Dannan
, Cathy Davey , Damien Dempsey , The Divine Comedy , Joe Dolan
Joe Dolan
, Val Doonican , Ronnie Drew , The Dubliners
The Dubliners
, Mary Duff , Duke Special , EDEN , Enya , Julie Feeney , Fight Like Apes , Mick Flannery , The Frames , Bridie Gallagher , Rory Gallagher
Rory Gallagher
, Lisa Hannigan
Lisa Hannigan
, Glen Hansard of The Frames , Gemma Hayes , Niall James Horan (of One Direction ), Horslips
, The Hothouse Flowers , Hozier , In Tua Nua , Andy Irvine , Laura Izibor , Jape , Jerry Fish ">

4. The Cranberries
The Cranberries
50 Million + ROCK 1990–2003, 2009 – PRESENT (17 YEARS)

5. The Corrs 45 Million POP 1995 – 2006, 2015–PRESENT (11 YEARS)


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
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.


1. U2 68 ROCK

2. Westlife
10.5 POP

3. Van Morrison
Van Morrison

4. Boyzone
7.5 POP

5. The Cranberries
The Cranberries


* Celtic music * Sean-nós song * Lilting * 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


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