Turlough O'Carolan

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Portrait of Turlough Carolan, from R. B. Armstrong The Irish and Highland Harps, Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1904.

Turlough O'Carolan,[1] (Irish: Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin; Irish pronunciation: [ˈt̪ˠɾˠeːl̪ˠəx oː ˈcaruːl̪ˠaːnʲ]) (1670 – 25 March 1738) was a blind early Irish harper, composer and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition.

He is considered by many to be Ireland's national composer. Harpers in the old Irish tradition were still living as late as 1792, as ten, including Arthur O'Neill, Patrick Quin and Donnchadh Ó Hámsaigh, showed up at the Belfast Harp Festival, but there is no proof of any of these being composers. Ó Hámsaigh did play some of Carolan's music but disliked it for being too modern. Some of O'Carolan's own compositions show influence from the style of continental classical music, whereas others such as Carolan's Farewell to Music reflect a much older style of "Gaelic Harping".

Biography[edit]

Carolan's memorial in St Patrick's Cathedral was erect by the desire of Sydney, Lady Morgan.

O'Carolan was born in 1670 in Nobber, County Meath, where his father was a blacksmith. The family moved from Meath to Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon in 1684. In Roscommon, his father took a job with the MacDermot Roe family of Alderford House. Mrs. MacDermot Roe gave Turlough an education, and he showed talent in poetry. After being blinded by smallpox, at the age of eighteen O'Carolan was apprenticed by Mrs MacDermot Roe to a good harper. At the age of twenty-one, being given a horse and a guide, he set out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons.[2]

For almost fifty years, O'Carolan journeyed from one end of Ireland to the other, composing and performing his tunes. One of his earliest compositions was about Brigid Cruise, with whom he was infatuated. Brigid was the teenage daughter of the schoolmaster at the school for the blind attended by Carolan in Cruisetown, Ireland.[3] In 1720, O'Carolan married Mary Maguire. He was then 50 years of age. Their first family home was a cottage on a parcel of land near the town of Manachain (now Mohill) in County Leitrim, where they settled. They had seven children, six daughters and one son. In 1733 Mary died.

Turlough O'Carolan died on 25 March 1738. He is buried in the MacDermot Roe family crypt in Kilronan Burial Ground near Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon. The annual O'Carolan Harp Festival and Summer School commemorates his life and work in Keadue, County Roscommon.

A bronze monument by sculptor Oisin Kelly depicting Turlough O'Carolan playing his harp, was erected on a plinth at the Market Square, Mohill, on 10 August 1986, and was unveiled by Patrick Hillery, President of Ireland.

A statue was erected to him at his place of birth (Nobber, Co Meath) in 2002, during the Annual O'Carolan Harp Festival, the first of which was held in Nobber in 1988.

Music and style[edit]

Carolan composed both songs and instrumental harp music, reflecting various styles of composition. About a third of Carolan's surviving music have associated Irish lyrics that survive to this day. Some of his best songs are also his most popular airs, such as Hewlett, Katherine O'More and Dr. John Stafford (Stafford's Receipt). Carolan himself is noted as having sang and played the latter in Stafford's parlour at Elphin.[4] As he did not speak English very well, he composed only one song in English, "Carolan's Devotion". Most of his songs were dedicated to and written about specific individual patrons. Many of his tunes are widely performed and appreciated today, and a handful of his Irish songs have been recorded by various artists. He typically composed the tune first, as he rode from place to place, then added words later. Many of his songs are designated as "planxties", a word that Carolan apparently invented or popularized to signify a tribute to a merry host. In return for writing songs in honor of wealthy patrons, Carolan was often welcomed as an honored guest to stay on their estates.[5] It is said that weddings and funerals were sometimes delayed until he could arrive to perform.

Publication[edit]

Carolan's music was first published in Neale's A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes ... in Dublin, 1724. 214 tunes which survive to this day are attributed to him in Donal O'Sullivan's authoritative book Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper.[6] Though most were not published or even written down in his lifetime; they survived in the repertories of fiddlers, pipers and the last of the old Irish harpers and were collected and published piecemeal in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The definitive work containing all 214 of Carolan's tunes as identified by Donal O'Sullivan (1893 - 1973) is the 2001 edition of Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper.[7] Partial lyrics and sources of all lyrics are mentioned in the text description of each piece but are not matched to the written music. O'Sullivan does not include any of the handful of alleged Carolan songs that he considers to be erroneous, such as: Dermott O'Doud; Planxty Miss Burke; and The Snowy Breasted Pearl.[8]

A comprehensive edition of Carolan's Songs & Airs containing newly composed arrangements for harp of all 214 airs along with an additional 12 airs from the Appendix of the 2001 edition[9] was published by Caitríona Rowsome in 2011.[10] This new book titled The Complete Carolan Songs & Airs includes an instance of each of Carolan's surviving lyrics and metrically sets the lyrics note-for-note, to the airs for which they were originally intended. Each of the 226 harp settings in this book are played by the author on a neo-Irish harp (book and 4-CD set). This milestone accomplishment is the first time that all of Carolan's lyrics have been set to the airs, note-by-note, and has been welcomed as 'a task that has needed doing for many years'.[11] The 4-CD recording is harp music without vocals, and the book includes the sheetmusic for those interested in singing the songs of Carolan.

Performances[edit]

Some of his compositions are performed by many popular Irish musicians, such as Planxty, The Chieftains and The Dubliners. In addition, O'Carolan's Concerto has been used as a neutral Slow March by the Foot Guards of the British Army during the ceremony of Trooping the Colour. Australian guitarist John Williams has performed and recorded Mrs. Maxwell. In addition, some of O'Carolan's compositions have appeared in the role-playing game FATE.

Notable compositions[edit]

  • "Captain O'Kane"
  • "Carolan's Concerto"
  • "Carolan's Draught"
  • "Carolan's Receipt (Dr. John Stafford)"
  • "Carolan's Welcome"
  • "Carolan's Ramble to Cashel"
  • "Dr. John Hart, Bishop of Achonry"
  • "Eleanor Plunket"
  • "Fanny Power"
  • "George Brabazon"
  • "Hewlett"
  • "John O'Connor"
  • "Mrs Mc Dermott" (alternatively known as "Princess Royal")
  • "Lord Inchiquin"
  • "Planxty Irwin"
  • "Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór"

Compositions[edit]

The complete list of the 214 Carolan compositions identified by Donal O'Sullivan are, in alphabetical order, as follows:[12]

  • All Alive
  • Baptist Johnston
  • Betty MacNeill
  • Betty O'Brien
  • Blind Mary
  • Brian Maguire
  • Bridget Cruise, 1st Air
  • Bridget Cruise, 2nd Air
  • Bridget Cruise, 3rd Air
  • Bridget Cruise, 4th Air
  • Bumper Squire Jones
  • Captain Higgins
  • Captain Magan
  • Captain O'Kane
  • Captain O'Neill, (no. 214)
  • Captain Sudley (Carolan's Dowry)
  • Carolan's Cap
  • Carolan's Cottage
  • Carolan's Cup
  • Carolan's Draught
  • Carolan's Dream
  • Carolan's Farewell to Music
  • Carolan's Frolic
  • Carolan's Maggot
  • Carolan's Quarrel with the Landlady
  • Carolan's Ramble to Cashel
  • Carolan's Welcome, (no. 171)
  • Catherine Martin
  • Catherine O'More
  • Charles O'Conor
  • The Clergy's Lamentation
  • Colonel Irwin
  • Colonel John Irwin
  • Colonel Manus O'Donnell
  • Colonel O'Hara
  • Conor O'Reilly
  • Constantine Maguire
  • Counsellor Dillon
  • Cremonea
  • Daniel Kelly
  • The Dark, Plaintive Youth
  • David Power
  • Denis O'Conor, 1st Air
  • Denis O'Conor, 2nd Air
  • Dolly MacDonough (The Morning Star)
  • Donal O'Brien
  • Dr. John Hart
  • Dr. John Stafford (Stafford's Receipt)
  • Dr. MacMahon, Bishop of Clogher
  • Dr. Delany
  • Dr. John Hart, Bishop of Achonry
  • Dr. O'Connor
  • Edmond MacDermott Roe
  • Edward Corcoran
  • Edward Dodwell
  • Eleanor Plunkett
  • The Elevation
  • Elizabeth MacDermott Roe
  • Elizabeth Nugent
  • The Fairy Queen
  • Fanny Dillon
  • Fanny Power
  • Father Brian MacDermott Roe
  • Frank Palmer
  • General Wynne
  • George Brabazon, 1st Air
  • George Brabazon, 2nd Air
  • George Reynolds
  • Gerald Dillon
  • Grace Nugent
  • Henry MacDermott Roe, 1st Air
  • Henry MacDermott Roe, 2nd Air
  • Henry MacDermott Roe, 3rd Air
  • Hewlett
  • The Honourable Thomas Burke
  • Hugh Kelly
  • Hugh O'Donnell
  • Isabella Burke
  • James Betagh
  • James Crofton
  • James Daly
  • James Plunkett
  • John Drury, 1st Air
  • John Drury, 2nd Air
  • John Jameson
  • John Jones
  • John Kelly
  • John MacDermott
  • John Moore
  • John Nugent
  • John O'Connor
  • John O'Reilly, 1st Air
  • John O'Reilly, 2nd Air
  • John Peyton
  • Katherine O'More (The Hawk of the Erne)
  • Kean O'Hara, 1st Air (O'Hara's Cup)
  • Kean O'Hara, 2nd Air
  • Kean O'Hara, 3rd Air
  • Kitty Magennis
  • Lady Athenry
  • Lady Blaney
  • Lady Dillon
  • Lady Gethin
  • Lady Laetitia Burke
  • Lady St. John
  • Lady Wrixon
  • Lament for Charles MacCabe
  • Lament for Owen O'Rourke
  • Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill
  • Lament for Sir Ulick Burke
  • Lament for Terence MacDonough
  • The Landlady
  • Loftus Jones
  • Lord Dillon
  • Lord Galway's Lamentation
  • Lord Inchiquin
  • Lord Louth
  • Lord Massereene
  • Lord Mayo
  • Luke Dillon
  • Mabel Kelly
  • Major Shanly
  • Margaret Malone
  • Mary O'Neill
  • Maurice O'Connor, 1st Air
  • Maurice O'Connor, 2nd Air
  • Maurice O'Connor, 3rd Air
  • Mervyn Pratt
  • Michael O'Connor, 1st Air
  • Michael O'Connor, 2nd Air
  • Miss Crofton
  • Miss Fetherston (Carolan's Devotion)
  • Miss Goulding
  • Miss MacDermott (The Princess Royal)
  • Miss MacMurray
  • Miss Murphy
  • Miss Noble
  • Morgan Magan
  • Mr. Malone
  • Mr. O'Connor
  • Mr. Waller
  • Mrs. Anne MacDermott Roe
  • Mrs. Bermingham, 1st Air
  • Mrs. Bermingham, 2nd Air
  • Mrs. Cole
  • Mrs. Costello
  • Mrs. Crofton
  • Mrs. Delany
  • Mrs. Edwards
  • Mrs. Fallon
  • Mrs. Farrell
  • Mrs. Garvey, 1st Air
  • Mrs. Garvey, 2nd Air
  • Mrs. Harwood
  • Mrs. Judge
  • Mrs. Keel
  • Mrs. MacDermott Roe
  • Mrs. Maxwell, 1st Air
  • Mrs. Maxwell, 2nd Air
  • Mrs. Nugent
  • Mrs. O'Connor
  • Mrs. O'Conor
  • Mrs. O'Neill of Carlane
  • Mrs. O'Neill (Carolan's Favourite)
  • Mrs. O'Rourke
  • Mrs. Power (Carolan's Concerto)
  • Mrs. Sterling
  • Mrs. Waller
  • Nancy Cooper, 1st Air
  • Nancy Cooper, 2nd Air
  • O'Flinn
  • O'Reilly of Athcarne
  • The O'Rourkes' Feast
  • Ode to Whiskey
  • One Bottle More
  • Owen O'Rourke
  • Patrick Kelly
  • Peggy Morton
  • Planxty Browne, (no. 180)
  • Planxty Burke
  • Planxty Crilly
  • Planxty Drew
  • Planxty Kelly
  • Planxty O'Rourke, 1st Air
  • Planxty O'Rourke, 2nd Air
  • Planxty Plunkett
  • Planxty Sweeney
  • Planxty Wilkinson
  • Richard Cusack
  • Robert Hawkes
  • Robert Jordan
  • The Seas are Deep
  • Separation of Soul and Body
  • Sheebeg and Sheemore
  • Sir Arthur Shaen
  • Sir Charles Coote
  • Sir Edward Crofton
  • Sir Festus Burke
  • Sir Ulick Burke
  • Squire Parsons
  • Squire Wood's Lamentation on the Refusal of his Halfpence
  • Susanna Kelly
  • Thomas Burke
  • Thomas Judge (Carolan's Frolic)
  • Tobias Peyton
  • The Two William Davises
  • (unnamed) - 8 pieces, (nos. 172-179)
  • Variations on the Scottish Air
    "Cock Up Your Beaver"
  • Variations on the Scottish Air
    "When She Cam Ben"
  • William Eccles
  • William Ward

Many of these pieces have alternate titles, as fully documented by Donal O'Sullivan.[13] O'Sullivan's preferred titles are the ones generally accepted as standard, though quite a few of these titles were devised by O'Sullivan himself after exhaustive research into the identities of the patrons for whom each song was written.

Additionally, a manuscript compiled in Scotland in 1816 by the MacLean-Clephane sisters was discovered in 1983 and includes at least 5 other pieces credited to Carolan and other annotated pieces that were 'improved by Carolan' or 'consistent with Carolan's writing to warrant consideration'. These airs are included in the Appendix of the 2001 edition of Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper along with detailed research notes. These pieces came to light a decade after the death of Donal O'Sullivan in 1973, so he never had an opportunity to subject them to the same analysis that he used on the original 213 airs that he originally compiled in 1958. However, to date, no one has disputed the attributions presented in this manuscript. Newly composed harp arrangements for each of these and all the other airs (as well as new Carolan repertoire numbers 215 to 226 for each of the MacLean-Clephane tunes) are included in The Complete Carolan Songs & Airs by Caitríona Rowsome.[14] The 5 pieces that are said to be composed by Carolan rather than simply "improved" are:

  • Athlone
  • Banks of the Shannon
  • Farewell to Lough Neaghe
  • Irish Galloway Tom
  • The Lamentation of Ireland

Other[edit]

O'Carolan as depicted on the £50 note, Series B Banknote of Ireland.
  • O'Carolan Road in the Tenters area of Dublin 8 is named in his honour.
  • Carolan Road and "Carolan Corner" shop are named in his honour in the Ballynafeigh area of south Belfast.
  • Polish band Myslovitz in 1996 recorded song "Peggy Brown" with lyrics by O'Carolan translated into polish by Ernest Bryll. The song was very popular in Poland.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ According to the 5th edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the version "O'Carolan" is "modern and lacks authority"
  2. ^ Harry White, "Carolan, Turlough (Ó Cearbhalláin, Toirdhealbhach)", in Dictionary of Irish Biography
  3. ^ James Hardiman, Irish minstrelsy, or, Bardic remains of Ireland: with English poetical translations, London, 1831, p. xlix
  4. ^ Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chearbhalláin: The Poems of Carolan, London, 1915, Irish Texts Society, p. 39
  5. ^ O'Sullivan, Donal, Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, London, 1958
  6. ^ O'Sullivan, Donal, Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, London, 1958, amended 2001 edition, Vol. II, p. v - x
  7. ^ O'Sullivan, Donal, Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, London, 1958, amended 2001 edition
  8. ^ Bunting, Edward, General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music, Dublin, 1796, p. 17
  9. ^ O'Sullivan, Donal, Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, London, 1958, amended 2001 edition
  10. ^ Caitríona Rowsome, The Complete Carolan Songs & Airs, Dublin, 2011
  11. ^ An Píobaire, Vol. 9. No. 1 Feabhra / February 2013
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, Donal, Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, London, 1958, amended 2001 edition, Vol. II, p. v - x
  13. ^ O'Sullivan, Donal, Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, London, 1958, Vol. II
  14. ^ Caitríona Rowsome, The Complete Carolan Songs & Airs, Dublin, 2011, pp. 238-251
  • Dónal O'Sullivan, Carolan - The Life, Times, and Music of an Irish Harper (1958)
  • Dónal O'Sullivan, Songs of the Irish, Browne & Nolan, Dublin (1960)
  • Art Edelstein, "Fair Melodies: Turlough Carolan; An Irish Harper" (2001)
  • The first commercial recording of the Complete Works has been arranged and performed by Irish pianist: J.J. Sheridan (from Trigon Recordings)
  • The first commercial recording on an Irish Harp of the Complete Carolan: Songs & Airs has been recorded and arranged by Irish Harpist, Caitríona Rowsome (2011, Waltons Music Ltd)

External links[edit]