St. Patrick’s Day is this week, so here’s a bit of history about Irish music. It began as an oral tradition to be passed from one generation to the next. This practice of listening, learning by ear, and not writing tunes down is still encouraged.
Traditional instruments include the Irish harp, which is believed to have originated in Egypt. The Celts brought music to the Irish 2000 years ago, and they had influences from the East. The harp was the most popular instrument, used to create music for nobles and play for the Irish chieftains until the Flight of the Earls (1607). After that, the harpists played where they could.
The first written records of Irish tunes began in 1762. Traditional Irish music travelled with Irish immigrants all over the world. Traditional instruments include fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish flute, penny whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán and have expanded more recently to the Irish bouzouki, acoustic guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo.
In the US in the 1920s, Irish music was first recorded and available for listening. Since then, many Irish musicians have kept the traditions alive and thriving for many different audiences.
Here’s a link to sounds from the Traditional Irish Music Archive. Listen to some Irish music, or find it on your favorite streaming app.