Irish Music

Achill Island Co. MayoIrish music is a passionate, exquisitely beautiful, deeply resonant expression of culture — from sean-nós “old-style” singing and dancing traditions and contemporary practice to traditional pub sessions to Riverdance and popular music extravaganzas to the experimental works of contemporary Irish classical composers to the rich tapestry of Irish Rock and the passionate anthems of Irish rebel and political songs. There are so many beautiful and relevant genres, personas, bands and performers, and a rich history.

I first studied Irish traditional music at BLAS, the international summer school of Irish traditional music and dance in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick. It was an amazing and wonderful three weeks of listening, learning, playing, singing, dancing, observing, discussing and building a beginning understanding of this beautiful music and its culture, history and players/singers.

From Fintan Vallely’s wonderful reference book, The Companion to Irish Traditional Music:

Irish Traditional Music is now a sophisticated listening music, and no longer only a medium for dancing. Within it are players of many degrees of competence, understanding and sensitivity. Its popular image accommodates everything from the Riverdance big-stage spectacular to street-side busking, and although played mire in towns than in the country, its performance retains a comfortable rural ethos and its everywhere still an easy-entry social occasion. There is a staggering variety of traditional music activity in Ireland as we enter the twenty-first century. Throughout the island there are more than fifteen hundred music ‘sessions’ weekly, many in some commercial, ith half of them running throughout the year. There are at least one hundred and sixty different cultural, commercial and artistic organisations involved in the music, and some fifty major performance venues where the top players can be heard often.  There are more than seven hundred music and dance classes weekly. Multinationals Sony and JVC have invested in promoting the music abroad, and there are close on a thousand specialised albums available, mostly from established labels. These range from ‘straight’, solo, old-style playing to modernist fusions with jazz, rock, classical and various folk musics. There are one hundred and forty instrument makers and repairers involved, over a hundred business supplying instruments, and more than fifty music shops selling albums and books. All this is considerable commercial interest in the indigenous music of an island of approximately five million people.

Photo credit — Ireland of the Welcomes | Facebook

For further study
Music of Ireland
The Companion to Irish Traditional Music
Irish World Academy of Music and Dance

Irish Music Magazine
Hot Press Magazine
Irish Traditional Music Archive
Irish Traditional Music — Learning Resources Center
Story of Irish Music
A Short History of Irish Traditional Dance Music
The Origins of Irish Traditional Music
10 Essential Irish Rockers
Irish Rock
Contemporary Music Centre Ireland — Irish Composers


2 thoughts on “Irish Music

  1. Another resource which I absolutely love and love to share is the TG4 series “Anam an Amhráin” (The Soul of the Song) – available on DVD. Sónta, a production company based in Carna in the Connemara Gaeltacht got together with Cartoon Saloon to create animated interpretations of some old Irish songs. You can find more here or on you tube. [I think Marie might enjoy this very much!]
    Another very useful website is TG4 Here you can now search for songs from the series “Amhrán is Ansa Liom” (My favorite song) according to song title, singer, theme or region.


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