O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 49

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 49
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periodical Publisher
Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
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periodical Title
O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
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96Irish iVlinstrels and Musicianswith intensity, while Calvin and Knox denounced it as a bait held out by theevil one to lure the souls of the unwary. Even Goethe, German in heart andsoul knew nothing of, and cared nothing for music. Again some there be likethe young violin student described by a writer in the Musical Leader who neverheard anything at a concert, but fiddle technic, and who used to figure out sym-pathetically on his coat sleeve every single passage and writhe in envy duringevery difficult one. Beauties of tone and melody did not exist for him. Everyemotional appeal flew over his head. Music held nothing for him but fingertwiddling.But to return to the current of our subject from a digression pardonableperhaps under the circumstances: John DeFordun a canon of Aberdeen, theearliest Scotch historian, who was sent over to eland at the end of thethirteenth century to collect materials for his . Scotichronicon expressly statesthat Ireland was the fountain of music, (in lii time), whence it began to flowinto Scotland and Wales.From the pages of Dean Lynchs Cain brensis Eve rsus we learn that PolydoreVirgil, who lived in England in the first half of the sixteenth century paid aglowing tribute to the musical faculties of the Irish at that time. The Irishpractice music and are remarkably skilled in it, he says. Their performanceboth vocal and instrumental is exquisite, but so bold and impassioned that it isamazing how they can observe the rules of their art amidst such rapid evolutionsof the fingers and vibrations of the voice, and yet they do observe them to per-fection.About tile same tune we are told by John \Iaior in his Greater Britain, pub-lished in 1521, that the Irish and the wild Scots were pre-eminent as performerson the harp. In his panegyric of James the First of Scotland, he styles thatprince another Orpheus who to&iches the harp more exquisitely than either theHighianders or even the Irish, who were the most eminent harpers then known.At a later date Count de Hoghenski, a musical authority testifies that of allthe people the Irish are esteemed the best performers. Still more explicitly hecontinues, They use the harp whose strings were of brass and not of animalgut; on this they make the most pleasing melody.Were further testimony needed on this score it has been furnished by Vin-centio Gallilei, a noble Florentine in his Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Musicpublished in 1581. In this work he eulogises Irish harps and harpers, remarkingthat the strings are generally of brass with a few steel for the highest notes.In all historical comment on the Irish harp and its music which has cometo our attention, there is but one dissenting voice and strangely enough thecritic is a native born Irishman. In 1584 Richard Stanyhurst, whose ancestors forniany generations resided in the vicinity of Dublin, records in a work entitledDc Rebus in Riberiiia Gestis, that the harper uses no plectrum but scratchesthe chords with his crooked nails and never marks the flow of his pieces tomusical rhythm. nor the accent and quantity of the notes. so that to the refinedears of an adept it comes almost as offensively as the grating of a saw.It is gratifying to learn, however, that he encountered one harper namedCrusius, or Cruise, who measured up to his ideal, and on whom he lavishesunlimited praise; but even so his strictures on the harpers of his day in generalwere not permitted to pass unquestioned by such able writers as Dean Lynch andGeoffrey Keating.Barnabv Rich, an English gentleman, who visited Ireland in the reign ofJames the First and embodied his impressions of the country in A New Deshistorical Estimate of Irish Music97cription of Ireland, says: They have harpers and those are so reverencedamong the Irish that in the time of rebellion they will forbear to hurt eithertheir persons or their goods.From an essay on The Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish. to befound in Camdens Britannia, published in 1586; written by J. Good, an Englishpriest, who conducted a school at Limerick about the year i566, we extract thefollowinghis only reference to music: They are particularly fond of musicespecially of the harp with brass strings which they strike harmoniously withtheir crooked nails.Pretorius, author of a work on Musical Instruments. published in 1619.says The Irish Harp has rough thick brass strings, forty-three in number, andis beyond measure sweet in tone.Referring to the Irish harp in Sylva Sylvoruni, published in 1627; yearsafter the authors death, Bacon declares it maketh a more .resounding soundthan a Bandora, Opharion, or Cittern, which have likewise wire strings, andno instrument bath the sound so melting and prolonged as the Irish harp.To the same general effect is the testimony of Thomas Fuller, author of theHistory of the Holy Warre, published in 1639. In his account of the crusadeconducted by Godfrey de Boulogne in the last years of the eleventh century,he says: Yea we might well think that all the concert of Christendom in thiswarre would have made no musick if the Irish harp had been wanting.In Hardimans Irish Minstrelsy, the author mentions an unpublished Historyof Ireland written about the year 1636, reposing in the Royal Irish Academy,Dublin, from which he quotes the following: The Irish are much addictedto musick generally, and you shall find but very few of their gentry eitherman or woman, but can play on the harp; also you shall not find a house ofany account without one or two of those instruments and they always keep aharper to play for them at their meals, and all other times as often as theyhave a desire to recreate themselves or others which come to their houses there-with.M. (he Ia Boullaye Le Gouz, who journeyed from Dublin to the principal citiesand towns in Ireland in 1644 and whose description of the country has beentranslated by Crofton Croker, says of the people: They are fond of the harpon which nearly all play as the English do on the fiddle, the French on the lute,the Italians on the guitar, the Spanish on the castanets, the Scotch on the bagpipe,the Swiss on the fife, the Germans on the trumpet, the Dutch on the tambourine,and the Turks on the flageolet. After describing their weapons and theirdexterity the French traveler adds, they march to battle with the bagpipes,instead of fifes; but they have few drums.As to the ancient Irish music it is confessed to be original, and in whatremains of it to this day there is found a wonderful softness and pleasing har-mony, according to the learned Sylvester OHalloran whose History of Irelandappeared in 1778. The Abbey of Benchoir got its name from the melody of itspsalii ists, and when in the next century the Abbey of Nivelles was founded.Gertrude. daughter of Pepin. sent to Ireland for doctors to instruct in church disci-pline. and for musicians and choristers for the church music.Writing in 1779 on The Power of Music John Wesley said: Generally, ifnot always, when a fine solo was sung; when the sound has been an echo to thesense; when the music has been extremely simple and inartificial thenatural power of music to move the passions has appeared. This music wascalculated for that end, and effectually answered it. Upon this ground it is
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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