O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 50

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 50
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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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98 Iris/i Minstrels and MusiciansHistorical Estimate of Irish 1 vIusic 99that so many persons are affected by the Scotch or Irish airs. They are com-posed not according to art, but nature; they are simple in the highest degree.There is no harmony according to the present sense of the word therein; butthere is much melody.In Walkers Jdistorical Memoirs of the Irish Bards, which came from thepress in 1786, we read that The Irish music is in some degree distinguished fromthe music of every other nation, by an insinuating sweetness which forces itsva irresistibly to the heart, and there diffuses an ecstatic delight that thrillsthrough every fiber of the frame, awakens sensibility and agitates or tranquilizesthe soul. Whatever passion it may be intended to excite it never fails to effectits purpose. It is the voice of nature and will be heard. We speak of the musicof the ancient Irish for music like language, the nearer we remount to its riseamongst men, the more it will be found to partake of a natural expression.The same author adds: The great Irish families even to the last century,entertained in their houses harpers who were the depositories of their best piecesof music. These remains which we consider as classics have obtained for Irelandthe honorable title of A School for Music.Ihat Ireland was the School for Music as well as for learning in itsbroadest sense, from which Scotland derived not a little of its earliest trainingis well attested by their own writers and historians, a few of whom have beenalready quoted.In the pages of A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland comprisinga series of letters to Dr. John Watkinson, in 1775, the author, Rev. Dr. Campbell,speaks with the confidence of an authority who is master of his subject.It may be of interest to add that Dr. Campbell, who was rector of Galloon,in County Fermanagh, and chancellor of Clogher in County Tyrone, reckonedamong his friends snch notables as Burke, Johnson, Boswell and Goldsmith.From what has been now observed relative to the distinguished excellenceof the Irish musicians, particularly in ancient times, compared with what hasbeen proved in former letters, that Ireland was time old Scotia, it will not, I flattermyself, be difficult to trace the origin of what is now called Scots music.We have seen that there is proof positive from their own chronicles thatthe Welsh received their instruments from Ireland, let us now see whetherthere be not proof presumptive, the strongest which the nature of the thing iscapable of, that the British Scots borrowed their music also from the same quarter.It is vain to say, as is generally said, that David Rizzio was author of theScots music. There is an internal evidence against such a supposition; the wildand pastoral singularity of the Scots melodies is incompatible with the grave andlearned compositions of Italy. And there is evidence still more strong. Rizzio .was secretary and not musician to the Queen of Scotland. His father hadbeen a musician by profession, but we do not find that he was one himself. Thathe might, however, have played, improved, and collected the Scots airs is veryprobable, but that a young dissipated Italianbusied in the intrigues of a courtand attendance on a Queen so fair, and so condescending as Marycould in afew years have disseminated such multifarious compositions through a nationwhich despised his manners, and hated his person is utterly incredible.Nor is it to be believed what is still more credible that James the First ofScotland was the author of the Scots tunes, though Buchanan does say thathe excelled in music more than became a king.The honor then of inventing the Scots music must be given to this countrythe ancient Scotia so renowned for music in old times; from whence as we haveincontrovertibly proved, the present Scotia derived her name, her extraction. herlanguage, and her poetry.There can scarcely be a question that the melodies preser ed in the ScottishHighlands such as those performed on the bagpipe, and rustic dance tunes, clantunes and other Celtic melodies which continue to he sung to Gaelic poetry orwords, in the affecting traditional way flow entirely in the Irish manner and hada common origin.Contrasting conditions as he found them to exist in his Tour of Ireland andEngland in the year 1828 and 1829. A German Prince records that the loveof music in England is a mere matter of fashion. There is no nation in Europewhich plays music better or understands it worse. To which may be addeda quotation from Gaskins Varieties of Irish History of a later (late: Manyold authors from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries, speak in the highest termsof the music of Ireland. Ireland and Scotland far excel England in those com-positions, for which she has been denied the gift of melodious uterance. Irelandand Scotland though less favored in other respects, teemed with the harmoniousproductions of bards who have left no other monument behind themnot evenin most cases their names.Coming down to still more recent times, we have the opinion of the (lis-tinguished German traveler, Kohl, who published a work on Ireland in I8 .Speaking of his visit to the residence of a gentleman at Drogheda, he says: Theharp was brought in and a blind young harper advanced who was, I was told,one of the most accomplished harpers in the neighborhood; and in fact hismusic enraptured us all. The first piece he played was Brian Borns March.Ihe music of this march is wildly powerful. and at the same time melancholy.It is at once the music of victory and of mourning. The rapid modulations andwild beauty of the airs was such that I think this march deserves fully to obtaina celebrity equal to that of the Marseillaise and the Ragotsky.The march of Brian Born was followed by an air called the Fairy Queen,which I was told was a very old melody. Old or not I can testify that it is acharming piece of music, so tender, so fairy like and at the same time so wild andsweetly playful that it can represent nothing, but the dancing and singing ofthe elves and fairies by moonlight. I afterwards heard the piece on the pianoforte,but it (lid not sound half so soft and sweet as from the instrument of the blind\oung harper. Of all the fine arts music is the one of whose beauties it is mostimpossible to convey any adequate idea by criticism or description.In the foregoing pages ample historical evidence has been submitted, al-though much more might be produced to sustain Irelands claim to eminenceamong the most advanced nations in the knowledge and practice of music, fromthe earliest ages down to comparatively recent times, when the tragedies of herhistory paralyzed the progress of the arts for which she had been so longdistinguished.
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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