O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 52

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 52
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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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Irish .Minstrels and .M usicjans102unsurpassed in poetical and artistic charm, writes Dr. Ernest Walker in hisHistor of Music in England. If musical composition meant nothing morethan tunes sixteen bars long, Ireland could claim some of the very greatestcomposers that have ever lived, for in their miniature form the best Irish folktunes are gems of absolutely flawless lustre, and though of course some of themare relatively undistinctive, it is very rare to meet with one entirely lacking incharacter.To those who retain the pure simplicity of mans nature such music born ofemotion, and untrammeled by rules, possesses charms of a more lasting andtouching kind than the finest works produced from the fancy and brain of themost skillful musician of a cold and artificial age. The simple folk tunes are en-deared to us by association, and like the nectar of the flowers, they can hestored in the hive of our faculties to sustain us through all the bleak clays ofsorrow, or cheer us in the bright days of prosperity.Irish music has all the sweetness, tenderness, humor, pathos, fervor, grandeur,and tragedy of real life, because it sprang from the heart of a race which under-went every l)hase of human experience and existence. Haydn, on hearing aNational Irish melody for the first time, without knowing its origin, exclaimedthat such music could only belong to an oppressed and unfortunate race.The Folk Music of Ireland, intimately associated with the joys and sorrowsand pastimes of the people, has been preserved from generation to generationamong the peasantry and perpetuated largely through the agency of the minstrelswhose wandering mode of life was well calculated to effect that purpose. Inthe language of the illustrious Dr. Petrie, Irish Music is characteristic of theirardent and impassioned temperament and expressive of the tone of feeling thathas been for ages predominant. The upper class are a different racea race whoPossesses no national music, or if any, one essentially different from that of Ire-land. They were insensible to its beauty for it breathed not their feelings, and theyresigned it to those from whom they took everything else, because it was a jewelof whose worth they were ignorant. He therefore who would add to the stockof Irish melody must seek it not in the halls of the great, but in the cabins ofthe poor; at the peasants humble hearth or follow him as he toils at his dailylabors. In the same vein John Boyle OReilly says: The Irish in the latecenturies carried the ancient wordless music in their hearts; the wanderingpiper and harper played the dear melodies and planxties to them; the plowboywhistled and the milkmaid sung the archaic airs; and so they were preserved, likethe disconnected jewels of a queens necklace.Apropos of Dr. Petries remarks: When J. Bernard Trotter was travelingthrough Ireland fl 1817 he frequently heard the loud songs of the laborers re-turning from work. They sang airs in the Irish language with surprisingbeauty and effect. Their airs were not always plaintive for some were finelymartial, You cannot imagine how we enjoyed them, he writes. Often as theevening had in her sober livery all things clad, have we listened with redoubledpleasure to this really fine music. Loud and sprightly, it wantoned through thedistant air, seemed the call to war, and heroic deeds of a great and valorouspeople; or assuming softer tones, invited to gay reveling the merry dance andthe sportive joys of love! Who could fail to think he heard the venerable harpaccompanying these evening hymns? Who could forbear to rush into the mistsof antiquity to find the people who formed, who cultivated, who listened tosuch music? How pleased too, one is to leave modern history for these fascinat-ing versions of peace and joy, which will rise up in deeply considering of theIrish Folk Musicil Precious Heritageremote times of Erins early sons! The kind delusion soothes the soul. How Ilong to see the merry dance and the rural groups of the redressed and happy ! the light feet beating gaily responsive to their lively planxties.In the pages of The Stranger in Ireland, published in i8o6, John Carr, Esq.,the, author, describes the peasantry as being uncommonly attached to theirancient melodies some of which are exquisitely beautiful. In some parts ofIreland the harp it yet in use, but the Irish bagpipe is the favorite instrument.The stock of national music has not been much increased in late years. TheIrish of all classes are fond of music. Amongst the higher orders of Irishcapable of appreciating the unrivaled extent of his genius in music I heard thename of Viotti mentioned with the admiration which is due to his talents.Quite so: Instead of encouraging or cultivating the national music the higherorders of the alien race followed the fashionable fad of the times and patronizedthe musicians of the continent.Irish music was never the offspring of fashion or caprice. It was literallythe voice of the people. \Vhether excited by joy or sorrow, or love or injustice,their feelings found vent in music, Mrs. Hall says. Their grief for the dead wasrelieved by a dirge; they roused their troops by song and offered their prayersin chorus and chant; their music was poetry and their poetry was music. Inthe words of Lady Wilcie all the various strings of the Irish harp have beentouched, and made to give tip the strange fitful and wayward music, that can moveat will to tears or laughter, and which never fails to vibrate in the Irish heart,for music and song are part of the life of the people. Through music and songthe Irish race have always uttered the strongest emotions of the vivid Celticnature.It has often been remarked and still oftener felt, says Tom Moore, thatin our music is found the truest of all comments upon our history. The tone ofdefiance succeeded by the languor of despondencya burst of turbulence dyingaway into softnessti le sorrows of one moment lost in the levity of the next,and all that romantic mixture of mirth and sadness, which is naturally producedby the efforts of a lively temperament to shake off or forget the wrongs whichlie upon it.The musical compositions of the older minstrels were admirably in keepingwith the national sentiment. The wild melodies and inspiring hIts that we findamong the old melodies, are the productions of the bards to a considerableextent. but the author of each particular piece is unknown.\Vitness the effect of those airs on the son or daughter of Erin who hasany inclination for musicand who has not? Few indeed are they who can escaperesponse to some form of music, any more than they can fail to respond to anyand all forms of the beautiful. People vliose emotions remain unaffected by asvniphony, will smile in response to some homespun melody. They may evendenounce an opera, vet enjoy a simple hymn or sway in sympathy with an oldmans jig.To the exile of Irish birth, the melodies of the old land will bring back mem-ories of the fireside, the lakes, the moors, and clear flowing rivers, the townsarid villages and above all the flower-spangled green fields of their native land,for nothing is so certain to survive of a people as their songs and music.Many a homesick exile weary of the meaningless music which his Americandaughter had acquired at the academy. has been assailed by conflicting emotionssuch as the author clescribe in the following verses
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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