St. Patrick’s Day is coming which means it’s a great time to play through those classic Irish tunes for harp! If you inspect every inch of your music sheets, you’ve undoubtedly noticed composer’s names. And if you play Irish harp music, you’ve seen the name Turlough O’Carolan and maybe Brian Boru. Who were they?
We’ve borrowed some information from Gazette665‘s 2015 blog post on the subject. (Yours Truly wrote that article, so there is no plagiarism.)
The Irish King Who Played The Harp
A legendary Irish king, Brian Boru, supposedly played the harp very well. Brian Boru was the first High King of Ireland, which means he ruled the country (kind-of). You see, back at the turn of century (we’re talking 1000ish A.D.) Ireland had lots of little kingdoms and kings and they didn’t all want to be part of King Brian’s nation. So there were wars and the poor king was eventually slain in battle.
According to legend, the Trinity College Harp (named for its current storage location) was originally Brian Boru’s harp. The now-fragile instrument originally had 29 strings. It’s been used as the model for the harp on Ireland’s coat of arms.
The Blind Harper
Ever heard of O’Carolan? If you like Celtic music or play the harp, I’ll bet you have! Turlough O’Carolan lived from about 1670 to 1783 (A.D. of course) and is often called Ireland’s National Composer. But…he was blind. Poor O’Carolan had the dreaded disease smallpox when he was about 18, and he was blind for the rest of his life.
However, he loved music and eventually traveled the countryside, composing and performing music for wealthy patrons. O’Carolon’s music is very beautiful – sometimes, lively, other times, haunting.
Symbol of Ireland
The Celtic Harp is the national symbol of Ireland and is featured on their coat of arms. The harp symbolizes a unique and rich cultural heritage and history. And, best of all, the harp is still played today – in Ireland…and around the globe.