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PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:16 am 
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I recently came across a YT video of harpist Ann Heymann playing Cumha a' Chléirich.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tT9MGhvzFU
It got me reading about Pibroch music on Wikipedia & there's a whole section on 'Irish Ceol Mor'
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pibroch#Irish_ce%C3%B2l_m%C3%B3r

Admittedly, I'm quite ignorant of Scottish music, the highland traditions & piobaireachd. Some of the pieces mentioned are familiar but I've never really heard the music discussed within the context Pibroch within Irish tradition though. Is it mostly a lost style that had been left behind only in the manuscripts of the harpists?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2020 11:47 am 
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As with all these things, I'd be cautious about what you read online - there are a lot of people with bees in their bonnets out there, and some have more enthusiasm than scholarship. However, that the Scottish ceòl mór genre also had some kind of a foothold in Ireland is quite certain, and it's likely there is valuable scholarship yet to be done on the links.

The genre is a product of "high" Gaelic culture, and that culture is a shared one between Gaelic Scotland and Ireland until the Anglification of the Scottish Gaelic aristocracy in the seventeenth century. Although we still don't really know enough about the relationships between harp, pipe and song and the specific genre of ceòl mór, the basic narrative that a pre-existing culture shifted from harp and song to pipe and song in Gaelic Scotland (quite possibly due in some way to the forced Anglification mentioned above) is pretty well accepted. But that shift never occurred in Ireland, and so when the harp died out ceòl mór went with it, leaving only its echoes in the Scottish tradition, and whatever is still hidden in an archive somewhere, waiting to be found.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 5:08 pm 
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I think the whole thing is extremely interesting, partly because we have far more questions than answers!

First, I believe that what we call Ceol Mor is extremely old, going back to Proto Indo European times.

That aside, Ceol Mor is theme-and-variation which is quite widespread in IE and other areas. I was talking to a traditional African harp player and that tradition has amazing similarities to Ceol Mor.

The tantalizing thing about Ceol Mor in Gaelic culture is though its vehicle for a thousand years (or several thousand) was the harp it only survives as a living tradition on the Highland pipes. Bagpipes as we know were a relative latecomer to the Gaelic fringe of Europe, the pipers evidently having to find ways of adapting Ceol Mor to their instrument.

Sadly we have very little to go on to imagine what Ceol Mor on the harp sounded like, because the harping tradition died out both in Ireland and Scotland. (We have to keep in mind that all modern Celtic harp playing is a revival, not a survival.)

I think echos of an Irish theme-and-variation approach to air playing still survives especially on the uilleann pipes. I've heard Paddy Keenan and other pipers play an air in a straightforward way (the ground) then in the first repeat add ornamental runs between certain notes, then on the third playing add even more elaborate runs.

I've read that this was especially done by Munster uilleann pipers, but that that tradition has died out. I just can't remember now, a musicologist or music enthusiast wrote down some performances which hint at a partial survival of Ceol Mor.

O Neill's Music Of Ireland has a number of airs showing this. Now one can say "those aren't like Ceol Mor!" and true they're not like the Ceol Mor which has come down to us through the Highland piping tradition. But this style of Irish air-playing might be just as close to what the ancient Gaelic harpers played as Piobaireachd is. Until we find a 900 year old recording of a Gaelic harper, who can say.

About that Wiki article, it talks about many modern musicians doing their "take" on what ancient Welsh, Irish, Harp, etc Ceol Mor sounded like. We just have to keep in mind that the evidence is slim and open to a wide range of interpretation.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:00 am 
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Very interesting topic. I’ve heard the descriptive piece the Death of Allistrum described as a piece of Ceol mhor preserved in the Irish tradition but lost to the Scottish. Pat Mitchell pointed out that the March piece derives from the tune “the Pibroch of Donal Dubh”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-ZgucRLOlA

Shortly after watching the Pat Mitchell Notes and Narrative on the piece I happened to find a copy of “the Desparate Battle of the Birds” which had narrative notes above the sections as if the described parts of a battle.

I’m not well versed enough to know Ceol mor on the big pipes but it’s all very interesting.

Simon Chadwicks harp Ceol mor is very interesting to listen to.

Pieces like Byrnes March may be considered Irish Ceol mor and appear in collections like OFarrells

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:38 am 
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It is a great shame the harp tradition has been lost, piobiaireachd in piping is wonderful. Some test of musicianship, in all aspects.

For those who want a recording of The Desperate Battle of the Birds, the great piper John D. Burgess' has his take on this piece, amongst his wonderful ceol beag playing - John D. Burgess - King of the Highland Pipers. (CD TSCD466).


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