Mudcat Café message #3777482 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777482
Posted By: keberoxu
08-Mar-16 - 06:22 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
Many thanks to all for the opinions, information, and interest shown so far.

There is one other, if you will, collective character in the drama whom I will have to introduce in a post at some point. Musicians often refer to this collective with the word "Comhaltas," which of course is short for something much longer. Being an outsider in Irish traditional music, I am not certain if the "Comhaltas" is the same thing as the Musicians' Union of Ireland, which has got its own website. The thing about the "Comhaltas" relevant to this discussion, is its staunch support for those instruments and genres that have endured in traditional Irish music in spite of everything. This means that there was, sixty years ago if not still today, a conflicted attitude toward the harp. There was the symbolism of the bardic harp, on the one hand -- the harp IS Éire, if you will -- and the little gut-string harps which were permitted in the Anglicized Ireland of the 18th and 19th century, with their utter dislocation from Gaelic antiquity.

When Gráinne Yeats, for example, was challenged to prove that the Irish harp was a trad - music instrument, and that harp players were actually legitimate musicians, some of this challenge came at her from fellow Irish citizens: trad-music players whose music had survived, one way or the other, in the absence of harps for over a hundred years. Yeats took this very much to heart, she makes no bones about that: wanting, in her own career, to make a case for the Irish harp as a serious undertaking, one that real musicians ought to listen to and support. If Yeats sounds harsh and blunt in her assessment of "spinning Eileens," remember that her assessment reflects the disparagement of traditional Irish musicians who play other instruments.