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'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)

keberoxu 28 Feb 16 - 03:46 PM
keberoxu 28 Feb 16 - 04:26 PM
leeneia 28 Feb 16 - 06:43 PM
MartinRyan 28 Feb 16 - 07:04 PM
GUEST 29 Feb 16 - 12:02 AM
leeneia 29 Feb 16 - 12:03 AM
michaelr 29 Feb 16 - 12:48 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 29 Feb 16 - 09:21 AM
maeve 29 Feb 16 - 09:34 AM
keberoxu 29 Feb 16 - 05:29 PM
mg 29 Feb 16 - 06:58 PM
keberoxu 01 Mar 16 - 01:03 PM
Jack Campin 02 Mar 16 - 08:41 AM
GUEST,Gealt 02 Mar 16 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,Gealt 02 Mar 16 - 01:37 PM
mg 02 Mar 16 - 01:49 PM
Jack Campin 02 Mar 16 - 06:11 PM
Rapparee 02 Mar 16 - 07:06 PM
keberoxu 02 Mar 16 - 07:12 PM
keberoxu 02 Mar 16 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 03 Mar 16 - 07:19 AM
keberoxu 03 Mar 16 - 07:32 PM
mg 03 Mar 16 - 09:55 PM
mg 03 Mar 16 - 09:55 PM
Jack Campin 04 Mar 16 - 03:35 AM
Helen 04 Mar 16 - 02:17 PM
keberoxu 04 Mar 16 - 03:36 PM
GUEST 04 Mar 16 - 06:43 PM
Helen 04 Mar 16 - 07:28 PM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,Modette 05 Mar 16 - 01:00 PM
Snuffy 05 Mar 16 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 05 Mar 16 - 01:12 PM
Helen 05 Mar 16 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 04:14 PM
Jack Campin 05 Mar 16 - 07:35 PM
Helen 06 Mar 16 - 12:50 AM
Helen 06 Mar 16 - 12:54 AM
keberoxu 06 Mar 16 - 04:12 PM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Mar 16 - 07:19 PM
keberoxu 07 Mar 16 - 03:51 PM
Jack Campin 07 Mar 16 - 06:35 PM
keberoxu 07 Mar 16 - 06:59 PM
keberoxu 08 Mar 16 - 06:22 PM
MartinRyan 08 Mar 16 - 07:27 PM
keberoxu 08 Mar 16 - 08:37 PM
GUEST 09 Mar 16 - 03:07 AM
MartinRyan 09 Mar 16 - 10:12 AM
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Subject: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 28 Feb 16 - 03:46 PM

This may amount to a whole bunch of nothing. However!

Delia Murphy, who recorded The Spinning Wheel, "spinning Eileen" and all, is much discussed on Mudcat threads. So is Mary O'Hara, who unlike Ms. Murphy actually played the harp and sang simultaneously, and who came a generation later than Ms. Murphy. I learned of both of these very popular, beloved recording artists from the Mudcat Café.

But although the Folkways album recorded by Deirdre Ní Fhloinn was something introduced to me in childhood, I was ignorant of the historical context in which she learned, and performed, her singing and harp playing. As stated in a post on another thread, the Folkways LP copy in my house was intact, including the little paper booklet for which that recording company was known, and which gave information for which there was no room on the liner notes on the record jackets. Ms. Ní Fhloinn's album booklet was limited to the song lyrics -- Gaelic, with one macaronic tune about a dialogue between a farmer and a fox -- and English translations of same. There was nothing whatever about the artist, Ms. Ní Fhloinn (also known, in her youth, as Deirdre Flynn), nor about where she learned the harp or who her teachers were.

Had it been otherwise, today I would probably be no wiser about The Spinning Wheel or Delia Murphy; but I would have learned then what I had to come here to learn, that Deirdre Ní Fhloinn, Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O'Callaghan, and Mary O'Hara were all graduates of The Harp Room at Sion Hill convent school, where they studied singing with one of the Dominican nuns (in another post I said Ursuline nuns, sorry, I got that wrong), and learned the Celtic harp from one of the Ní Shéa sisters.

Although, since it was before my time, I still would have not seen that episode of the Ed Sullivan variety show on television, in which Mary O'Hara was a featured guest and about which she writes bluntly and bitterly in her memoirs, mincing no words about the patronizing, condescending treatment she received.

And it still would be news to me, that amongst fellow traditional musicians of a more recent generation, the example set by Mary O'Hara's generation would be belittled as follows:

"Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O'Callaghan, and all the dear Spinning Eileens may still be charming the blue-rinse Yanks and mead-swilling Eurotourists in stone castles, but....[name withheld to protect the innocent] has taken the harp, with a little help from one Máire Ní Chathasaigh, out of the castles and back to its place in Irish trad music."
The preceding was written, NOT by the harpist whose name I have withheld, but by a journalist/critic for Arts West Magazine around 1999. Said writer is a trad musician whose name can be turned up in Mudcat threads using the search engine; for all I know, this writer might be a Mudcat member.

Well, once I was myself part of a class of students with a teacher or two, although not in a convent school; and I was exposed, however briefly, to the way that professional (especially academic) musicians talk about the profession and the people in it, to their blunt criticisms and decided opinions. So the preceding quote does not come as a complete shock even to me.

Still, I question: is it throwing the baby out with the bathwater, to dismiss Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O'Callaghan, Deirdre Ní Fhloinn, Mary O'Hara, et alia, along with the tourist industry's exploitation of them and their image? What say you, Mudcatters?


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 28 Feb 16 - 04:26 PM

More about said bathwater, in the words of Mary O'Hara herself, from her revised memoirs, Travels With My Harp.

from Chapter 7, quotes:
To my horror I saw them carrying on two giant cut-out shamrocks and placing them at the back of the stage. I was dumbfounded when I was asked to sit with my harp in one of them while [Dublin Mayor] Bob Briscoe was on stage. I envied the beautiful Irish wolfhound standing in the other shamrock, seemingly impervious to the indignity of it all. There's nothing wrong with the shamrock as such, but when it is perennially associated with leprechauns, shillelaghs, green beer, and Delaney's donkeys, I feel it is prostituting the true image of our beautiful country and its ancient culture. It smacks of stage-Irishism. It has echoes of Punch's earlier racist caricatures of the Irish as capering troglodytes and simian-faced morons....
Suddenly a stage-hand rushed up to me: 'Quick, there's time.' Unceremoniously I was shoved across the vast stage, had a stool pushed under me and was told, 'You're on.'   Good accommodating Irishwoman that I was, I took a deep breath and launched into "O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling...."   It was Ed Sullivan's own choice of song. But before I could even finish one verse, I felt his patronizing hand descend on my head and heard him saying to the viewers something like, 'That's it for tonight, folks.' Off the air, he had the temerity to ask me to 'sing a little song now for the studio audience...'


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: leeneia
Date: 28 Feb 16 - 06:43 PM

Written by a critic, you say? Critics stand somewhere between used-car salesmen and pickpockets in probity.

The snide remark is not excusable, but it's not unexpected, either.

(I visited Ireland in 2007, and we stopped in a pub that had a sign for Harp beer. The barmaid told me, "We have lots of signs with harps in Ireland, but nobody plays one.")


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: MartinRyan
Date: 28 Feb 16 - 07:04 PM

There has been a quite significant revival in harp-playing in traditional (Irish) music circles in recent years. The approach to both instrumental music and the accompaniment of singing is markedly different from that of the generation referenced above. In fairness, the latter were often at least as much sinned against as sinning, to borrow a phrase.

Regards


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 12:02 AM

"as much sinned against as sinning"

Didn't some smartarse say that about the trees along the Royal Canal?


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: leeneia
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 12:03 AM

Mediocre intellects rely heavily on the process of association.

That Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O'Callaghan, et al, played for Yanks and Euro-tourists says absolutely nothing about the quality of their music. Neither does it matter that audience members have a blue rinse. (Something I haven't seen for decades.)

Tone, pace, dynamics, richness and an interesting repertoire - these things make good music, not the 'coolness' of the audience. And yes, the musician can be old, female and even fat and still be a good musician.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: michaelr
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 12:48 AM

So keb, stop being coy and name the people you're talking about. Who coined the term "spinning Eileens" and what do you think it means? What's the point regarding "the harper whose name I've withheld"? Is this some secret insider discussion, or can we all participate?


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 09:21 AM

I have a recording of Séamus Ennis singing 'The Spinning Wheel'. I did always think it had something to do with the fact the recording was of a gig in New York.

[i]'Nobody plays them'[/i] Well look at this snap: harpers : Holly Geraghty, Gráinne Hambly, Paul Dooley, Oisín Morrison, Laoise Kelly, Deirdre Granville, Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Kathleen Loughnane. And I could probably think of the same number of very fine contemporary players.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: maeve
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 09:34 AM

The review- scroll to the bottom of the page.

What does it matter who and where and why? It's a review, written with more than a bit of condescension, that's all. Those who play harp and those who appreciate it will make certain to make the music and listen to it with many harpists and styles to choose from.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 05:29 PM

When I first saw the phrase that is the name of this thread, it stopped me short, because I was too ignorant to get it. Mudcat members straightened me out by quoting the first verse of The Spinning Wheel, which describes "Eileen" sitting in moonshine; I don't know that song, and without knowing it, had no clue what the phrase meant.

"Colleen" is the word I have more often heard used in a dismissive, even antagonistic way; and while looking up more information on harp-playing in Ireland, the word "colleen" was quoted several times in interviews and dissertations. I got the point. While I had never heard of a "spinning Eileen," I was aware of what Mary O'Hara, quoted in a previous post, calls "racist caricatures" and also of the commercialized images from the tourist industry. After all, I knew what actress Roma Downey meant when she opined, in an interview, "Maureen O'Hara has a lot to answer for," regarding the over-romanticized big-screen stereotypes.

Maire Ní Chathasaigh has written that the great antiquity of the harp in Irish history and culture, going back across so many periods of changing times and eras, means that the harp and its traditions have gone through changes. Having looked at other people's research and writings, I wonder if the word "transformations" is not too grandiose a word.

Much is made, in in-depth writing on the subject, of the change between the blind Irish harpists, largely men (okay, not all of them were blind), with the wire-strung instruments they played, and the gut-stringed harps that graced drawing rooms, parlors, and the music departments of convents, in a more recent century when most of the harp players were women. This latter scenario was well-entrenched when Sean O'Riada called attention to Carolan's music, and recorded same on a harpsichord with wire strings rather than hiring a harp player to play the music. It gives one much to think and reflect on, which is my inclination. Of course if people want to make a debate about it, with pros and cons, then debate they will. And I will stand back and let them.

So I would rather dwell on the context and consider the history, since "spinning Eileens" doesn't make sense to me without it. The phrase is a distraction, personally; to this moment, I have a mental image of a little music-box figurine spinning round and round....guess I am too literal-minded to appreciate any humor in it.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: mg
Date: 29 Feb 16 - 06:58 PM

I have never heard it as Eileen but Eily (SP?)

Also, regardless of what the Irish Irish like, Irish Americans, and I am one, love their shamrocks. I call it the curse of the Irish. If you have a bakery, an auto parts store, a tavern, and have an Irish name, you most likely want a shamrock on the sign. I have the curse myself and see it as a great honor to have such a wonderful symbol. Irish can be quite condescending to Irish Americans and quite insulting, especially around St. Patrick's Day, which is basically an Irish American and not Irish Irish holiday..when all the plastic paddy insults come out.

You should not insult people's ancestors, and that is what a lot of this comes down to. I also think that the shamrock is sort of like a passover symbol where you hope that some token will spare you some of the troubles that our ancestors faced.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 01 Mar 16 - 01:03 PM

The review in the opening post on this thread, was something that surprised me during a search on Deirdre O'Callaghan's name, online; the intent of my search was to uncover more about, precisely, O'Callaghan's generation of convent-educated musicians. There is nothing secret about this review, about the recording it reviews, or about the artist featured on the recording. If I could locate them, anybody could.

All I am going to say about the artist, whose name I chose not to emphasize, is that the harpist is a member of a generation different than the generation of O'Callaghan, Watkins, O'Hara and so on. My focus is less on any individual than on a generation of musicians, or the comparisons -- similarities and differences -- between different generations of players of the Celtic harp. So when the reviewer singles out one recording and one artist, he is doing his job; it's just that my interest is elsewhere.

Well there is this too. I am writing as though the artists in question could read this themselves. And they literally could, seeing as how there is nothing secret about this forum, and that online searches like the one described in this post, routinely pull up Mudcat Cafe messages through searching on the names in the messages. All the parties involved are alive and well as far as I can make out, whether in retirement or active. I guess, in my process of educating myself about music and musicians that are new to me, that I want to find out what people are talking about, and at the same time I don't want to give offense. My aversion to conflict is making me evasive in speech, I admit that. I won't stop other people from making statements that are condescending to the point of insult. I can't avoid being addressed, when I join a conversation, by somebody more confrontational than me. All I can do is weigh my own words with care.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 08:41 AM

I'm not entirely sure where this thread was intended to go. Isn't the stereotyping being complained of there simply a consequence of the gender stereotyping that goes along with the harp in many other cultures? In Scotland we have Isobel Mieras seemingly taking on the role of the Miss Jean Brodie of the clarsach - the movement she presides over is not much like the Irish one but it's nearly as gendered.

If the stereotype is that the harp is an instrument for submissive women, is it surprising if the tourist culture industry expects them to look pretty and do what they're told?


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Gealt
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 01:34 PM

Not sure about your last sentence, Jack Campin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDSVXIJqjbY


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Gealt
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 01:37 PM

Re my previous post:

"All O'Donnell singing Spanish Lady, recorded for German television called 'LIED FUR TRAUMER MUSIK FUR REBELLEN' translate to 'Songs For A Dreamer Music For Rebels." 1966."


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: mg
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 01:49 PM

my image of the irish harp is in the minstral boy ..with his wild harp slung beside him... I think more of male harpers..was not O'Carolan? Was not my possible relative (same name as my ggf) Cornelius Lyons also a great harper. Bard of Armagh..male.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 06:11 PM

Google thinks differently.

Try an image search for "irish harpist" and see what predominates.

Not many of them look like Johnny Cash, Ian Bruce or Marilyn Manson.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Rapparee
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 07:06 PM

Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin was criticized for being "too modern." The Clancys were criticized for making Irish folk songs "too theatrical." Francis O'Neill can be said to have saved many, many Irish folk songs and music, which he collected in Chicago.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 07:12 PM

"....the stereotype is that the harp is an instrument for submissive women."

Sexism, in other words, plain and simple? Relevant, I agree, to the "spinning Eileens" dismissal. Is this the whole story?

Pose this question to the likes of Janet Harbison, who deserves a Mudcat thread of her own, and what would she say? She plays the harp. She is a woman. Submissive? I DARE you to call Janet Harbison submissive. Acquainted with prejudice, limitation, restriction, exclusion? Actively engaged in confronting same? She looks that way to me, from what I can find out about her.

A separate post in future may quote Harbison, who at present is a Ph.D candidate (well, maybe she finished the doctorate and I missed that). She has written about the harp, about harp music in Ireland, and about traditional music in Ireland. She has some pithy opinions about the prejudicial attitudes of writers like the author of the "all the dear spinning Eileens" putdown.

Only just getting acquainted with Ms. Harbison, and I like what I see. It would be telling to get her comments on Mary O'Hara's generation.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 02 Mar 16 - 07:41 PM

mg, my 29 February post to this thread did not single out Carolan a/k/a Cearbhalláin, this is true. My post only spoke generally of blind Irish harpists who played harps with wire strings. Carolan is certainly in that category, actually he is the most memorable of the lot.

In this day and age, we have Derek Bell of happy memory, who made two solo recordings of Carolan's music. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Mr. Bell made those recordings with a harp with wire strings. Elsewhere, Bell admitted that he toured with a nylon-string harp because wire-string harps are so terribly sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and humidity that one cannot keep the things in tune during tour performances.

And in between the epoch of Carolan, and the revival of Carolan's music by everyone from Sean O'Riada to Derek Bell, I have to ask you, mg....where are all the harp-playing males IN BETWEEN? At that point it seems that the harp survived, erm, in spite of men musicians. (One exception would be classical music but that is a different tradition.)


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 03 Mar 16 - 07:19 AM

I would suggest there is a consensus the bardic harp tradition in Ireland died by the early 19th century, Bunting recording the last breath of it.

While the harp itself may have survived, I don't think it's right to suggest harping in Ireland is an unbroken link to past musicians.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 03 Mar 16 - 07:32 PM

My post of 29 february contains a paraphrased quote from Máire Ní Chathasaigh; my conscience prompts me to contribute the exact quote.

No other instrument symbolises both the continuities and discontinuities of the Irish music tradition so thoroughly. It is the oldest instrument within it, having been played here for more than a thousand years, and therefore the one which appears to have changed the most.
page 173, The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (only the article titled "Harp")


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: mg
Date: 03 Mar 16 - 09:55 PM

They might have died or emigrated. What happened to fiddlers of Scotland? Ended up in nova Scotia and I have heard that they had to reteach Scots fiddling from nova Scotia.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: mg
Date: 03 Mar 16 - 09:55 PM

They might have died or emigrated. What happened to fiddlers of Scotland? Ended up in nova Scotia and I have heard that they had to reteach Scots fiddling from nova Scotia.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 03:35 AM

What happened to fiddlers of Scotland? Ended up in nova Scotia and I have heard that they had to reteach Scots fiddling from nova Scotia.

Bollocks.

What actually happened in Scotland is that we rounded up all the most credulous morons we could find and shipped them off to Canada (much like what happened to the telephone sanitizers in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"). That's why Canadians, to this day, will believe anything.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 02:17 PM

Thanks for this discussion.

My favourite line so far in the discussion is from keberoxu:

"And in between the epoch of Carolan, and the revival of Carolan's music by everyone from Sean O'Riada to Derek Bell, I have to ask you, mg....where are all the harp-playing males IN BETWEEN? At that point it seems that the harp survived, erm, in spite of men musicians."

Also, The Spinning Wheel song is a good song with an interesting rhythm. It's worth a listen in its own right. And the wheel for spinning wool, being the name of the song, and referred to in the "spinning Eileens" comment is another old tradition which has had a revival. The spinning wheel's rhythm explains the rhythm of the song because the wheel turns with an up and down motion of the foot on the treadle. The song suits arpeggio runs up and down the harp as an accompaniment.

John McDermott's version

I'm now going back to read the recently revived old thread about Mary O'Hara now.

Helen


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 03:36 PM

There is a factor in the condescension/patronizing/pejorative attitude of gut-stringed Celtic harps in the hands of the gentler sex, which is not simply sexism; and I think this factor rears its ugly head in so persistent a way, that the light ought to be shone firmly upon it. In order to do so, another musical instrument, with its own histories, traditions, and notorious caricatures, might be introduced here: it is the piano, with everything that the piano symbolizes.

I am looking at "Men, Women, and Pianos," the book from the 1950's by Arthur Loesser. This book, while highly entertaining, is non-fiction, and intended to summarize not only the piano's place in music, but also in human society, with considerations like class distinction and wealth/economy.

Look at the historical period when the invaluable Carolan is drawing his last breath, and Edward Bunting is doing what he may to document the Belfast Harper's festival. The tradition of the Celtic harper bard appears doomed at this point, with the attempt to revive or resuscitate its traces at least a hundred years in the future. And what is on the rise? The harpsichord is firmly in place, and the fortepiano, which will one day become the piano, putting down roots and preparing to dominate the nineteenth century.

A few quotes from the aforementioned book, and Arthur Loesser:

from chapter 18, The Piano As A Female 'Accomplishment.' Opening sentence:
The history of the pianoforte and the history of the social status of women [in the nineteenth century -- keberoxu] can be interpreted in terms of one another. -endquote
This chapter goes on to dissect 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Vanity Fair,' with their literary commentaries about genteel females playing the piano.

p. 268: 'Music was, indeed, considered one of the most important of the young ladylike "accomplishments;" it was a favorite because it could be shown off best while actually being accomplished.
[ as contrasted with: drawing, painting, making artifical flowers of wax, paper, or fabric, to say nothing of needlepoint and embroidery]
In this sphere, music reduced itself to singing and playing the pianoforte, though the guitar and the harp were the keyboard's occasional temporary rivals.'

I propose that this scenario, one toward which the attitude of the defenders of traditional music is conflicted at best, and at worst contemptuous, is directly connected to the "spinning Eileens" and the denigration of same.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 06:43 PM

I put this article with my version of 'The spinning wheel' some years ago, but failed to note the name of the author, I think the date is too late for Samuel Ferguson.

Dublin University Magazine July 1859 Page 134.
This is John Francis Waller's prefatory note to The Spinnig Wheel. It was published as above along with several other poems under the pseudonym of Jonathon Freke Slingsby. The lyric below is as Waller wrote it, although there are some differences in the words of the sung versions.

A summer's evening in the country brings with it many pleasant thoughts. Out of doors there is the dance, by the road-side or on the green, hurling and foot-ball, leaping and casting the stone, and all those man!y, rustic sports which were discontinued through many a weary year of famine, and sickness, and sorrow, but which, thank heaven, one again sees now-a-days - not, perhaps, with all the sprightliness of old times, or as thronged as before death and emigration thinned the numbers of our peasants, and robbed us of the flower and the beauty, as well as the muscle and tbe sinew of the people - our young men and our young maidens - leaving the old and the decrepid to languish and die away. Ah, well! the time will come again, I trust, when as strong arms and as light feet will assemble at the summer trysting; and may it be that they will be better still than the generation that preceded them - schooled by their trials - taught by their hard experiences - and fitter to fill that great place in the social polity of a nation which the people ever should fill. Meanwhile, let me recall one of the rustic recollections of a summer evening, when a fair girl contrived to elude thc vigilant ears of a purblind grandmother, and left her spinning-wheel, to ramble by moonlight with her sweetheart. I have thrown the incident into a song - it must be sung to one of those airs which young girls chant so sweetly to the hum of their spinning-wheels, but which you will now hear more rarely than when I was a boy, Anthony. Here, give the paper to Bishop, and Iet him sing the verses to the air of "The Little House under the HiII."

But stay a moment, Jack, until I 'insense' you as we say in the country, into the spirit of the song. Remember to what instrument you are supposed to be singing - a spinning-wheel. Now, don't look so dramaticaily indignant - I mean no offence to your manhood. The lever which you move with your foot is your metronome, and will keep you in time, and the humming wheel is your accomnpaniment. So then you will sing equably, but not monotonously, Jack; and your refrain must ring roundly, as it were, save the third verse, wherein you must in the last four lines so retard the time and "aggravate" your voice, as Bully Bottom says, that you shall demonstrate to your auditory how the girl is minding her spinning less and her lover more than... is good for her, mayhap; and then you will make your pauses in the refrain to mark how the wheel, when left to itself, goes round unsteadily, and with a chuck at each revolution, as the impulse given by the last pressure of the girl's foot is just able to drag up the crank to the highest point, and then the weight of the foot-lever brings it down again. So, now let's hear what you can do:-

Mellow the moonlight to shine is beginning;
Close by the window young Eileen is spinning;
Bent o'er the fire her blind grandmother sitting,
Crooning and moaning and drowsily knitting.
Eileen, a chara, I hear someone tapping
'Tis the ivy, dear mother, against the glass flapping.
Eileen, I surely hear somebody sighing.
'Tis the sound, mother dear of the summer wind dying.
Chorus:
Merrily, cheerily, noisily whirring,
Swings the wheel, spins the reel while the foot's stirring;
Sprightly and lightly and airily ringing,
Thrills the sweet voice of the young maiden singing.

2. What's the noise I hear at the window, I wonder?
'Tis the little birds chirping, the holly-bush under.
What makes you be shoving and moving your stool on,
And singing all wrong the old song of 'The Coolin'?
There's a form at the casement, the form of her true love
And he whispers with face bent, I'm waiting for you love;
Get up on the stool, through the lattice step lightly,
We'll rove in the grove while the moon's shining brightly.
Chorus:

3. The maid shakes her head, on her lips lays her fingers,
Steals up from the seat, longs to go, and yet lingers;
A frightened glance turns to her drowsy grandmother,
Puts one foot on the stool, spins the wheel with the other.
Lazily, easily, now swings the wheel round;
Slowly and lowly is heard now the reel's sound;
Noiseless and light to the lattice above her
The maid steps, then leaps to the arms of her lover.
Chorus:
Slower... and slower... and slower the wheel swings;
Lower... and lower... and lower the reel rings;
Ere the reel and the wheel stop their ringing and moving,
Through the grove the young lovers by moonlight are roving.

An Tuirnín Lín: Trans. Diarmaid Ó Tuama.

Loinnir ón ngealach ag cur leis an niamh,
Taobh leis an bhfuinneog tá Eibhlín ag sníomh;
Mamó go suanmhar ag cniotáil cois tine,
Cromtha 'gus dall is ag crónán le binneas.

Callánach croíúil ceolmhar gan chliseadh
Castar an tuirne le fuinneamh na coise;
Álainn is aigeanta, aerach is aoibhinn
An bhruinneall ag canadh go caoin lena faí bhinn.

"Eibhlín, a stóirín, tá cnag ar an bhfuinneog."
"Sé 'n t-eidhneán, a Mhamó, á shéideadh mar dhuilleog."
"Eibhlín, ar m'anamsa, cloisimse osna.'
"Siod é siosarnach gaoithe, a Mhamó, sa bhrosna."

"Cén trup sin a chloisimse lasmuigh den fhuinneog?"
"Tá, éanlaith, a Mhamó, ag canadh i loinneog."
"Cén chúis 'tá led bhogadh 's led chorraí id' stóilín
'S led' rá bunoscionn an tseanamhráin, An Cúlfhionn?"

Tá 'n leannán cois comhla is labhrann go béalbhinn:
"Cogar, a chailín, is téana, a Eibhlín!
Éirigh den stóilín 's amach tríd an gcrannaíl
Amach linn sa gharrán ag siúl faoi na crannaibh."

Éiríonn an ainnir, a méar lena beoilín,
Éiríonn den stóilín, ach fanann go fóillín;
Amharcann faoi rún ar an tseanmháthair mhuirneach,
Cuireann cos leis an stóilín is cos leis an tuirne.

Go réidh is go liosta, go mall is go suaimhneach
Casann an tuirne go héasca 's go luaimneach;
Go ciúin is go héadrom 'sea léimeann an bhruinneall
An leannán ag feitheamh, gan corraí, ar tinneall.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 07:28 PM

Thank you, Guest.

This is exactly why I like Mudcat so much. So many knowledgeable people drop in and make the discussions even more interesting.

Helen


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 11:21 AM

Thanks for the link to the song, Helen.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 11:32 AM

Here's a link to a page with the lyrics and sheet music for 'The Spinning Wheel.' I think we should all start playing it in hopes that it will eventually reach the ears of the critic in the OP and really irritate him. That would be a truly folkie thing to do.


spinning wheel

It's in Eb. Harps are often tuned in Eb.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 12:05 PM

Further down the page is a version in the key of G, ostensibly for tin whistle. It should be easy to work out guitar-friendly chords for that.

I want to hear that this tune is suddenly being played all over the British Isles on tin whistles, banjos, harps, fiddles, ukeleles, melodeons and shruti boxes. And nobody knows why!


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Modette
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 01:00 PM

Leeneia,

I hope you're not including Ireland in the 'British Isles'.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Snuffy
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 01:05 PM

Ireland is part of the British Isles but not part of the UK in the same way that Canada is part of America but not part of the USA


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 01:12 PM

Where did the tune come from? German lieder?


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 02:11 PM

In the post by GUEST
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 06:43 PM

John Francis Waller the lyricist of The Spinning Wheel, and author of the article above suggests singing the verses to the tune of The Little House under the HiII but to me this version doesn't sound like the tune of TSW, so I'm not really sure about the origin of the tune.

A comment on the "Spinning Eileens" quote: I suspect, although I am only surmising, that The Spinning Wheel song with it's arpeggios was a standard tune for learning to play the harp last century in Ireland and that may be why the author of the article (which keberoxu quoted at the beginning of the thread) used the term so disparagingly.

Just imagine every amateur concert featuring a harp-learner doggedly attempting to perform those arpeggios! I think the tune could possibly be really annoying after the 200th time you heard it thumped out.

But, as I said, I am only surmising this.

Helen


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 04:14 PM

It's foolish to take offense where no offense is intended.

Do you play an instrument? Are you interested in music?


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 07:35 PM

I can't see any attribution for the tune earlier than Waller.

It doesn't sound at all like a harp exercise, and doesn't have a lot of arpeggios. It sounds a lot like Schubert, Schumann or Brahms, and somebody of Waller's social background would have been much more likely to listen to them than to either Irish traditional music or Celtic-twilight revivalist work.

Compare it with Brahms's well known lullaby op.49 no.4; not the same tune but very similar.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 12:50 AM

On this YouTube clip of
Tom Smith playing The Spinning Wheel on an electronic keyboard, the comment is as follows:

"A SONG BASED ON VERSE BY JOHN FRANCIS WALLER. RECORDED BY DELIA MURPHY IN 1939, WHEN I THINK THE MELODY MAY HAVE BEEN ADDED."

I am not sure how Tom Smith arrived at this conclusion but he appears to be saying that Delia Murphy used a different tune for the song than the tune referred to by J F Waller.

Delia Murphy performing The Spinning Wheel as recorded in 1939

The arpeggios are heard on that recording although I can't identify whether it is a harp or a guitar, as Arthur Daley on guitar is credited for the recording.

In my Googling earlier this morning - when the sparrows were still tucked up in their nests and my brain was not even awake yet, I did see something about Delia Murphy being the first person to set the tune to a harp accompaniment, but I am not sure whether she played an instrument, and if so, whether she played harp.

(Never do research on the internet without saving your findings because you can guarantee you will wish later that you had done so. LOL)

Ok, here it is:

Delia Murphy - artist biography

......One of her first recordings was the extraordinary "The Spinning Wheel." Written in 1899 by John Francis Waller, the song hauntingly evoked the courtship of young lovers measured by the inexorable winding of the spinner's wheel. Murphy's ethereal West Ireland brogue and Gaelic pronunciation was reinforced by a harp arrangement that was quite remarkable for the period.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 12:54 AM

Also, if you listen to John McDermott's version (which I posted a link to above on 04 Mar 16 - 02:17 PM) you can hear the arpeggios.

Not sure if that is on a harp, either.


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Subject: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 04:12 PM

On another thread I have quoted "The Irish Harp," the thesis (master's degree) viewable online, from the University of Wales, Bangor, written by Oona Linnett (2009). The author did extensive interviewing with direct quotes, some of which may be brought to bear upon this conflicted public identity/image question.

Sister Carmel Warde, archivist (at the time of researching the thesis) for the Sion Hill Convent, is also interviewed, and without any trace of irony, she speaks about supplying musicians to precisely the 'stone castles' criticized by the record review in the original post on this thread.
"Looking back over the 1950's and the 1960's I recall very happy busy days preparing [the harp students at the convent] for Jury's Cabaret....Before the Summer holidays we awaited invitations from Bunratty Castle, Killarney Hotels, Dublin Hotels, and the Hilton Hotel in London for our harpists to entertain guests for a week or two...These were great days when the Sion Hill Harp School flourished." (p. 44, The Irish Harp thesis)

Gráinne Yeats was intrepid about facing this conflict head-on and speaking of it; and Oona Linnett interviewed her as well:
"What you had, basically, were beautiful young girls singing sweet folk songs, playing little chords, and they weren't really playing the instrument. They were using it solely as an embellishment of the song....Mary [O'Hara] was the best, and she sang beautifully, but you did have a lot of terribly inefficient ones. "   (page 47)
When Yeats asked Sean O'Riada to compose something for her own instrument, the relatively modern gut-stringed harp rather than the wire-stringed harp of Irish antiquity, O'Riada turned her down. This is how Yeats accounts for O'Riada's refusal.
"I think he was depressed about the standard of harp-playing at the time, because it was very, very low....the little girl image, singing sweet songs, was not one that appealed to Séan. And he was right, I think. Because we're talking about a very old and beautiful tradition." (page 51, thesis)
Yeats goes on to relate that there was, at the time, only one harp-maker in Ireland, Daniel Quinn, of whom Máire Ní Chathasaigh recalls that the waiting list for his harps was as long as two years. When Yeats asked Quinn if he would make for her a wire-strung harp -- such as the purist O'Riada would take seriously -- "Quinn was absolutely incredulous" (page 54, thesis).


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Mar 16 - 07:19 PM

Grainne Yeats (Irish harper and music historian, 1925-2013) is quoted as saying, "What you had, basically, were beautiful young girls singing sweet folk songs, playing little chords, and they weren't really playing the instrument."

Let's think about this. Are we really supposed to believe that over 20 years (1950's and 1960's) there was no variation in the students? Normally a studio would have some brilliant students, many ordinary students and a few slackers. Among the ordinary students there would still be quite a range in talent and willingness to practice.

In other words, in 20 years we would expect to see some sign of the bell curve.

Yet Ms. Yeats claims to know that not one student became accomplished. Even worse - not one could play a melody. And stranger yet, every one was beautiful. Wow!

In my opinion, this isn't musicology, it's just being catty.


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Subject: Gráinne Yeats
From: keberoxu
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 03:51 PM

Mairéid Sullivan interviewed Gráinne Yeats for her 1999 book, "Celtic Women in Music." quoting:
"I heard Joan O'Hara playing the harp and I immediately thought I wanted to learn to play it....it was shortly after I was married [to Michael Yeats] that I became interested in it...I learnt basic harp technique from Sheila Larchet Cuthbert and Mercedes Bolger...who's been my friend all these years [], the teacher at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
"You might be interested in this little insight about the time before we really made our effort to improve the standards for teaching the harp. When the harp was beginning to come back, I went down to a conference at a local center to examine the students, on behalf of the [Royal Irish] Academy. I examined a few students who really weren't very good. Then their teacher, a nun, came to me, to do the exam, and she was just one step ahead of the pupils. That's the way it was before we launched our programme."


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 06:35 PM

There are cylinder recordings of Patuffa Kennedy-Fraser from the early 1900s that should indicate how good she was - presumably her Irish contemporaries were doing similar things.

I think harp playing in Scotland got a substantial kick up the bum in the mid-20th century from Jean Campbell (borrowing classical harp techniques) which is about the same time as that last post of keberoxu's describes Irish harping as needing one.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 07 Mar 16 - 06:59 PM

More first-person testimony, this time from chapter 2 of Travels with my Harp, the revised edition of memoirs by Mary O'Hara.
"It was 1951, my penultimate year at Sion Hill. The annual pageant was going to be based on the life and works of Thomas Moore, who in his poems depicted the harp as a symbol of Ireland. For that reason, harps and harpers had to be found. [Remember, this school is located in Greater Dublin -- where were they going to find musicians if not in Dublin?]
Unfortunately, both had by then gone out of fashion in Ireland. The forward-looking prioress of Sion Hill, Mother Jordan, had earlier decided to introduce the harp to the school, probably with the pageant in mind. Researching for my Talks in 2005, I chanced upon some interesting correspondence between Mother Jordan and Mr. Malachy McFall of Belfast, the only harp-maker left in Ireland at the time. He didn't have any new harps and could only offer her one second-hand Tara standing harp for 65 pounds, a pretty stiff figure in those days. So, the school scoured the country high and low and collected old harps from barns, outhouses, and attics -- most of them riddled with woodworm -- and managed to 'fit' three small Brian Boru knee-harps to three young singers in the pageant: Deirdre Flynn, Kathleen Watkins, and me....
"Deirdre, Kathleen, and I were not particularly pally starting off, but finding ourselves frequently thrown together during the ensuing couple of years, friendships were formed and, to this day, we have kept in touch and meet occasionally. They opted not to take up music professionally but have followed my work closely and been my lifelong supporters."
keberoxu notes: Clearly there would have been players of European pedal harps, the classical music concert harp, around somewhere, and teachers of European harp technique with them. The point of the quote is that when the harp peculiar to Ireland and Irish music was called for, there were hardly any to be had.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 06:22 PM

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.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: MartinRyan
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 07:27 PM

"Comhaltas" is short for "Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Eireann" - which roughly translates as "Irish Musicians Collective". It is not a union in any sense.

To find out more:
Click here

Its role in maintaining the tradition since its foundation is considerable, if not without controversy.

Regards


P.S. Pronunciation is (very) roughly cole-tus kiol - toree air-un! First syllable stressed in each word. Generally referred to just by the first word.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 08 Mar 16 - 08:37 PM

Thanks, Mr. Ryan, that's me sorted out. Actually I know why I got the two confused -- has to do with an obituary/memorial for Gráinne Yeats; that can wait for a later post.

And in due course, I should have in my hands an article written by Janet Harbison, actually it is a paper presented at a conference in the 1990's; I have ordered a copy of the proceedings and am waiting for its snail-mail delivery, not holding my breath. Quotes from this article pepper the Internet, and it sounds as though Ms. Harbison does not mince words. She is protective of the women who kept the harp-makers in business by teaching harp to other women, and with reason. While Ms. Harbison has studied classical music with its emphasis on literacy and written notation -- she was a pianist before she took up the Irish harp -- she has also studied with Irish women whose tradition was oral and who in one case did not even read music. Harbison values both sources of learning personally, even though she has made some hard-nosed decisions about pedagogy and how to teach other teachers.

And talking of teachers, there are two women I would like to mention; they belong to earlier generations, and there is only so much information on them.

Caroline Townshend, sometimes spelled Townsend, information on her is scarce. I have neither birth nor death dates. It is written that her father was a philosopher in the 19th century. Ms. Townshend, in the early 20th century, studied not only Irish harp but all things Celtic, including the Gaelic tongue. She came from outside Dublin, but at some point in her adult life Townshend relocated to Dublin. And there she enthusiastically passed on everything she could to her students. The Shea / Ní Sheaghdha sisters were influenced by Townshend's devotion to Celtic culture, and these three women made their presence felt in the 20th century. I will say more later.

Then there was the nun, Mother Attracta Coffey (at first of course she was Sister Attracta). In 1903 she actually published a tutor, an instruction book, for the Irish harp. Mother Attracta was installed at Loreto Abbey, which along with the Dominican foundation at Sion Hill became the source of a lineage of Irish harp teachers and performers. Sheila Larchet Cuthbert, years after Mother Attracta's death, succeeded in finding a rare copy of Mother Attracta's "Tutor for the Irish Harp," and incorporating what she could of it into her own tutor publication, thus preserving the roots of a tradition of teaching.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Mar 16 - 03:07 AM

You may want to look into Joan Rimmer's work.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Mar 16 - 10:12 AM

Sounds like your "Caroline Townsend/Townshend" may have been the daughter of Horatio (sometimes Horace) Townsend the Younger - described as "a barrister and writer on music" in his entry in The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. It lists several philosophy books as his work. There is no direct reference to his daughter. The Townshends were an extended well-to-do family, widespread in West Cork - witness the beautiful village of Castletownshend in that area.

It is possible that the Irish Traditional Music Archive (www.itma.ie) may have information on Ms. Townshend.

Regards


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