'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
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'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)

GUEST,ollaimh 28 Mar 16 - 08:32 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 28 Mar 16 - 08:19 PM
Jack Campin 28 Mar 16 - 07:17 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 28 Mar 16 - 03:59 PM
keberoxu 28 Mar 16 - 03:33 PM
keberoxu 28 Mar 16 - 02:37 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 28 Mar 16 - 10:51 AM
Jack Campin 27 Mar 16 - 07:44 PM
GUEST,leeneia 27 Mar 16 - 06:55 PM
keberoxu 27 Mar 16 - 05:12 PM
keberoxu 27 Mar 16 - 04:57 PM
Helen 26 Mar 16 - 06:03 PM
keberoxu 26 Mar 16 - 05:43 PM
keberoxu 22 Mar 16 - 08:44 PM
MartinRyan 21 Mar 16 - 11:35 AM
keberoxu 21 Mar 16 - 11:27 AM
keberoxu 20 Mar 16 - 06:02 PM
keberoxu 10 Mar 16 - 07:58 PM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 10 Mar 16 - 03:55 PM
keberoxu 10 Mar 16 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 09 Mar 16 - 08:41 PM
keberoxu 09 Mar 16 - 04:52 PM
Helen 09 Mar 16 - 03:31 PM
MartinRyan 09 Mar 16 - 10:12 AM
GUEST 09 Mar 16 - 03:07 AM
keberoxu 08 Mar 16 - 08:37 PM
MartinRyan 08 Mar 16 - 07:27 PM
keberoxu 08 Mar 16 - 06:22 PM
keberoxu 07 Mar 16 - 06:59 PM
Jack Campin 07 Mar 16 - 06:35 PM
keberoxu 07 Mar 16 - 03:51 PM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Mar 16 - 07:19 PM
keberoxu 06 Mar 16 - 04:12 PM
Helen 06 Mar 16 - 12:54 AM
Helen 06 Mar 16 - 12:50 AM
Jack Campin 05 Mar 16 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 04:14 PM
Helen 05 Mar 16 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 05 Mar 16 - 01:12 PM
Snuffy 05 Mar 16 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Modette 05 Mar 16 - 01:00 PM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,leeneia 05 Mar 16 - 11:21 AM
Helen 04 Mar 16 - 07:28 PM
GUEST 04 Mar 16 - 06:43 PM
keberoxu 04 Mar 16 - 03:36 PM
Helen 04 Mar 16 - 02:17 PM
Jack Campin 04 Mar 16 - 03:35 AM
mg 03 Mar 16 - 09:55 PM
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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
From: GUEST,ollaimh
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 08:32 PM

there is a distinction between gaelic harping and irish harping. graine yeats was instrumental in the revival of the gaelic harp. that is the brass wire strung harp. there were a hand full of players through the 19th and early 20th century but their traditional links were weak. they played a few tunes of ancient manuscripts but mostly o'carolan and songs. yeats along with a genuine genius jay witcher got access to all the surviving gaelic harps. witcher is a phyicist and air craft engineer a woodworker and was already a decent musician in orchestral music and eastern european folk and the jazz it inspired. unique background. he understood the physics formulas for the resonating string. these are taught to any first year physics student but few apply them to calculating the optimum stringing for ancient gaelic harps. he found several ancient harps that had good design. the lamont, the o'fogarty and to a lesser extent the castle ottway.   he also tyhought that the remnants of the balinderry harp could be extrapolated from, to get the harmonic curve and probably string lengths over the range, and that it was well designed. together with garine yeats they started making gaelic harps. now there are many makers but then it was quite revolutionary. witcher was offered the post as official harp maker for the republic of eire. he turned it down as he was using maple as his main wood and it could be sourced more easily in new brunswick and maine and much cheaper for high quality wood.

now i like mary o'hara and that trfadition. it is certainly as old as most english song traditions which were made up by folk sing mediators in the 19th century. i prefer the gaelic style and try to play it in my own way. so grainne eats had a specific vision of gaelic harping she was promoting and it wasn't the dominant style. now it has had a great influence and people such as ann heyman and siom chadwick have gone to ancient manuscripts and rediscovered a vast repitoire, and have raised the bar of masterufull playing that i am hopelss to ever be worthy of.

the gaelic harp was a different tradition from the lowland and english harp tradition, and much older in all probablity.

the same is true of gaelic fiddling. jack campion is dead wrong about cape breton fiddling and as a lot of lowland scotts do he is spouting a bigoted rant. the scoffing scotman. in fact gaelic fgiddling almost died in scotland. they had a classically influenced style from skinner and others but the gaelic tradition died. that's why almost all the traditional scottish fiddlers came to nova scotia to learn the ancient gaelic style. as did the dancers.

when witcher and yeats started their work there were no gaelic harps available, now there are many makers of fine instruments and the search for the anceint sound has gone deep into many directions, and deep into the intrepretation of the surviving manuscripts. (john skene for instance was collecting harp , fiddle amd pipe tunes in scotland around 1600, although he didn't say which was which. the robert ap huw manuscript is thought to contain many gaelic piecres as well as welsh pieces)

these gaelic cultural revivals do raise the hackles of those who are still deep in british empire colonial bigotry , but it's happening and they are producing beautiful music and beautifull instruments. the reseach is different. previously they ignored gaelic sources but now they are discovering the links and histories bit by bit from those sources. bands like ossian have been open minded and recorded the ancient gaelic style in the poplar folk venues. i would suggest every one give a listen to ann hey man, siomn chadwink, brendan ring and others. they are great players who have revived a great tradition. and ignore the scoffing lowlanders. they are sassenachean after all.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 08:19 PM

It really depends on what you want to do. A lot of those requirements are for classical harping, pedal markings, etc. I've been scoring harp music professionally for about 18 years, and there are symbols in place for harp notation, plus good workarounds which also serve the purpose quite well. I run my own publishing company (small though it be), and some of its material is on the ABRSM and Trinity syllabuses/syllabi (take your pick), also the Royal Irish, so it does meet industry standards. Sibelius has been my weapon of choice.

I have friends who use less expensive software for their harp books, and it seems to work fine (I've seen/bought/played a lot of their stuff) though I'm sorry I can't provide specific details on their programmes. But most of the folks I know in that line tend to have Sibelius or Finale. It's not just a matter of symbols, it's also stuff like cross-staff beaming and odd voicing/stem configurations. (That word "affordable" may be a sticking point, I suppose; but we all manage to stump up for computers and smartphone and tablets. I think it pretty much boils down to: one can afford what they want/need to afford.)

But I have not liked Sibelius' upgrade versions for quite some time, and am now not getting them any more. The actual scoring capabilities just get wonkier and wonkier as They mess them about to suit the needs of their precious Pro Tools. But it isn't working. Avid is not in great shape and has downsized yet again.

I'm interested in the new programme Daniel Spreadbury and the Finns (the inventors of Sibelius) are currently developing for Steinberg. At least Daniel will listen to you, and responds to queries promptly. He's a Facebook friend, and publishes a periodic development diary, so I will eventually go with his product. But Sibelius has adequately served my purposes for a long, long time, and continues usable, if increasingly irritating.

So I'd say hang fire and when I see what the new one is like, I'll start a thread. (It'll be awhile though - it's still in beta.)

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 07:17 PM

the rise of decent affordable score-notation software

Harp scores tend to use special signs not used for other instruments. What's the most cost-effective solution that provides them?

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 03:59 PM

[This comment was written in response to Keberoxu's previous post - the above one hadn't appeared while I was typing it.]

Not at all! My only problem is, I'm pretty tight for time at the moment, and can't give this thread the depth of consideration that it deserves, tho I've been lurking. (As you can see, wisecracks, on the other hand, roll off me instantaneously...) So I will be back when I can contribute something of more substance - which means first giving everything here a thorough read, instead of the brief skim that is all I've so far managed, and all I can do right now. (Got writing deadlines.)

Short answer to your (perfectly reasonable) question is no, not really. Not for me, anyway. People pursuing the harp in search of real knowledge, and expending true commitment plus plain hard work, don't have the mental resources to spare for fighting (or even worrying about) shallow, stereotyped views of what we do. (The other problem is us automatically getting consigned to Elf Land - but the same responses apply.)

In fact, the people I spend any kind of time with, or have any kind of time for, don't hold them. And the old clichés are dying out: there are just too many good players out there, too many high quality instruments being made, too much good music (with the rise of decent affordable score-notation software). Also, the internet makes it a lot easier for us to do research and find kindred spirits all over the world, and then talk to each other, hear each other, admire each other's art. There's strength in numbers.

And that's my "short" answer! Keeping this thread on the tracer...

(PS: A suggestion - can you ask one of the clones to interject the word "harp" somewhere in the title? I knew instantly who "dear spinning Eileen" was, but a lot of rewarding input may be getting missed because not everyone will make that connection. Just a thought.)

___________________Your wish is my command. Mudelf______________________

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 03:33 PM

I was just looking up the singers listed for the Amhrain Ghra album, which appears to be intended for the audiences of the Gael Linn Cabaret of another era; the album is on the Gael Linn label. Some of these names have been considered already in this thread.

I had never heard of Marjorie Courtney, however.
In 1991, Eileen Casey interviewed Courtney for a periodical covering Knocklyon. It can be found in a PDF file online; the following quotes will demonstrate that Marjorie Courtney embraced the cabaret world.

[quote] all really began when she became a pupil at the Dominican convent, Muckross Park, which was just a short journey from her home in Dundrum where she was born. 'Oh, I was so lucky,' she says, 'despite the fact that it was an enclosed order, the nuns were light-years ahead in self-development. It was the making of me....Mother Cecilia took me under her wing and opened up a new world to me....I owe so much to Mother Cecilia. She was always so thrilled when I won prizes in the soprano competitions at the Feis Ceoil or the Oireachtas...'

....her career blossomed....she was in great demand for singing at dinners -- the norm was for 6 nights a week. She recalls one busy night when she sang in the upper dining room of the old Jury's Hotel, then in the downstairs room, before dashing off first to the Dolphin and then the Clarence.
[keberoxu: must have been a weekend night?]
Today, Marjorie Courtney is in greater demand than ever -- not as a singer -- she gave that up a few years ago -- but as presenter and provider of entertainment in the grand style. She is an Entertainment Consultant....[an] entrepreneur of singers, dancers, orchestras, pipers, harpists, concerts, cabarets and show bands....

....she arranges every year, the Viennese Ball in the Berkeley Court. A full orchestra, and featured will be Niambh Murray, an attractive, young up-and-coming singer who is off to study in Italy in the New Year.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 02:37 PM

Welcome, Bonnie Shaljean. I was afraid you would never post to this thread. As anyone can tell, I am no harpist, only an observer on the outside. But you have an inside point of view on this consideration of the Irish harp going into the new millenium.

Has the image of women-singers-with-harps been a distraction for fully committed devotees of the Irish Harp? Please, don't bite my head off.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 28 Mar 16 - 10:51 AM

Yeh, but she cheats! She straps a small harp to her torso. Eileen's grandmother would have a meltdown. (Guy waiting just outside the window probably wouldn't tho... it would definitely make the leap up onto the sill more interesting.) But which leg is she going to use to spin the wheel with?

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Mar 16 - 07:44 PM

How does one posture while balancing a heavy instrument on one's shoulder?

Does Deborah Hanson-Conant count? - playing in hotpants so she can damp the strings with a bare thigh?

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 27 Mar 16 - 06:55 PM

" posturing behind a harp, twinkling at captive audiences"

How does one posture while balancing a heavy instrument on one's shoulder?

Twinkling, we can assume, means "having a friendlier nature than the writer".

captive audience? They paid to be there and are free to leave.
People, this isn't musicology, it's mere cattiness.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 27 Mar 16 - 05:12 PM

Just found this.

Mary O'Hara's "Songs of Ireland": side two of the LP begins with The Spinning Wheel. Herself has proved me wrong. That said, I think she recorded this album after the death of her first husband, when she was wrapping up her youthful career and headed for the Benedictine nuns....before her comeback. At that time, Mary O'Hara was well established already. I question if she sang this tune before she made the recording, but perhaps she did.

Good heavens, how very high her soprano voice was! She could have sung with a choir of little boys -- such purity.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 27 Mar 16 - 04:57 PM

The above URL is another quick read on the song mentioned elsewhere in this thread. This article supports the position that the poem came first, and was set to music after the fact.

And I have to remark, I have yet to see a reference to the Spinning Wheel song being in the repertoire of any of the "spinning Eileens" themselves, if "spinning Eileens" are defined as the performers in cabarets and banquets in stone castles. Maybe it actually happened, but I have come across no trace of it.

Now watch somebody prove me wrong!

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 26 Mar 16 - 06:03 PM

Hi keberoxu,

Thanks for the info. Here are the links:

Amhráin Ghrá

Amhráin Ghrá - Claddagh Records


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 26 Mar 16 - 05:43 PM

Bear with me, because I still can't do Blue Clickie links. But I can submits URLs in a post.

It occurs to me that some readers, who know even less than I did when I wrote the original post, might want examples of the "cabaret harp" being scrutinized here.

Both these pages describe the same recording product. and search for "Amhrain Ghra."

Multiple singers/harp-accompanists here, including:
Máire Ní Scolaí
Eilidh Ní Marchaigh
Fionnuala Mac Lochlainn
Marjorie Courtney
Deirdre Ní Fhlóinn
Kathleen Watkins
Gráinne Yeats
Mary O'Hara

Seventeen titles, they all appear to be Irish/Gaelic, including "Róisín Dubh."

No, I have not heard any of these records myself.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 22 Mar 16 - 08:44 PM

ITMA board member Aibhlín McCrann had an article published, January 2006, in the Journal of Music [Ireland]. This article can be viewed online at the Journal's website. Herewith, a relevant quote.

How is it that the Irish harp, our acknowledged national instrument for more than one thousand years, and untouched even by the 'Riverdance' revolution, is only now beginning to assume an authoritative voice and [to] come to prominence? The development of the Irish harp to the point at where it stands today has undoubtably been beleaguered by conflicting social and cultural standards of harpers themselves, other traditional musicians, and various commentators. The efforts of the Ní Shé sisters, Mary O'Hara, Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O'Callaghan, and the 'castle' players in the 'sixties and the early 'seventies contributed greatly to the raising of public awareness of the harp. While they represented a certain genre of performance, and certainly developed a national identity for the instrument, it has taken many years to cast off the somewhat clichéd "Irish colleen" image of a young girl posturing behind a harp, twinkling at captive audiences as she sings about Leprechauns and crocks of gold.

There is one sentence, further on in the same article, which touches on the tension, already mentioned in earlier posts, between two organizations of musicians in Ireland.

Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann, with whom founding members of Cairde na Cruite shared a somewhat tempestuous relationship due to deeply held philosophical differences of musical opinion, began to feature the harp at Fleadhanna Ceoil competitions [in the 1970's].

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: MartinRyan
Date: 21 Mar 16 - 11:35 AM

I live within a medieval slingshot of Dunguaire, as it happens!


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 21 Mar 16 - 11:27 AM

Mention of the "stone castles" from the original post, opening this thread, would bring the conversation full circle.

Indeed, the cabarets and medieval banquets in said "stone castles" are one of the great cash cows of Irish tourism. Although the phrase "dear spinning Eileens" was new to me, and mystified me utterly, it was far easier to locate references to "cabaret harpers" and "banquet harpers." I have spoken flippantly of grist for the mill, I who have never visited Ireland at all nor been one of the mead-swillers condescended to in that review quote. Not far off the mark, it seems.

Bunratty, Knappog[u]e, Dungaire, Shannon in general, Jury's Cabaret....harps, singing, stone castles, and tourism.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 20 Mar 16 - 06:02 PM

The website has the goal of putting online biographies in Gaelic, rather than English, of prominent Irish figures. My search for the redoubtable O'Shea family turned up this site. I will have my work cut out for me, making sense of the Gaelic -- with lots of quick-and-dirty help from Google Translate.

The paterfamilias has his own biography page there. He was born John Patrick O'Shea in 1887, in county Cork. By 1912 he was calling himself Séan Pádraig Ó Séaghdha. In spite of a childhood divided between county Cork, and England (Birmingham, where he learned to play cricket), when Ó Séaghdha invested in a house in Dundrum, he named it for the Dingle peninsula in county Kerry: Corca Dhuibhne. Wonder if the house remains in the family? Twice married, the father of six sired all his children during his first marriage.

We have thus far met three daughters of Séan Pádraig Ó Séaghdha: Máirín, the oldest, who taught at Sion Hill; Nessa, the Gaelic-language scholar; Finbarr, "an engineer" according to the biography; Róisín, lifelong musician; Niamh, who played the harp with her sisters until marriage, then became a home economics teacher; and Nuala, born in 1923, for whom I cannot locate a death date although I have death-years for all the older siblings.

Séan P. Ó Séaghdha died in 1971. His daughter Nessa said of him, that the greatest source of pride for him, was that so many of his descendants were raised as native speakers of Irish.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 10 Mar 16 - 07:58 PM

Thanks, Martin Ryan, for setting me straight about Caroline Townshend. She does sound redoubtable.

Moving on to that trio of sisters:
Their parents were Séan and Caitlín Ó Séaghdha. It seems that all three sisters, when young, studied the Irish harp, and presumably all with the same harp teacher, Caroline Townshend. Interestingly, the sisters pursued differing levels of literacy where music is concerned, no two of them taking the exact same path. In their youth, however, they turn up in notices in archived Irish local newspapers, with the three of them performing as a musical trio; I was left unclear if this was a trio of harps? One or more of them may have sung as well. The paper was unclear about the presentation but their three names were there, as was the emphasis that they were siblings.

Neasa Ní Sheaghdha (1916-1993), when still very young, tried drama; and one book of memoirs from someone outside the family recalls the memory of seeing Neasa as Antigone, a performance that was memorable for all the right reasons. If music remained part of her life, it must have been in a more private, even amateur, context. Also identified as Nessa Ní Shéa, she pursued higher education so as to focus on antiquated forms of the Gaelic, to become literate enough to study manuscript sources containing the great old epic tales of ancient Ireland. Her name appears on a scholarly presentation of the tragedy of Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne / Dermot and Grania / Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Gráinne from the Fenian saga.

Róisín Ní Sheaghdha earned a B.A. in Celtic studies, studied piano at RIAM (she must certainly have learned to read music), and pursued graduate studies at University College Dublin, in education it appears. She sang to her own harp accompaniment, and participated in many Celtic Congresses. Her career track does not precisely parallel that of her sister Máirín but is close to it.

Máirín Ní Shé / Ní Sheaghdha (1913-1990) is the name which is inseparable from the Harp Room in the music division of the Dominican College of Sion Hill. She was married by then, with a last name variously given as Ferriter or Feiriteir. "Deeply indebted to harp teacher, Caroline Townshend," says Sheila Larchet Cuthbert in her book, The Irish Harp Book: A Tutor and Companion (page 240). She tutored generations of harp students, many of these grist for the "stone castle" mills and Jury's Cabaret. Earlier posts have named the best-known pupils.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 10 Mar 16 - 03:55 PM

Caroline was musically literate alright - she is credited with many published arrangements of Irish music, as far as I can see. An interesting woman in many ways - she turns up as witness in an investigation of Black and Tan brutality during the Irish War of Independence.

The family tree is convoluted but she certainly seems to have been of that clan alright.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 10 Mar 16 - 03:23 PM

"All the dear Spinning Eileens" comes from a review quoted in the OP opening this thread. The names quoted there are "Kathleen Watkins [and] Deirdre O'Callaghan," who made recordings as a duo when young. They are names in an interesting list: Deirdre Ní Fhlóinn [Flynn], Mary O'Hara, Janet Harbison, and many other students. What these harp students have in common is of course their teacher, Mairín Ní Shé. Their teacher was no nun, however she accepted the offer to work as harp instructor at Sion Hill's Dominican College, so it was nuns who hired the teacher.

And their teacher's teacher was a Cork native whose name is variously given as either Caroline Townshend or Caroline Townsend.

What both Ms. Townsend, and the three Ní Shé sisters who all studied with her, have in common, is that none of them seem to have had the kind of music training that goes with classical music instruction. Janet Harbison, who did indeed have such a background as a long-time piano student, states that Mairín Ní Shé did not read music at all, but taught by ear, and relied on those who did read music to perform pieces recorded in print so that she could learn the pieces by ear. Less is known of Caroline Townshend -- I cannot find anyone who says definitively whether or not she ever learned to read music.

One writer who offers information on Caroline Townshend is the late Nora Joan Clark, in her "The Story of the Irish Harp." Because only lets me view certain preview pages in this book, I cannot get at Clark's end-notes to see the sources of her quotes. Here is the best I can view online.
"Other sources mention Caroline Townshend, daughter of an eminent philanthropist in nineteenth century Irish life, who '....set herself the task of rediscovering the long-since outlawed Irish harp, the emblem of Ireland....gave free lessons and many copies of her [Welsh] harp were made.'
"Sheila Cuthbert notes that Caroline Townshend was '....interested in everything Irish, the language, culture, music, and she taught the Irish harp to anyone interested, especially to the local girls near her Dublin, she was delighted to find herself teaching quite advanced musicians...the O'Shea sisters and many others.'
(pp. 105 - 106, The Story of the Irish Harp: Its History and Influence)

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 09 Mar 16 - 08:41 PM

Helen, there are lots of harp lessons on YouTube. Take a look.

If you study piano and you learn music theory, then that will help with harp playing. However, I have talked to pianists who can play well but have never learned any theory. I think that's sad.

"Music theory" sounds daunting, but it's really pretty easy.

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: keberoxu
Date: 09 Mar 16 - 04:52 PM

The 7 March post quoting "Travels with my Harp" by Mary O'Hara, names the Sion Hill superior, Mother Jordan, and harp-maker Malachy McFall of Belfast. Oona Linnett's thesis "The Irish Harp" (quoted post 6 March) includes a reproduction of a public advertisement dated 1904, by one James McFall in Belfast, which declares:
"In use in all the leading Convents throughout the world." Which supports the repeated assertion that, turning from 19th century to 20th, harps in Ireland were limited to the parlors, drawing rooms, salons, and convents, where it was expected that women, not men, would play them.

Page 50 in "The Irish Harp" brings up Comhaltas Ceoltóoirí Éireann in the 1950's when it was founded. Séamus MacMathuma, interviewed by Linnett for her thesis, confesses:
"I suppose we would generally be perceived as being conservative....The [Irish] harp was looked at as a bit of a sacred cow in the early years [of Comhaltas]. It was something that you paid lip-service to....Probably with Comhaltas it got off to a bad start."
And, on page 102, Mac Mathuma recalls how it was twenty years later, with the breakthrough of a younger generation of musicians.
"I can remember, because I had known Máire Ní Chathasaigh as a young girl, and she was doing wonderful things. I remember the first year the harp was included in the Scoil Éigse [1976]. We would normally have recitals at some stage. There wasn't an expectant hush for the harp, because people hadn't heard Máire playing. But mind you, once she started! Within that week, a whole lot of young people changed their attitude to the harpers....a whole lot of people just accepted it straight away. There were things happening on the harp!"

To reinforce how differently the Irish harp was perceived in the 1950's, another quote from page 50 of the thesis, this time from Aibhlín McCrann, at Cáirde Na Cruite:
"Comhaltas did the harp no favors in the 1950s, because they just totally ignored it, and kind of neatly put it into a little box and said: 'Ah, you're fine for cabaret and the American circuit: "the Colleen behind the harp". '   [Their attitude] was understandable in some ways, because what they were hearing wasn't their perception of what Irish [traditional] music should be."

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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
From: Helen
Date: 09 Mar 16 - 03:31 PM


I have a copy of Sheila Larchet Cuthbert's book, The Irish Harp Book: a Tutor and Companion, first printed in 1975 by Mercier Press, and my copy was reprinted in 1985.

I have had it for maybe 30 years, but I haven't used it. As I've said in either this thread or another I am self taught on the harp, and also I never learned piano which would have made it easier for me, I think.

I would have ordered the book without seeing it and when I looked at it I realised it was very daunting for an amateur musician struggling without a teacher. If I had had a teacher I may have had some benefit from it.

It has a lot of Irish tunes in it, including the hauntingly weird My Lagan Love, and some Carolan tunes.


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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 ( may have information on Ms. Townshend.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
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: 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: 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.


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 - 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: 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: 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: 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 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: 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: '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: 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: 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:


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: 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: 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: 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.


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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: 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,Modette
Date: 05 Mar 16 - 01:00 PM


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

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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,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 - 11:21 AM

Thanks for the link to the song, Helen.

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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.


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Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
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.
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.

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.
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: 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: 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.


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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.


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: 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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