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Celebrating the history of traditional Irish music on Saint Patrick’s Day [a playlist]

The celebratory nature of Saint Patrick’s Day marks the coming together of and relishing in the rich history of Ireland, with traditional festivities occurring all over the world – parades, dances, cèilidh (traditional social gatherings) and for many people–lots of drinking and eating!

An important aspect of these festivities is of course reveling in the colorful and eclectic range of traditional music; music which represents the diversity of Ireland’s history, and music that continues to flourish today; swathes of styles rooted to the land and influenced and inspired by many social changes including the suppression and emigration of Irish people across the world.

Particularly during the Great Famine and the intense migratory period, the Irish people would often play songs of longing and sadness for their homeland as they made roots on continents far from their native soil (a fundamental example being the United States). Thanks to the influences of further worldly musical styles including American folk and Jazz, traditional Irish music saw an important revival in the later 20th century, a revival instigated by the descendants of Irish settlers and a movement which proved just how relevant and durable the legacies and lessons of traditional Irish music were years later.

Traditional Irish music was and still is, used for various reasons. Although unaccompanied vocals called sean nós (“in the old style”) are considered the ultimate representation of traditional singing, Irish folk music has developed in both the English and Irish languages. Whilst Caoineadh songs, (or laments) often expressed the pain and sorrow and longing for Ireland, much of Irish traditional music was meant for dancing at celebrations; weddings, social gatherings and saint’s days.

Whether it be for the purposes of singing, lamenting, or dancing; traditional Irish music remains an ever reverent and thriving genre in modern times. From haunting ballads to popular glass-clanking drinking songs filled with merriment, many popular Irish musicians continue to gather their inspirations from a rich heritage of Irish styles and instruments.

Saint Patrick’s Day is an overarching celebration of Irish memory and history, and in spirit of this–Oxford University Press have created a playlist to help you commemorate the day in the appropriate way–with singing, dancing and all matters of frivolities! Let us know your favorite Irish songs, be they traditional or modern or anything in-between.

An OUP approved playlist:

Featured Image Credit: “Waterfall, Bach, Galeway, Ireland” by Christian_Birkholz. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

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