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The music of Thomas and William Connellan (c.1640-1720)

Kathleen Loughnane has released a new CD ‘The Harpers Connellan’ Irish music of the late 17th century.
The Connellan brothers were born in Cloonmahon, Co. Sligo. They had to manipulate the turbulent political and social environment of their time to survive, composing and performing music. According to Arthur O Neill’s (b.1734) account of the life and times of the Irish Harpers, Thomas Connellan’s celebrity was very great in Ireland and it would seem that he was no less popular in Scotland. The council records of Jan 11th, 1717 record that Thomas Connellan was awarded city honours and made Burgomaster of Edinburgh. It seems he was awarded this honour as a result of his musical contribution to the city.

Thanks in particular to the major work of the great collector Edward Bunting we are in possession of nine tunes that are attributed to them. I have also included some tunes of Scottish origin associated with them. There was clearly a pool of tunes which were common to both Ireland and Scotland and played by musicians from both cultures. Both Scottish and Irish airs were adapted, retitled and attributed to one or other composer. In an aurally transmitted culture this is a common practise and a natural progression of music, handed down by word of mouth. Variants of these tunes were associated with the Connellans in the aural lore of the journeyman harpers and musicians, who kept their music and their importance alive in the subsequent period. They were also carriers of the harp music of their predecessors.

Music is never static and there would be many versions of a tune current at the same time. Kathleen has greatly enjoyed making an individual interpretation of these tunes from a familiarity with the idiom of traditional music of her own time. Even in this small repertoire of tunes we can glean a representative impression of Gaelic harping at a time of major social cultural transition. Different styles of music (Gaelic harping tradition, baroque music and courtly music of the period) are in evidence in the tunes, reflected in the rearrangement and interpretation of each one.

Permalink - Posted: July 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm