Celebrate the history of traditional Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day [a playlist]

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The festive nature of St. Patrick’s Day marks the coming together and tasty in Ireland’s rich history, with traditional festivities taking place all over the world – parades, dances, cèilidh (traditional social gatherings) and for many – a lot of food and drink!

An important aspect of these festivities is of course to revel in the colorful and eclectic range of traditional music; the music which represents the diversity of Irish history and the music which continues to thrive today; sections of styles rooted in the land and influenced and inspired by many social changes including the removal and emigration of the Irish across the world.

Particularly during the Great Famine and the period of intense migration, the Irish often played songs of longing and sorrow for their homeland as they took root on continents far from their native soil (a fundamental example being the United States) . Thanks to influences from other musical styles around the world, notably American folk and jazz, traditional Irish music experienced a significant revival at the end of the 20th century, a revival initiated by the descendants of Irish settlers and a movement that proved how the legacies and lessons of traditional Irish music were years later.

Traditional Irish music was and still is used for a variety of reasons. Although the unaccompanied voices known as sean nós (“old-fashioned”) are considered the ultimate representation of traditional singing, Irish folk music has developed in both English and Irish. While Caoineadh’s songs (or lamentations) often expressed pain, sorrow, and longing for Ireland, much of traditional Irish music was intended to be dance during the celebrations; weddings, social gatherings and holy days.

Whether it is to sing, lament or dance; traditional Irish music remains a genre that is still respectful and flourishing in modern times. From haunting ballads to cheerful drinking folk songs, many popular Irish musicians continue to draw inspiration from a rich heritage of Irish styles and instruments.

St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of Irish memory and history, and with that in mind, Oxford University Press has created a Reading List to help you commemorate the day in the right way, with song, song, dancing and all kinds of frivolities! Let us know your favorite Irish songs, whether traditional or modern or something in between.

A playlist approved by OUP:

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

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