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Beginning - 03 Feb 2024

Reconstructing Carolan: Play transcriptions of his music made from 18th-century Irish harpers

Description

In this course on the music of Ireland's most famous harper, Turlough Carolan (1670–1738), we will explore better and lesser known Carolan compositions, working with juicy pages from a unique Irish-harp-music manuscript of the late 1700s. These reveal more authentic versions of the tunes, and even aspects of Carolan’s own performance style. Thought to be lost forever this revealed itself during my recent PhD research into early Irish harping idiom. I am so excited to share my new discoveries with you, particularly the evidence showing that Carolan’s idiom was much simpler than that seen in modern arrangements of his music. So this course should help and encourage players of all levels (post-beginner+) to have more fun, and confidence, playing his music, and, in doing so, to get much closer to the ‘real’ Carolan.

Course Duration

7 Sessions

Level

Post-beginner+

Class Time

3:45–5:00 pm (Irish time)

Tutor(s)

Price

€130.00

Saturday | 3:45–5:00 pm (Irish time)

03 Feb

Session 1

Madam Maxwell (1 of 2)

The field transcription of this well-known Carolan tune was notated in the 1790s by the young Edward Bunting – the first Irish music collector – directly from a harper. His transcription has lovely twists and turns, and melodic alternatives that we don't normally hear in modern performances. This source also has indications of the fuller texture that the harper played, which will help us get to a complete, performable setting on our harps.

10 Feb

Session 2

Madam Maxwell (2 of 2)

In this session, you will have an opportunity to play sections of the composition individually (no problem if you would rather listen instead), and to get real-time feedback on this, to help you to play more effortlessly, fluently, and musically.

17 Feb

Session 3

Miss Dillon (1 of 2)

This most elegant, and Italianate, of Carolan's compositions survives in a direct harp transcription from the end of the 18th century. It incorporates quintessential features of Carolan's distinctive style that made his music so prized in his own time but which are no longer transmitted in modern editions or performance. This fascinating transcription teaches us how Carolan fleshed out his melodies into complete textures in an 'Irish baroque' way; without European bass lines or chords. We will get both our hands playing in the manner in which he himself did, to get closer to how this air might have sounded originally.

24 Feb

Session 4

Miss Dillon (2 of 2)

In this session, you will have an opportunity to play sections of the composition individually (no problem if you would rather listen instead), and to get real-time feedback on this, to help you to play more effortlessly, fluently, and musically. 

02 Mar

Session 5

Jigg to Miss Dillon (1 of 2)

Carolan followed his Miss Dillon air with a lively jig in which both hands are involved in producing the melody, in different registers, which again spreads the work around helpfully! In this session we will explore the source page to discover vital aspects of how Carolan played this jig, and how this can help us understand how to approach it similarly more than three hundred years later so that it sits well under the fingers.

09 Mar

Session 6

Jigg to Miss Dillon (2 of 2)

In this session, you will have an opportunity to play sections of the composition individually (no problem if you would rather listen instead), and to get real-time feedback on this, to help you to play more effortlessly, fluently, and musically. If there is time, we will also revise the rest of the music we have worked on in this course.

03 Feb

Session 7

The Music of Turlough Carolan: rethinking our approach - Bonus video lecture

Many of us are familiar with Carolan's melodies. But what if I told you that he might not recognise many of the melodies now attributed to him? And that the complicated style in which they are now usually performed — with tricky bass lines and full chords — are not at all how he is likely to have played them? The most reliable written sources - transcriptions made from live performance by old Irish harpers in the 1790s — which would get us closer to the real Carolan, have generally been ignored. Modern editions and recordings usually take much later, reworked versions of the tunes, transcribed from fiddles and flutes, or even Victorian piano arrangements, as their starting point. In this illustrated videoed talk, I outline these long-standing problems; I introduce you to the most significant — but neglected — Carolan sources from the 1700s, and I outline my recent discoveries about Carolan's likely performance idiom, including my new hypothesis about what his lower hand played.

What to Expect

In this course, students will

  • be introduced to, explore, and become familiar with rare, 18th-century, hand-written field transcriptions of Carolan compositions taken from the live playing of old Irish harpers
  • discover and put into practice characteristic features of Carolan’s style that are generally not known any more nor reproduced in modern editions or performance
  • explore a historically plausible (and player-friendly!) lower-hand playing style for his music
  • learn how to arrange and play Carolan tunes in a plausible 18th-century-Irish style, incorporating all the latest evidence and discoveries in Carolan studies
  • develop their ability to compare modern Carolan editions with more reliable histroical sources
  • learn where to find the best historical sources of his music (inc. for free online)

Technical Requirements

  • A laptop, desktop or tablet computer; we do not recommend using a phone to participate
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Access to a printer for downloadable course materials
  • Access to the Zoom platform; further information to help you get set up for participating over Zoom will be sent after you have registered

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