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Carolan playing small

O'Carolan Memories 1

A new rendition by Eric Keller

1 Loftus Jones in G minor [64]
2 Carolans Welcome in G minor [171]
3 O'Carolans Concerto in G minor [154] (also Mrs. Power)
4 Carolans Cup in G minor [185]
5 Blind Mary in A minor [182]
6 Planxty Eleanor Plunkett in D minor [150]
7 Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill in G minor [211]
8 Carolan's Draught in G minor [186]
9 Carolans Quarrel With The Landlady in D minor [190]
10 Captain O'Kane in G minor [133]
11 Captain O'Neill in D minor [214]
12 Lady Athenry in G minor [1]
13 Lord Inchiquin in D minor [58]
14 Princess Royal in G minor [87] (also Miss McDermott)

The Complete Album 1
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O'Carolan Memories 2

1 Carolan's Fancy in C major [174]
2 John O'Connor in G major [O'Farrell p. 57]
3 Carolans Receipt in G major [161]
4 Colonel John Irwin in C major [59]
5 Fanny Power in F major [155]
6 George Brabazon in G major [6]
7 Hewlett in C major [56]
8 Hugh O'Donnell in C major [127]
9 Maggie Browne in G major [180]
10 Mrs. Maxwell, First Air in G minor (transposed from B minor) [101]
11 Ode to Whiskey in D major [197]
12 O'Flinn in C major [128]
13 Sheebeg and Shemore in D major [202]
14 The Clergy's Lamentation in E minor [207]
15 Thomas Leixnip The Proud in D major [attributed to O'Carolan]
16 Deliverance (based on Carolan's Dream [187]) in A minor

The Complete Album 2
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Musical scores 1

1. Loftus Jones – a lively entry

“Donal O'Sullivan (1958) records that Loftus Jones was the son of Thomas and Susanna Jones, or Ardnaglass, County Sligo. O'Sullivan reasons that the tune must have been composed toward the end of O'Carolan's career, as Loftus must have been a young man at the bard's death.”1 Not to be confused, there was also a famous commander called “Loftus William Jones”, known for action in a sea battle in 1916.

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2. Carolan's Welcome – another good opening entry

Carolan's Welcome was "...originally without a title and … 'probably composed for patrons whose names have been lost; they have come down to us either with wrong titles or with no titles at all.' The tune was found by P.W. Joyce in the manuscripts of collector William Forde (c.1759–1850) in the Royal Irish Academy, [Dublin, p. 62], although Joyce altered it slightly in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909).”2 The title Carolan's Welcome was given to this piece by The Chieftains, who adapted it as theme music on the occasion of Pope John Paul II's visit to Dublin in 1979 (Wikipedia).

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3. O'Carolan's Concerto – a fun and finger-and-memory challenge

There is a wonderful story in the Traditional Tune Archive3, abbreviated here. The name 'concerto' was attached because of an incident between O'Carolan and the famous Italian violinist and composer Gemeniani, who was then resident in Dublin.

Hearing of O'Carolan's musical skill and wishing to test him, Geminiani sent him a piece of Italian music which he had altered to include very subtle changes and flaws. Upon being presented with the music through an intermediary, O'Carolan listened to the piece and praised it, but said in Irish, "Here and there it limps and stumbles." He instructed the correction of the piece and had it sent back to Geminiani. He read it and declared him “il genio vero della musica”. It has been remarked that the piece contains influences of various Italian masters, especially Corelli, whose music Carolan was said to have admired.

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4. Carolan's Cup – a an evocative entry

Donal O'Sullivan (1858) says that O'Carolan may well have played it and perhaps altered it to his purpose, and that it is an altered version of a folk tune well-known in Carolan's time called "Ar bhruach na carraige báine" (On the Brink of the White Rocks)4.

O'Carolan's drinking habits come up in this context. The OldMusicProject offered this illustrative comment about his drinking, as well as about his capacity to assert himself when needed5:

"A doctor advised Carolan to stop drinking for a period of time. Carolan began to feel worse instead of better. He then found a doctor who gave him the opposite advice, whereupon Carolan spirits immediately became 'lively and cheerful'. He composed the following verse, translated from the Gaelic:

He's a fool who gives over the liquor,
It softens the skinflint at once,
It urges the slow coach on quicker,
Gives spirit and brains to the dunce.
The man who is dumb as a rule
Discovers a great deal to say,
While he who is bashful since Yule
Will talk in an amorous way.
It's drink that uplifts the poltroon
To give battle in France and in Spain,
Now here is an end of my tune –
And fill me that bumper again!

"Among the more than 220 compositions still played today, 'Farewell to Whiskey' is about the aftermath of the one doctor forbidding him to drink anymore, and 'O'Carolan's Receipt' (no. 3 in the second series) is about getting a prescription from the other doctor to go back to drinking whiskey again! According to the biographers, he stayed up all night with the doctor (Doctor John Stafford) and wrote the tune in his honor.

"In another anecdote, it was said that David Murphy, who was harper to Lord Mayo and once played before King Louis XIV of France, told Carolan his tunes were like 'bones without beef'. Carolan thereupon dragged Murphy kicking and screaming through the room. While Murphy screamed, Carolan remarked, 'Put beef to that air, you puppy.'”

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5. Blind Mary – probably an autobiographical entry

It is not sure if this wonderful tune was really by O'Carolan. The Traditional Tune Archive says this6: “If Carolan did compose the tune, it was probably for another blind harper named Máire Dhall (Blind Mary) who lived in his locality, and whom he undoubtedly knew. Máire Dhall was a professional harper (one of the few women recorded as being in the profession) who taught another blind woman, Rose Mooney, who appeared at the Belfast Harp Meeting of 1792, one of the last gatherings of ancient Irish harpers (Sanger & Kinnaird, Tree of Strings, 1992).”

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6. Planxty Eleanor Plunkett – a hot offer from O'Carolan

The word "Planxty" is an Irish or Welsh melody for the harp, of a mournful or longing character created "in honor of a person." O'Carolan wrote several compositions and poems for patrons with whom he lodged, and this is for a certain “Eleanor Plunkett”.

But who is Eleanor Plunkett?

The following exceptional story is again related in the Traditional Tune Archive7: “Donal O'Sullivan (1958, vol. 2, p. 95), quoting Ó Máille, writes that the story goes that some thirty members of Eleanor's family shut themselves up in their castle of Castlecome and were dispatched by boiling water. No one knows why, although O'Sullivan suggests that the tragedy was probably an exaggerated story from an unpublished deposition of 1641. At any rate, Eleanor was apparently the surviving member of the family.

O'Carolan was quick to respond to criticism and somewhat defensive and touchy regarding his art, perhaps because his livelihood depended on satisfied patrons. As he was composing this song Eleanor's coachman interrupted him remaking that he had heard many of the same words O'Carolan was using in other songs. The outraged bard picked up his staff and threatened the servant with it, saying 'Neither you nor any other person will ever hear more of it but what is already composed!'”

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7. Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill – a public lament for an early Irish hero

Wikipedia8: this is a traditional Irish ballad. With a mournful tune based on an eighteenth-century composition, it is a lament for the death of Owen Roe O'Neill. Its lyrics were later written by Thomas Davis and draw on the tradition of romantic nationalism which was at its height during the era.

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8. Carolan's Draught – happy times at the pub

This celebrates good times – which were needed during an especially difficult time transition period in Ireland. It is delightful that O'Carolan had the inner joy and strength to reach out to his environment with many happy tunes.

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9. Carolan's Quarrel with the Landlady – an audible difference of opinions

The Traditional Tune Archive says this9: “The nature of the quarrel with the Landlady (i.e. of a tavern) is unknown. It is possible, continues O'Sullivan, that the woman in question was one Bridget Waldron, described as a "niggardly ale-wife," upon whom O'Carolan composed the following "pungent" epitaph (translated from the Irish and printed by Hardiman in Irish Minstrelsy, 1831):

I prithee tombstone, let not Bridget come back whence she came,
For she would turn your liquor sour and put your house to shame.'
Full many a faultless poet has contributed her by drought been cursed,
Now she's buried, devil plague her – and thirst, thirst, thirst!

O'Carolan, it has been noted, was known to become short and irascible when the supply of drink was limited in any way.”

No doubt. But we comment that a careful reading also reveals the landlady's irascible chatter, interrupted only occasionally by a short attempt to get a word in edgewise by O'Carolan. At any rate, the whole exchange certainly contributed a few laughs at the pub.

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10. Captain O'Kane – a celebration of a greatly appreciated captain

With this melody we celebrate the achievements, we raise the glass and we offer a toast to this valiant man.

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11. Captain O'Neill – a quick-witted sailor's captain

This comes with a story. We are on a boat in the rough sea off the Irish west coast. There are five tough men on board. The captain tells them where the fattest fish are hiding. One man asks, “Are you sure? I'm not so sure...”. “You'll see, young lad. You'll find them just where I'm pointing.” “Right so”, say two other men, and yet other men agree. So they head off, and all pull their utmost weight, and there is a big fat fish – and the Captain's caught it too! Happy, the five men catch many more before heading home.

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12. Lady Athenry – an elegant valse, dedicated to Mrs. Bermingham

The Traditional Tune Archive comments10, “O'Sullivan (1958) determines that the subject of the air is Lady Mary Nugent (1694-1725), eldest daughter of Thomas, 4th Earl of Westmeath, who married Francis Bermingham, 21st Baron of Athenry, in September, 1716. O'Sullivan gives a history of the Bermingham's, who were descended from a knight commander in Strongbow's Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170.”

“Lady Athenry” may also have a further significance.

Athenry is a town in County Galway with Athenry Castle, its priory and its 13th century Anglo-Norman street-plan. Nine days before Lady’s Day the people would start saying the fifteen decades of the Rosary every night until the fifteenth of August11. Lady’s Day brought hundreds of people of all ages into the area, each one determined to ask for personal favours, or to give thanksgiving for a wish that had been granted. Many had arthritic and other physical complaints.12

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13. Lord Inchiquin – in memory of the Earl of Inchiquin (peered in 1654)

This is another well-known Irish waltz composed “in honor of the young 4th Earl of Inchiquin, William O'Brien (1694-1777), who became Grandmaster of the Freemasons of England in 1726. The family seat was in Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, which remained until 1962 in the hands of the Lords Inchiquin. ...

“Donal O'Sullivan (1958) says that O'Carolan was visiting the Rev. Charles Massey of Doonass, nearby to Dromoland, and suspects the piece was composed on that occasion13”.

Wikipedia notes that "Inchiquin was feted by antiquarians and many of the works of Irish history produced at this time are dedicated to him; as an Anglican deriving his lineage from an old Gaelic family, he was a politique choice for those wishing to disseminate their work in Ascendancy Ireland and Hanoverian Britain."

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14. Princess Royal – dedicated to Miss MacDermott

To honour his long time friend and protector, who had him taught the harp after he became blind from smallpox. He came back to her house after a life of wanderings through Ireland, saying "I came here after all I've gone through, to die at home at last, in the place where I got my first teaching and my first horse".

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1 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Loftus_Jones
2 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Carolan's_Welcome
3 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Carolan's_Concerto
4 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Carolan's_Cup
5 http://www.oldmusicproject.com/OCC.html
6 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Blind_Mary
7 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Eleanor_Plunkett
8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lament_for_Owen_Roe
9 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Carolan's_Quarrel_with_the_Landlady
10 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Lady_Athenry
11 https://athenry.org/record/the-fifteenth-626/
12 https://athenry.org/record/ladys-day-athenry-575/
13 https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Lord_Inchiquin

Musical scores 2

1. Carolan's Fancy in C major [174]
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2. John O'Connor in G major [O'Farrell p. 57]
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3. Carolans Receipt in G major [161]
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4. Colonel John Irwin in C major [59]
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5. Fanny Power in F major [155]
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6. George Brabazon in G major [6]
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7. Hewlett in C major [56]
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8. Hugh O'Donnell in C major [127]
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9. Maggie Browne in G major [180]
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10. Mrs. Maxwell, First Air in G minor (transposed from B minor) [101]
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11. Ode to Whiskey in D major [197]
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12. O'Flinn in C major [128]
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13. Sheebeg and Shemore in D major [202]
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14. The Clergy's Lamentation in E minor [207]
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15. Thomas Leixnip The Proud in D major [attributed to O'Carolan]
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16. Deliverance (based on Carolan's Dream [187]) in A minor
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In brackets are O'Sullivan's preferred titles, the ones generally accepted as standard (Wikipedia).

The compositions are tuned to the equal temperament frequency of 440 Hz.

Click to obtain the full scores for this section.

These compositions are in the public domain.