Castles: on your travels you may have visited them, perhaps you’ve read about them, dreamed of them, enjoyed pictures of them. What sort of music did the people living in those castles enjoy? For that matter what sort of music did the folks who lived outside the castle walls — the farmers, the tradesmen, the housewives, the children — listen to and make when they celebrated weddings, had dances, went to church, or gathered in the evening for fun?

One place you may find out about all this is the Galway Early Music Festival. This year the theme of the festival is the music that happened at the intersections of formal society and folk music.

Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, is a center for interest in medieval and other sorts of early music all year round, but the award winning Festival, which is held each May, is a highlight which draws listeners and performers from around the world. This year, it happens from 17 to 20 May.

Concerts will be held in chapels, churches, schools, and yes, a castle. Performers will include Cois Cladaigh Chamber Choir, whose work focuses on vocal harmonies. and Simon O’Dwyer, who plays the ancient music of Ireland on replicas he’s made of ancient Irish horns. Concerts showcasing the history of pipes and pipe music in France and in Scotland will be part of the program, and there will be traditional dance workshops and other family friendly activities as well. The festival will conclude with a concert by the group Coracle, in which singer Griogair Labhruidh, piper Barnaby Brown, and harpist Siobhan Armstrong will share music of the shamanic and mystical traditions of the Celtic Otherworld.

Even if you’ll not be making it to Galway for the festival, the Galway Early Music Festival web site offers interesting insights into the music of earlier times.

Wondering about early music? You might also like to see
Masters of the Irish Harp
and
Songs of the Scribe

Photograph of the castle (which is not in Galway, but is in Ireland) by Kerry Dexter
Photograph of the group Coracle courtesy of the artists

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