Music is at the heart of life and culture in Ireland. This includes what you may think of first, traditional music and work that draws on Irish tradition, from jigs and reels to airs and songs, as well as a wide range of other sorts of music. There’s a thriving classical music community across Ireland. Many people love country music, both home grown versions and those which come from abroad. Rock and its various genres have their manifestations in Irish life from radio to garage bands. There’s reggae, there’s surf music, there are ethnic styles which immigrants have brought along with them.
All of these are practiced and well loved in a country which has a musical instrument — the harp — on its coins, official documents, and passports. Several years a go, it was decided to choose a day to celebrate live music performance all across Ireland. That day — 21 June — sees [performances from choirs to fiddle players to orchestras to quartets in venues all across the country. If you’ll be in Ireland on that day, it’s a fine time to take a look around and see what is happening near you. Update: LoveLive Music was marked by a special day in Ireland from 2010 to 2013. It’s not been marked in just this way since… but music is celebrated each day in Ireland and with Irish music played across the globe. The suggestions below are still excellent ways to experience this, as is keeping up with our continuing coverage of Ireland and Irish music here at Perceptive Travel.
Though that site is focused on event taking place on 21 June, it can also give you the clue about organizations and venues which might host music events at other times. There are Irish music events taking place all across the world at all times of year, as well. A fine place to start learning about these is the festival guide offered by Irish Fireside and Ireland Travel Kit, which has short articles about many Irish music festivals in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
Want to celebrate on your own? Here are a few of my favourite recordings of Irish music to get you started:
The musicians of Altan have taken their music from Japan to Australia, from California to Cape Breton. Their home is in Donegal, in Ireland’s far northwest, and it is to Donegal they returned to source and create and title their album of heartfelt song and fiery fiddle plying called Poison Glen.
Cathie Ryan is first generation Irish American, a musician and scholar of Irish legend who has lived in both Ireland and America. In both the songs she writes and the songs she chooses, she illuminates aspects of history, emotion, and heritage, singing in a voice that you’ll not soon forget. Her most recent album is Through Wind & Rain and another favourite which will linger in your mind is The Farthest Wave.
Guitarist John Doyle has a gift for playing traditional music in a way which makes the tunes sound as fresh as though they’re newly composed. That’s a gift he put to fine use on his recording Wayward Son. On Shadow and Light Doyle shows that he’s a gifted songwriter and fine singer as well, telling tales of Ireland past and present.
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is from the west of Ireland, the Dingle Peninsula in west Kerry. Though her music, too, has taken her across the world, it is the sound of the Kerry Gaeltacht that’s very present in her album The Small Hours. With songs in both English and Irish, Nic Amhlaoibh tells stories with emotion which comes through clearly, whatever language you speak.
Photograph is by Kerry Dexter is copyrighted. Thank you for respecting this.
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