When you think of Ireland you think of music, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s our gathering, a place we feel as one people at pubs, parties, on a street bench or in a park, or outside playing to the cliffs and sea. The instrument maker and his creation, the beat and the rhythm, and the human voice lifted high have raised our spirits during hard times, and have been the background of our joy during good times.
Ireland is the only country in the world that has a musical instrument—the harp—as its national emblem. There is a way in which music captures the soul of who we, as Irish, are, and it’s a way that seems to touch almost everyone.
Whether you’re in Dublin or a remote town, there’s a good chance that music will be happening in a pub on any given night. (And the pubs are now smoke-free.) Some sessions are planned. Others are spontaneous and all are welcome to join in with their instruments, voices, hands, spoons, and foot-tapping. (If the session is planned and you like the group, pick up one of their CDs. You won’t find them in stores, and you’ll be glad to have the memory of that time to take home and stick into your CD player while driving down the road or puttering around the house.) We love our traditional music, but all forms of music flourish in Ireland.
Is there any way to separate dance from music? When you hear Irish music, your body wants to move. It’s not surprising that traditional Irish dance has not only made a huge comeback in our own country, it’s finding its way around the globe!
Some of Ireland’s more famous musicians are: The Dubliners, The Chieftains, and the original punk band led by Bob Geldof, Booomtown Rats. Some others of worldwide fame are U2, Van Morrison, Enya, Christy Moore, Brian Kennedy, Sinead O’Connor, Mary Black, Dolores Keane, the Corrs, Westlife, and Samantha Mumba. (Of course, the most famous of all is the lead singer Bono of U2. He and Geldof are now as famous for their charitable activities as they are for their music.) Like classical music? There’s plenty of that for you in Ireland, too. Check out the schedules of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and the Ulster Orchestra. Both are top-notch.
Want to go to a music festival? Authentic Ireland is happy to fit your itinerary around one of our festivals. In fact, there are festivals almost year ‘round here. The O’Carolan International Harp Festival (County Roscommon) is a total celebration of trad music, song and dance as well as instrumental instruction. The Féile lorras (County Mayo) is an international folk- arts festival and is another one of our favorites. It is a veritable banquet, showcasing everything from Irish traditional music to Mongolian singing. This festival is in one of the most Irish areas of Ireland, fairly isolated, so when you attend you also get a great glimpse into life on a local level and witness centuries-old traditions. We also like the smaller arts festivals such as Feile Chois Cuain (Louisburgh), the Castlebar Blues Festival (Castlebar), and Siamsa Straide (Swinford).
Music is either free or very inexpensive, offering one of the best values for experience you can get in Ireland. (Or anywhere else, for that matter.) The quality of Irish music, and the sheer joy of life it brings, is unrivaled. Hear enough music and you get the feeling that music is a river flowing through Ireland, renewing our country and bringing it new life. And you would be right. Let go, and enjoy at least one music session, either as an active listener or as a participant. You’ll feel the exuberant and vital sense of well-being that only music can bring.