Friday, September 16, 2016

Music matters?

The 1792 Belfast Harp Festival is rightly held in high regard by musicians and scholars alike and is acknowledged as a moment of enormous significance in the recognition and preservation of Irish traditional music. 

Conversely, the Ulster-Scots song tradition, which first started to appear in print in 1793 (and potentially in newspapers earlier than this) is pretty much ignored. Scores of poetry books printed from that date onwards include easily 100 or maybe even up to 200 songs. Many give the names of the tunes they were to be sung to. Why is this not seen as important? Maybe only some music matters. Maybe some people discard their heritage too casually.

(The example below, about the 1798 Rebellion, was printed in 1811 – just 13 years after the Battle of Ballynahinch. It was written Francis Boyle of Granshaw, who lived just 13 miles from the battlefield and well within the community that it affected. He was about 60 years old in 1798.) 

SAM 0520

Commemorative plaque for the Harp Festival in Donegall Street, Belfast. SAM 0187