Traditional Irish Songs

Looking for traditional Irish songs? Want to know about all the different types of traditional songs available? Read our guide for more information on choosing the right song for you…

The Irish are a musical and merry people who developed traditional songs that were sung in homes and public houses. Traditional Irish songs several centuries ago were sung to the accompaniment of the lyre or harp. Harp musicians were patronized by the Irish aristocracy. They played and sung traditional Irish songs at celebrations and festivals for entertainment.

One of the most famous harp composers of traditional Irish songs was Turlogh Carolan who lived from 1670 to 1738. His baroque style of composition was classical and his more than 200 musical creations have become part of the repertoire of traditional songs sung by the Irish. His songs are still played today by Irish folk musicians.

Although harp music’s influence gradually waned towards the end of the 18th century, it was replaced by uillean pipes, the fiddle and flute in the 19th century. These musical instruments were the favored arrangements to highlight traditional Irish songs of that time. When the 20th century began, instruments like the concertina and the accordion replaced the older music.

Accordions produced excellent music for traditional Irish songs in a style called ‘sean-nos’, otherwise known as ‘the old style’. These songs were highly poetic and lyrical. They were sung mainly in Gaelic, the traditional Irish language.

Development of Irish Songs

Traditional Irish songs encompass a wide array of songs that are still sung today. Among the more famous songs are ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Molly Malone’. The unique songs are specific to Ireland and the development of Irish songs owed little to its far European neighbors. Irish shores were isolated from mainland Europe by choppy seas which made Continental influences less easily available in Ireland. Thus songs and musical instruments flourished independently of the rest of Europe and this accounts for the uniqueness of traditional Irish songs and musical instruments.

‘Danny Boy’ a song that evokes sentiments of nostalgia among those of Irish descent who live in far flung regions. ‘Molly Malone’ is the anthem of the city of Dublin and the lyrics were first publicized in 1884.

Traditional Irish songs were often sung to the accompaniment of a harp, a fiddle or a flute. In more recent times, the accordion and concertina were played. Famous songs include ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Molly Malone’.

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