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Celtic Harps

The mythical lore and storied past of Celtic harps make them a very special emblem of Ireland’s pride.

Indeed, one of the most remarkable ways in which the Emerald Isle distinguishes itself is that, as a tribute to the importance of music in Irish culture, Ireland is the only country in the world with a musical instrument as a national symbol.

Otherwise known as the heraldic harp or Gaelic harp, Celtic harps have been part of the Irish landscape for centuries and have become the national symbols of Ireland.

In the 16th century King Henry VIII of England made the harp the official symbol of colonial Ireland by putting it on Ireland’s currency. The harps place in the Irish heart proceeded this action but it is at this time it became a recognized symbol of Ireland.

The Ancient Celtic Legends…
Celtic harps can be found on carvings dating as far back as the 12th century, with surviving examples of actual instruments dating back to the 15th.

The harp legend tells us that Dagda, a chief among the Taatha De Danaan, owned the first Gaelic harp. However, the harp was stolen by the gods of cold and darkness and given to the Fomorians, a group at war with the Taatha. Seeing this, the gods of light and art, Lugh and Ogma, entered the Fomorian fortress, recovered the harp, and restored it to Dagda.

The gods then gave Dagda two secret names for the harp and called forth summer and winter. From then on Dagda could play Goltrai, Geantrai, and Suantrai…Music that could make men weep, music that brought joy, and music that lulled men to sleep. Thus, Celtic harps became known as the dispensers of sorrow, happiness, and rest.

The Glory Days…
In the days of the Celtic chieftains, the harpist was the most honored musician and ranked only behind chiefs and bards in social class. The harpists, often blind, would play as the bards recited poetry for their lords. And, when war came, the harpist would bring forth a golden instrument encrusted with fine jewels, resembling the Tungsten wedding bands of today, in order to lead men into battle and spur them to great deeds.

The Sad Decline…
In the 16th century, harpists would often join revolutionaries for much the same purpose. The British crown, in an effort to stifle the rebellion, banned Celtic harps and instructing their men to kill any harpist and destroy their instruments. They were infamously successful. By the beginning of the 19th century, thanks to British measures and the bankruptcy of the Irish aristocracy, traditional Celtic harp music had all but died out.

Bunting and O’Carolan…

However, in 1792, there was a revival of traditional harp music. A festival was organized and harpists from all over Ireland were tempted with healthy cash prizes. Despite the allure this would seem to provide, only ten harpists showed up.

But the day was not entirely a loss. A 19-year-old English organist named Edward Bunting was hired to notate the music the harpists played. His paper transcription of notes survives today, but the notation does have one flaw: Bunting did not record the bass lines. This part of the music is lost forever.

Nevertheless, Bunting’s 1797, 1809, and 1840 collections of Irish harp music are a wealth of information for the serious student. By providing not only music, but lore and technical information, Bunting gives us all a chance to find out how these instruments were actually played. As well, Bunting’s books are the only records we have for the great Irish harpist, Turlough O’Carolan. Now, instead of the oral tradition being lost on us, we can all read everything in a book.

Official Symbol of Éire…
The Celtic harp symbol found on the presidential flag, state seals, uniforms, and even bottles of Guinness is inspired by an exquisite harp periodically on display at Trinity College, Dublin.

This extraordinary instrument is also known as the Brian Boru harp, named after the famed High King of Ireland. It is the oldest surviving wire-strung frame harp in existence.

Its uniquely straight, boxed base topped by a gracefully arcing curve is immediately recognizable to all who gaze upon it. This harp was also the inspiration of the gold emblem upon the green flag that the rebels flew in the ill-fated Easter Rising of 1916.

Modern Revival…
The 20th century has seen a great resurgence of popularity for the Irish harp. Thanks to traditional musicians such as Derek Bell of the Chieftains, Celtic harps are returning to the fore. No longer only a stale symbol of Ireland, Celtic harps find their music rising heavenward once again, raising the spirit of Ireland once more.

And as technology advances, great strides are being made to recreate the tones of the long distant past. Now people everywhere can rejoice at the sounds that Celtic harps once brought only to the Irish kings of old.

Through mythic lore and a storied past, Celtic harps have been a beloved symbol of Ireland, both in fantasy and in fact, for centuries.

Stamped on the Irish euro of today as well as the Irish coin of old, you will see that the heraldic harp sings of the glorious Emerald Isle with all its countenance. And as they find their voices in the hands of new players, we can all hear the songs of gladness that only Celtic harps can play…today and for generations to come.

Also: Find out about the Irish Shamrock unofficial symbol of Ireland

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Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

by Admin · June 28, 2011

This February Dublin city is hosting the Jameson International Film Festival from the 18th until the 28th. Known as Ireland’s premiere feature film festival, it promises to offer visitors an extensive program of one hundred and thirty films. Both national and international talent will be showcased during the festival’s run with red carpet gala screenings adding some glitz and glamour to the event. In addition the festival will be hosting a number of events alongside the film showings. Visitors will be able to take part in industry master classes, attend interviews with key industry figures as well as hearing about the latest issues in the panel discussions.

The festival originally came to Dublin city in 2003 and since then has become a celebration of film as an art form. Attended by a large number of, directors, actors, screenwriters, and other film industry professionals it really is a unique experience for anyone interested in film. A number of film greats have been shown at the festival over the years, with many high profile individuals joining in the celebration. Those getting involved since the festival begun have included Daniel Day Lewis, Colin Firth, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, and Colin Farrell amongst many others.

Films are presented in a number of different venues across Dublin City centre, including a number of impressive venues. If you like the experience of the big screen then you will be pleased to know that cinemas such as The Savoy and the Lighthouse Cinema will also be screening films. For a vast majority of the films being shown the festival will be the first time they are shown in Ireland. For some the festival will be the only place in Ireland where the films can actually be viewed. Whilst films will be shown from across the globe, The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival places great emphasis on the showcasing the best of Irish Film talent.

A wide range of films from documentary to grand feature films created by home grown industry professionals will be shown. Dublin City is easy to reach by car, being serviced by some of the country’s main motorways. The M50 circles the south, west and North of the city and connects to a number of the national primary routes. The airport is nearby and offers a number of options for car rental should you need to pick up a car to complete your trip. Accommodation in Dublin is plentiful but it is advisable to book in advance as the festival is expected to attract many out of town visitors.

If you have not been to Dublin City before there is a great deal to see and do aside from the Festival. For shopping, dining and nightlife there is a wealth of options to suit all tastes and budgets. If you like film or just want to soak up the atmosphere of the festival then Dublin City is the place to be this February.

Tags: Dublin Film FestivalDublin International Film FestivalJameson Dublin International Film Festival

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Things You Might Not Know About Ireland’s Influence On America

by Peter · November 2, 2015

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How do Irish Americans compare to other Americans when it comes to education, income, life comforts?

And how does the Irish American population compare to the Irish population in numbers?

Check out the info graphic below for all this and more.

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Via: DegreeSearch.org

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