Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What music would Saint Patrick have listened to?

Saint Patrick
From Wikipedia: "The dates of Patrick’s life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century (450-500 AD). He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland."

Music of the Gauls

Roman writers give us some account of the character of the music of the Gauls, which differed much from the Greco-Latin songs. Roman historians make mention of the songs of the Gallic bards, who were poets and musicians as well, composing both religious hymns and songs in honor of their heroes. According to Diodorus of Sicily, the Gauls practiced the musical art long before the Christian Era, having regular schools for the instruction of the younger bards. The instrument used in accompanying their songs was a sort of lyre, judging from representations on some gold medals made in the time of Julius Caesar. Charlemagne ordered a collection of the early Gallic songs to be made, but the work has not survived.

The Celtic Bards

Breton Crouth
The Breton bards made use of an instrument the name of which is variously spelled Crouth, Crowd, Chrotta, Crwth, played with a bow, with an opening in the upper part through which the performer placed the left hand in order to press the strings, the number of which varied from three to six. The crouth of the Welsh bards differed in some respects from those that were made use of by the Breton bards. With them, however, a form of the harp became the national instrument. The early history of Celtic music in Wales in particular, is mingled with myth. We have only the names of bards, Fingal, Fergus and Ossian, no authentic music. What is of importance to us is the secular organization of the bards. One class included poets, historians and those skilled in the science of heraldry; another class comprehended musical bards, harp players bearing the title of doctors of music, players of the six stringed crouth and singers, who must have been skilled men, since nine years study was exacted of them.

Irish Harp
The traditionary bard of Ireland is Fergus, whose songs were of war and heroes. When St. Patrick introduced Christianity into Ireland in the 5th century, learning and skill in the arts of poetry and music grew to be cultivated as extensively as in more favored lands. In the Loth century, the famous musician was the King O’Brien Boru, whose harp is still shown in the Dublin Museum. This has twenty-eight strings, and the sounding board, in which there are four holes, is very large at the base. After Ireland was conquered by the English its culture declined, owing to continuous wars and internal strife.





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