Celticsprite’s Blog

Faerie Lore: Fairy Music & Fairy Gifts
November 27, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts, Fairy Music
Posted from the book “The Fairie Faith in Celtic Countries” by W.Y.Evans-Wentz 1911. Get your kindle version here!

Bean chaol a chot uaine ‘s na gruaige buidhe, ‘the slender woman of the green kirtle and of the yellow hair,’ is wise of head and deft of hand. She can convert the white water of the nil into rich red wine and the threads of the spiders into a tartan plaid. From the stalk of the fairy reed she can bring the music of the lull of the peace and of the repose, however active the brain and lithe the limb; and she can rouse to mirth and merriment, and to the dance, men and women, however dolorous their condition. From the bower could be heard the pipe and the song and the voice of laughter as the fairies ‘sett’ and reeled in the mazes of the dance. Sometimes a man hearing the merry music and seeing the wonderful light within would be tempted to go in and join them, but woe to him if he omitted to leave a piece of iron at the door of the bower on entering, for the cunning fairies would close the door and the man would find no egress. There he would dance for years–but to him the years were as one day–while his wife and family mourned him as dead.

‘My grandmother believed firmly in fairies, and I have heard her tell a good many stories about them. They were a small people dressed in green, and had dwellings underground in dry spots. Fairies were often heard in the hills over there (pointing), and I believe something was there. They were awful for music, and’ used to be heard very often playing the bagpipes. A woman wouldn’t go out in the dark after giving birth to a child before the child was christened, so as not to give the fairies power over her or the child. And I have heard people say that if fairies were refused milk and meat they would take a horse or a cow; and that if well treated they would repay all gifts.’

"The Welsh Take Their Hornpipes Nice and Slow " by Danny Carnahan
November 23, 2009, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Reviews on Celtic Tunes by Danny Carnahan

This article by Danny Carnahan was previously issued on the Mandolin Magazine. All rights reserved by the author and posted under his kind permission.
[Click here for printable notation for “Gypsy Hornpipe”]

Hornpipes have always been the poor relation in the Celtic dance tune family. Irish and Scottish enthusiasts play hundreds of jigs and reels for every hornpipe they bother to learn. And yet, hornpipes enjoy just as rich a history and just as satisfying an emotional pallette as the more common dance forms.

I eased into Irish music from the old-time side, learning fiddle tunes at competitions and musical gatherings, and usually starting out with American takes on tunes that I later learned had Irish or Scottish origins and sometimes very different settings to compare with. My earliest acquaintance with hornpipe dates from my flirtation with bluegrass and old-time, so I’d learned a handful of hornpipes from hotshots competing at California festivals before I found out that they weren’t all supposed to sound like reels.

The hornpipe started out as a particular, highly syncopated clog dance, often associated with things nautical, that needed to go at a particular speed in order for the dancer to fit in all the fancy clogging moves. Once upon a time, all hornpipes ended each 8-bar part with this rhythmic phrase:

[Click here for printable rhythmic notation]

In time, as all dance tunes were weaned away from necessary connection with dancing, hornpipes got straightened out a bit and sometimes merely hinted at the old dance steps while encouraging players to speed them up and give them slightly different energy. Nowadays, your average hot American setting of “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” for example, can be medleyed with reels and played with top-gear abandon and sheer rock-n-roll drive.
But there are still corners of the Celtic world where hornpipes retain some of their old glory and are prized for not being quite like any other dance. South Wales is an extraordinarily musical place where hornpipes flourish in unique ways. In addition to the popularity of a capella traditional choral music and the huge triple-strung harp literature played by masters like Robin Huw Bowen, on any given day from Newport to Swansea you can likely find a local village dance or “twmpathan” where accordions and whistles and small pipes and fiddles keep the boisterous locals dancing half the night.

The Welsh excel in happy-sounding tunes. On balance, you’ll get many more pure major tunes in a Welsh session than the darker Irish modal tunes or the Scots tunes borrowed from the Highland pipes, with their built-in flatted sevens. And if you happened to stumble across a “twmpathan,”you might be surprised both at the frequency that hornpipes are dropped into the mix and with the different ways hornpipes are played there.

Mick Tems and Pat Carron-Smith, the married two-thirds of the trio Calennig, have been based in Llantrisant, South Wales, a lovely little hill town north of Cardiff, for many years. It seems that every time I wandered through, there was a dance on that night and Mick and Pat were running it—Mick on accordion, Pat on concertina, whistles, and spoons, and both singing lustily in English and Welsh. Their band-mate Peter Davies added all manner of pipes and woodwinds and the mix was always fun.

Mick and Pat have collected some marvelous hornpipes. Their inclination with the dances is not to straighten them out, but to occasionally lean toward a polka-like swing, which encourages wild dancing without ripping through the tune too fast. And a good thing, too, since many of the hornpipes have wonderful melodic shapes and unusual forms. The native Welsh tune “Y Lili” (The Lily) is a 24-bar hornpipe that carries a whiff of Scotland with it. And “Y Bregeth” (The Sermon) has got to be the only 112-bar hornpipe ever written, this from an old collection and reintroduced into the tradition by harper Robin Huw Bowen. Both tunes are on Calennig’s CD “Dwr Glan” (Sain SCD4025, 1990), which is rare but available through Folkwales. Visit the site for more about Calennig and to further whet your appetite for Welsh tradition. And send out good wishes to Mick, who’s recovering from a stroke. The village dances need him back soon.

The tune I have for you this time, “Gypsy Hornpipe #1,” is not on Mick and Pat’s CD, but I swear I’ve heard them play it in Llantrisant. It’s been recorded but I can’t recall by whom. This is both a perfect example of a pure, old-fashioned hornpipe and a typically happy Welsh melody. There’s really no trick to playing it, other than to play it every bit as syncopated as indicated in the notation. And I find I often play a unison low D with the high D on the first beat of the 5th bar in the B part, since the melody in the previous bar is pointing you down in that direction.

I hope this won’t be the last Welsh tune to find its way into your repertoire. We can’t have too many happy tunes these days.
here for printable notation for “Gypsy Hornpipe”]

The Claddag Ring: Symbolism in Music
November 18, 2009, 7:22 pm
Filed under: Celtic Jewellery, Reviews, Suggested Albums
The Claddagh Ring tradition and symbolism is not only present in stories and movies, but also in music! There is a recording label with it’s name which has issued great albums from talented artists and even depicting the Claddagh Ring on some covers. Such the case of the “The Chieftains 5” album which featured a pic of the ring on the back cover of the original 1975 vinyl release. They also issued an Anthology of Traditional Irish Music, Vols 1 & 2 under the title of ” Claddagh’s Choice” with a cover illustration looking rather like a jeweller’s tray, it is more of a showcase for Claddagh Records,it reflects Claddagh’s view of Irish tradition.
Curiously the Scottish “Simple Minds” rock band also features the claddagh symbol on several of their album covers. 

Curiously the Scottish “Simple Minds” rock band features the claddagh symbol on several of their album covers.

“Black and white 050505” album has theoriginal inspiration of the hands artwork , a graphic on the Swedish website http://www.spray.de. A sketch of these hands was used for the promo artwork.

The sleeve for the booklet was far more interesting including bullets with enscribed Claddaghs, razors, barbed wire, hearts and eyes – the most impressive artwork since Good News From The Next World.

A 1990 box set of rare material : The Silver Box – also depicts the claddagh symbol, so as the 2007 “The Platinum Collection” box set, featuring all their single releases through Virgin plus remixes, and the “Gift Pack” a bundle of 2001’s The Best Of along with 2004’s Seen The Lights: Live In Verona.

Regarding Irish Traditional Music we can find out a great tune “The Old Claddagh Ring” performed as a waltz, you may listen to a nice version by Dermot O’Brien here. Hereby the sheet music of the tune…

Moreover we may find a great song related to a Claddagh ring love story. My favourite version was recorded by the scottish singer Andy M. Stewart along with Phil Cunningham (both former members of the legendary folk band “Silly Wizard”) on their “Fire and Flame” album. Hereby the lyrics…

The Gold Claddagh Ring

It being a fine morning, this young man he chose
That he’d make occasion to wear his fine clothes

And it’s down to the glen where the bonnie lassie goes
To give her a token of his love, we suppose

“Mary, oh Mary, if I could be your man
Between you and danger I fearlessly would stand

With this gold claddagh ring on your lily-white hand
Oh, there ne’er was another would dress you so grand.”

There’s no sun in summer there’s no flowers in spring
Her hands hold my heart like the gold claddagh ring.

“Johnny, oh Johnny the ring it is of gold
And it’s hands and fine heart, they are lovely to behold

But if I had the ring for one evening to hold
Then you shall have my answer e’er the week shall be old.”

“Oh why have the weeks gone and not an answer came ?
And why is it that women are smarter than men ?

Oh the girl’s kept the ring which I shall ne’er see again
Oh, she has many like it in a fine box at hame.”

There’s no sun in summer there’s no flowers in spring
Her hands hold my heart like the gold claddagh ring.

It being a fine morning, this young man he chose
That he’d make occasion to wear his fine clothes

And it’s down to the glen where the bonnie lassie goes
To give her a token of his love, we suppose

There’s no sun in summer there’s no flowers in spring
Her hands hold my heart like the gold claddagh ring.
Oh, her hands hold my heart like the gold claddagh ring.

You may also find out a different version here.

Celtic Cookery : Irish Soup Marigold and Mutton Broth
November 17, 2009, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Celtic Cookery

Compiled by Conrad Bladey from the book “Soyer’s Standard Cookery” by Nicolas Soyer, 1912 .
Posted by kind permission of Conrad Bladey. All rights reserved.

Irish Soup Marigold and Mutton Broth

Any description of trimmings of mutton may be used for broth, but the scrag ends of the neck are usually chosen. Put two scrags into a stewpan (having previously jointed the bones), with three onions, three turnips, and one carrot; fill up the stewpan with a gallon of water, and place it upon the fire; when boiling, set it at the corner, where let it simmer for three hours, keeping it well skimmed; then cut a small carrot, two turnips, an onion, with a little leek and celery, into small square pieces, which put into another stewpan, with a wine- glassful of pearl-barley; skim every particle of fat from the broth, which pour through a hair sieve over them; let the whole boil gently at the corner of the fire until the barley is tender, when it is ready to serve; the meat may be trimmed into neat pieces, and served with the broth, or separately with melted butter and parsley, or onion sauce. Half or even a quarter of the above quantity can be made by reducing the ingredients in proportion.

Irish Soup Made of Mutton Broth.

This soup is made similar to the last, adding ten or twelve mealy potatoes cut into large dice, omitting the other vegetables, which being boiled to a puree thicken the broth; just before serving, throw in twenty heads of parsley, and at the same time add a few flowers of marigold, which will really give it a very pleasing flavor.

Robin Williamson : Cool Interview Links
November 16, 2009, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Robin Williamson

Hi to all!…

For those who love the work of the scottish “bard” Robin Williamson, I attach hereby a couple of cool recent interview links…

* A 2008 Interview done by my friend Tim Hoke and published by Green Man Review. Click here for the source since I am not authorized to post it.

* A 2009 video interview done by the Spanish Television due to a concert held by Robin in Cadiz, promoting his last work “Just like the river and other songs with guitar“. Click here for the source.

The Claddagh Ring : The Story
November 13, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Celtic Jewellery

The Claddagh Story

Misty fables surrounds one of Ireland’s unique treasures, “The Claddagh” a symbol of Love, Friendship and loyalty.

Some 400 years ago in a fishing village called Claddagh overlooking Galway Bay, close to the city of the Tribes, lived Richard Joyce a Master Goldsmith. It was he who crafted this now famous design that has become part of the Irish heritage.

There are many versions but this is the story I love most as recounte by Leigh O’Meachair

Some 400 years ago in a fishing village called Claddagh overlooking Galway Bay, close to the city of the Tribes, lived Richard Joyce a Master Goldsmith. It was he who crafted this now famous design that has become part of the Irish heritage.

The first Claddagh Ring was the creation of Richard Joyce, an Irish fisherman who lived during the seventeenth century. He sailed the high seas all over the world, and he was working near Montserrat when his ship was boarded by pirates and raided. Joyce was kidnapped, and taken to a Moorish goldsmith in Algiers, where he was forced to work in slavery.

Joyce was soon a highly skilled goldsmith, able to craft delicate objects of beauty out of the precious metal. His skills in the shop were highly prized by his master. Joyce longed for his native Ireland, and spent years pining for the woman he left behind in the city of Galway. Her name was Margaret, and she was his one true love.

When King William III denounced slavery in the West Indies and ordered all citizens of the British Crown being held released, Joyce gained his freedom. The goldsmith did not wish to lose the master metal working skills of his Irish servant, and it is believed that he enticed Joyce to stay, with riches, and even with the offer of his own daughter’s hand in marriage. But Joyce could not be swayed. He blessed King William for granting him his freedom, and he soon sailed for Ireland,

with a very special piece of jewelry in his pocket.

While Joyce had worked in the shop, he had found a way to illustrate his love for Margaret, without saying a word. He had fashioned a special ring, which featured two tiny hands, gently holding onto a crowned heart, as a symbol of his undying love and loyalty.

When Joyce returned to Galway, he was thrilled to find his love waiting for him. She had never given up hope, just as he had remained steadfast in his ardor. He presented her with the golden ring he made in her honour, now known as the Royal Claddagh Ring, and they were together forever after. Never again would misfortune part Richard Joyce from the one he loved.

Hereby I attach some cool links for further information on this subject:

The Story of the Claddagh Ring

History of the Claddag Ring

Claddagh rings, Claddagh Jewelry, & Irish Wedding Bands


The Claddagh Ring: Origin – The Fede Rings
November 13, 2009, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Celtic Jewellery
The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the city of Galway. The ring was first produced in the 17th century during the reign of Queen Mary II, though elements of the design are much older.

According to Baxters Jewellers the Claddagh Ring was first made by Richard Joyce, a member of an ancient Galway family who was abducted by Algerian Corsicans while on a sea voyage and sold as a slave to the Moors. It was during this period that Joyce was taught to work as a goldsmith. In 1689 he was released as part of a general amnesty agreed by William III of England and the Moors. Joyce returned to Galway where he set up as a goldsmith. It was here on the shore or “Claddagh” of Galway Bay that the first Claddagh Ring was created.

The Claddagh ring belongs to a widespread group of finger rings called “Fede Rings”. The name “fede” comes from the Italian phrase mani in fede (“hands in trust” or “hands in faith”). These rings date from Roman times, when the gesture of clasped right hands (dextrarum iunctio) was a popular design style (vid. Jones).

Fede rings are often cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolizing faith, trust or engagement. Fede rings were popular in the Middle Ages throughout Europe, and there are examples from this era in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

According to Sir William Jones, on his book Finger-ring Lore,Chatto & W

indus, 1890. the Claddugh (Jones’ original spelling) was part of Claddagh‘s tradition; Jones says the natives of Claddugh [sic] are “particularly exclusive in their tastes and habits.”

The Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) caused many to emigrate from Ireland, and the Claddagh ring spread along with the emigrants to the United States and elsewhere. Now the design is worn worldwide. These rings are often considered antique, and passed on from mother to daughter as well as between friends and lovers.

A “Fenian” Claddagh, without the crown, was later designed in Dublin for the Irish Republican community, but that is not an indication that the crown in

the original design was intended as a symbol of fidelity to the British crown.

The Fenian Claddagh, while still in use, does not quite share the popularity of the ancient design.

In any event, it seems likely that the crown was intended to represent the ancient kings of Ireland.

Earliest Examples

W. Dillon in his publication on “The Claddagh Ring” in the Galway Archaeological Society Journal, Vol. IV, 1905-6, defines the limits over which the ring is worn as roughly from the Aran Islands on the West, and through all Connemara an

d Joyce Country to Galway, and then eastward and southward for not more than 12 miles at most. The whole district is the one served by fisherfolk of the Claddagh village just outside the city of Galway, but became known as the Claddagh ring probably because of the proximity to the city of the large Claddagh fishing community using the ring alone.

Dillon describes some early rings, one with a mitre-like crown, rings made from coins, an analogous ring from Brittany, a “Munster” ring, also Spanish rings with some similarities. He tells us that the Claddagh ring was the only ring ever made in Ireland worn by Queen Victoria and later by Queen Alexandra and King

Edward VII. Their rings were made by Dillons of Galway, established in 1750, to whom the Royal Patent was granted and the tradition has been carried on at Dillons to this day. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco in 1962 were presented with gifts embodying the Claddagh ring motif set in Connemara marble.

In 1984 when Galway celebrated its Quincentennial as a Mayoral City, the people of Galway presented a specially commissioned 18 carat gold Claddagh ring to President Ronald Reagan.

The earliest examples of Claddagh rings that can be dated are stamped

with RI, the mark of Richard Joyce, a goldsmith working in Galway circa 1689-1737, of the Joyce Tribe, one of the renowned “Fourteen Tribes of Galway” City. According to Dr. Kurt Ticker in “The Claddagh Ring – A West of Ireland Folklore Custom” (1980) interest in Claddagh rings became dormant after Richard Joyce ended his manufacturing career in the 1730s, and it was revived a generation or more later, probably by George Robinson (Dillon in fact had attributed the earliest ring to Robinson). From then on a number of Galway goldsmiths and jewellers of Galway made Claddagh rings. Their early manufacture was by cuttle-bone mould casting, then the cire perdue or “lost wax” process up to the 1840s, when manufacture became commercialised.

Some marks on Claddagh Rings from the latter part of the 17th to the early part of the 18th century