Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór

We haven’t had much in the way of instrumental music in this series, so here is one of my favourite instrumentals, ‘Si Bheag, Si Mhor’ by the blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), arranged and played by William Coulter.

Wikipedia says of O’Carolan,

(he) was a blind early Irish harper, composer and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition. He was the last great Irish harper-composer and is considered by many to be Ireland’s national composer. Harpers in the old Irish tradition were still living as late as 1792…but there is no proof of any of these being composers. Ó Hámsaigh did play some of Carolan’s music but disliked it for being too modern. Some of O’Carolan’s own compositions show influence from the style of continental classical music, whereas others such as Carolan’s Farewell to Music reflect a much older style of “Gaelic Harping”.

‘Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór’ is said to have been Carolan’s first song – the piece he wrote after he was urged to take up composition at the first house he ever visited. The title translates as “The little fairy hill and the big fairy hill” and is said to be based upon a local legend about a war between two fairy armies.

William Coulter is a well-known American guitarist (amongst many other things, he was the guitarist on Eilis Kennedy’s CD ‘A Time to Sail’, mentioned in the previous post). His website is here.


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