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 Turlough O'Carolan

Turlough O'Carolan

Birth
Nobber, County Meath, Ireland
Death 25 Mar 1738 (aged 67–68)
County Roscommon, Ireland
Burial Keadue, County Roscommon, Ireland
Memorial ID 5859259 · View Source
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Harpist, Composer, Poet. The last of the great Irish bards, he was his country's most famous musician of the 18th Century. Many consider him Ireland's national composer. Born near Nobber, County Meath, his name in Gaelic was Toirdhealbhach O Cearbhallain and recorded in English as Carolan or O'Carolan. He wrote poetry as a youth but expressed little interest in music until he was blinded by smallpox at age 18. The wife of a wealthy landowner, Mrs. MacDermott Roe, paid for him to study the harp and in 1691 he set out on his lifelong career as an itinerant musician. He traveled throughout Ireland, concocting tunes during his journeys and then improvising lyrics to flatter various patrons. By the 1710s his services were in such demand that weddings and funerals would be delayed until he arrived to perform. Dublin-based composer Francesco Geminiani was among his admirers. In 1737 he retired to the MacDermott Roe home in Keadue, County Roscommon, where he died. Approximately 230 of Carolan's tunes survive. Some were published in 1728 and 1744, but the majority were passed along over the years in the repertories of local musicians. A complete edition did not appear until 1958. Carolan broke with the poetry-based Irish bard tradition by placing primary importance on the musical element of his songs, which enabled him to indulge his remarkable melodic gifts, and they are usually heard today in instrumental arrangements. Historians do not rate his lyrics highly; most are of an ephemeral nature or recall humorous anecdotes from his life. Occasionally he linked songs together to tell little stories. In "Farewell to Whiskey" Carolan's physician forbids him to drink; in the sequel, "Carolan's Receipt", he bribes another doctor to prescribe him all the alcohol he wants. His music, on the other hand, is fairly sophisticated, combining Folk and Classical elements and showing a keen awareness of continental trends. One of his best known pieces, "Carolan's Concerto", is a virtuosic harp solo with more than a hint of Italian Baroque. This cosmopolitan approach offended such old school harpists as Denis O'Hampsey, who refused to play his music on principle, but it gave his songs a wider popular appeal. Among his other works are "Si Bheag, Si Mhor", "Carolan's Welcome", "Eleanor Plunkett", "Planxty Irwin", and "Carolan's Draught". There are many monuments to Carolan in his homeland, including a cenotaph at Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral, and a Carolan Harp Festival is held annually in Keadue.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: David Conway
  • Added: 19 Oct 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5859259
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Turlough O'Carolan (1670–25 Mar 1738), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5859259, citing Kilronan Abbey, Keadue, County Roscommon, Ireland ; Maintained by Find A Grave .