Turlough O

by Paul H. Umfleet

I have spent the past couple of years or so studying (read obsessed with) the music and life of the Irish harper / composer Turlough O’Carolan. I have read all that I could find about him including spending the big bucks on the nearly 400 page tome “Carolan, The Life and Times of an Irish Harper” by Donal O’Sullivan. This seems to be the definitive source. I will not spend too much time on a biography since you can find a vast amount of information online if you are interested in learning more. However, I do think his music will be more appreciated if you know a little about his life.

Turlough O’Carolan was born in 1670, near Nobber, County Meath, Ireland. Around the age of 18 he was made blind by smallpox. At that time his father was working for Mrs. MacDermott-Roe and she took an interest in young Turlough. She bought a harp for him and paid for instruction. After 3 years of study she then provided money, a horse and guide to lead him on his career. Carolan spent the rest of his life traveling Ireland. He, like other itinerant harpers of the era, was welcomed into the homes of the rich and noble and treated more like family than a servant. It appears that Carolan was treated even a notch above the others of his time. While he was not the greatest player he was well respected for his compositions. He would often compose a tune or two for the family he was staying with and often named it after certain family members. In 1738 Carolan returned to the home of the MacDermott-Roe’s to die.

About these arrangements --- According to Donal O’Sullivan about 225 of Carolan’s tunes have survived. Of all the recordings I have, maybe 30 or 40 are all that ever seem to get played. Studying these tunes I first had to check for range and accidentals beyond the limits of the whistle. That probably eliminated half. Then there were some that for other reasons I just did not care for. That left the 94 tunes I decided to arrange. O’Sullivan’s book and web sources just have the melody lines that have survived. I first had to transpose to keys that will work on the whistle then do some octave changes here and there to keep the tune within range. Then I had to work through each tune deciding what chords to use. After that was done I used a computer program to create and record the accompaniment parts. Then came the real challenge- playing the parts I had written along with the accompaniments I had recorded. Many, many takes were needed on some of these.

The end result --- What I have created is the sheet music for 94 (some are medleys) Carolan tunes, the accompaniment parts so any C instrument can play along and recordings of me playing the tunes. I also threw in an original composition (Mr. O’Carolan) that I tried to write more or less in the style of Carolan.

It was very difficult to narrow down to the tunes to print in this book. I was limited to 40 arrangements to fit on an 80 min CD. The rest of the tunes are on the enclosed CD ROM in PDF and mp3 files. I hope you enjoy them.

1 Carolan's Welcome ----mp3 file----sample pdf
2 Bumper Squire Jones ----mp3 file
3 Sir Ulick Burke ----mp3 file
4 Separation of Soul and Body ----mp3 file----sample pdf
5 Ode to Whiskey / One Bottle More ----mp3 file
6 Miss MacMurray ----mp3 file
7 Mrs. Maxwell (1st Setting) ----mp3 file
8 Cremonea ----mp3 file----sample pdf
9 O'Flinn / General Wynne ----mp3 file
10 Planxty George Brabazon ----mp3 file
11 Two William Davises ----mp3 file
12 Isabella Burke ----mp3 file
13 Lady Athenry ----mp3 file
14 George Reynolds ----mp3 file
15 Pleasant Regal Young Lady ----mp3 file
16 Dark, Plaintive Youth ----mp3 file
17 Planxty Burke ----mp3 file
18 Mrs. Edwards ----mp3 file
19 Carolan's Cup ----mp3 file
20 Sir Arthur Shaen ----mp3 file
21 John O'Connor / George Brabazon ----mp3 file
22 Lament for Owen O'Rourke ----mp3 file
23 Hugh O'Donnell ----mp3 file
24 Sheebeg and Sheemore ----mp3 file
25 James Crofton ----mp3 file
26 Dolly MacDonough ----mp3 file
27 Bridget Cruise - 3rd and 4th settings ----mp3 file
28 Carolan's Quarrel with the Landlady ----mp3 file
29 Squire Wood's Lamentation on the Refusal of His Halfpence ----mp3 file
30 Carolan's Concerto ----mp3 file
31 Charles O'Conor ----mp3 file
32 Lament for Terence MacDonough ----mp3 file
33 Thomas Burke ----mp3 file
34 Planxty Crilly ----mp3 file
35 Carolan's Draught ----mp3 file
36 Lady St. John ----mp3 file
37 Conor O'Reilly ----mp3 file
38 Maurice O'Connor 1st and 2nd Air ----mp3 file
39 Mr. O'Carolan ----mp3 file
40 Carolan's Farewell to Music ----mp3 file

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