CD A0353: The Harpers Conellan

The Harpers Conellan
Kathleen Loughnane

CD Cover: The Harpers Conellan"What always strikes me about Kathleen Loughnane's music is its tastiness, arrived at through the extraordinary sensitivity of her arrangements. Her playing of slow airs stops me in my tracks. The phrasing and 'holding' in the airs, the syncopation and offbeat rhythms of the dance tunes all contribute to the uniquely spirited character of her music. This album is of particular interest in that it pushes a door ajar for us, giving us access to some of the energies of the Gaelic harp tradition during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the era of the Wild Geese." Mary Bergin.

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Other recordings and Sheet Music by Kathleen Loughnane

Track Listing & Audio Samples

1.   The Jointure and Jig/ A Ghadai Ghoid Mo Shlainte Uaim
2.   The dawn of day/Eiri an Lae
3.   Bonny Jean
4.   True Love is a tormenting pain
5.   The two William Davis's
6.   Molly Mc Alpin/Maili Nic Ailpin
7.   Pol Halfpenny
8.   Celia Connellan/ Sile Ni Chonnallain
9.   Molly St. George
10. Love in secret / Lady Ivegh
11. Lochaber
12. Marbhna Luimni / Limerick's Lamentation / King James's march to Dublin

The sheet music for these tunes are in the companion book The Harpers Connellan

Notes & Credits

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The Harpers Connellan - Irish Music of the late 17th century - Kathleen Loughnane

The brothers Thomas and William Connellan were born in Cloonmahon, Co. Sligo. Their dates are not precisely known, but spanned the years 1640-1720, a period of great political and social upheaval in Ireland. Most of the Catholic Irish landowning class lost their lands and property to English and Scottish settlers in the aftermath of the Cromwellian war (1649-53), and the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, ending the Williamite Wars, marked the end of the system of patronage which had supported harpers such as the Connellans.

The Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, attended by the remnants of this tradition of harping, is seen as marking the end of an era. Thanks, however, to the work of Edward Bunting at the Belfast festival, the music carried on. Bunting collected nine tunes attributed to the Connellans, which I play on this recording. I have also included some tunes of Scottish origin associated with the Connellans in the lore of the harpers and musicians who kept their memory alive in subsequent years. There was clearly a pool of tunes common to Irish and Scottish musicians which were adapted and, occasionaly, retitled and attributed to another composer. In anaurally transmitted culture this would be a natural occurrence. In his account of the life and times of the Irish Harpers, taken down around 1810, the harper Arthur O' Neill, Thomas Connellan's celebrity was great in Ireland and it would seem that he was no less popular in Scotland. He comments:
"Conlan arrived to City honours in Edinburgh, chiefly by means of that tune among others. I heard they made him a bailie or burgomaster in Edinburgh, where he died."

Council records suggest that Thomas Connellan was made Burgess of Edinburgh in January 1717. Even in this small repertoire of tunes we can glean a representative impression of Gaelic harping at a time of major social and cultural transition. Different styles of music - the Gaelic harping tradition, baroque music and country music of the period- are in evidence in the tunes. I have greatly enjoyed making an individual interpretation of them from a familiarity with the idiom of traditional music of my own time.

All reference to Bunting's collections relate to The Ancient Music of Ireland (Waltons, Dublin 1969), a facsimile edition of the three Bunting Collection of 1796, 1809 and 1840.

In these, Edward Bunting attributes to Thomas Connellans the composition of the tunes The Dawn of Day, Love in Secret, Jointure and Jig, Molly St George, Celia Connellan and Bonny Jean. He attributes True Love is a Tormenting Pain and Molly Mac Alpin to William Connellan, while Lady Iveagh is attributed to both William and Thomas in different MSS. Given that the harpers travelled so regularly between Ireland and Scotland, I have also included Marbbna Luimni with its variants King James's March to Dublin and Lochaber No More. In addition, The Two William Davis's, a variant of the Scottish tune Killiekrankie, was associated with the Connellans in the love of the generation of harpers who gathered at the Belfast Harp festival in 1792.

1.  The Jointure and Jig / A Ghadai Ghoid Mo Shlainte Uaim
Hugh Higgins at the Belfast Harp festival in 1792, contributed this air with jig variation to Bunting's collections. A variant of the tune appears in Neal's Collection of The Most Celebrated Irish Tunes (1724) with the title "StaryGhed Ma Lousa Voem". Another copy appears in Wright's Aria di Camera (c. 1730). The version I play is essentially based on Bunting's version, which is different in style to others of his tunes and again could reflect an older style of harp composition. As with most of the music of this period, there are many unanswered questions in relation to the original performance practice, so contemporary players must make their own decisions.

2.  The dawn of day/Eiri an Lae
Edward Bunting noted this air from the harper Denis Hempson. His copy in MS33 book 2 is entitled The Dawn of Day (with variations by Mr Purty Ugly), a reference to Hempson's appearance; he was apparently known as 'the man with two heads.' Variants of this tune have appeared in Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs Vol.3 (c.1788), Holden's Collection, Old Established Irish Slow and Quick tunes (1806), and Walker's Irish Bards, second edition, (1816) Vol.2. The words were noted by Patrick Lynch, an Irish scholar from County Down whom Bunting employed c.1802-03 to write the words of songs.

3.  Bonny Jean
Bunting (1840) includes Bonny Jean in his section on the listing of compositions of Thomas Connellan. However there is no version of the tune in Bunting's Mss. It is clearly Scottish in origin. I play an adaption of an arrangement for harpsichord by Francesco Barsanti, a well established baroque composer who spent time in Edinburgh and Dublin. It is possible that Thomas Connellan popularized the tune in Ireland, or at least that it formed part of his repertoire.

4.  True Love is a tormenting pain
This reflective air is quite different in style to Connellan's other tunes and perhaps suggests an older style of harp composition dating to the Bardic period and in decline by this time.

5.  The two William Davis's
Hardiman in Irish Minstrelsy (1831) states that this tune was composed by Thomas Connellan. However current research clearly points to a Scottish origin to the tune which was composed not much later than the battle of Killiekrankie in July 1689, where Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee (Bonny Dundee) was killed. It appears in the Atkinson MS in the library in Newcastle upon Tyne only a few years after the battle, and and in several of the Scottish collections. It is conceivable that onnellan in his travels in Scotland added this tune to his repertoire and popularized it in Ireland. The tune appears in the recently found MS (c. 1780-1800) by Carrick-on-Suir farmer Padraig O'Neill (1765-1832) (Book 1, p.39), and in several Scottish MSS. The Irish variant which Cormac and I play here is based on the tune notated in Donal O'Sullivan's Carolan, Volume 1.

6.  Molly Mc Alpin/Maili Nic Ailpin
Bunting noted this evocative air from the harp playing of Kate Martin. It is in MS29 and also appears in Bunting's 1769 volume of tunes. It is likely that the words are also by William Connellan. The tune appears under the title Molly Halfpenny in several collections, including Neal's Music of Ireland and Mulholland's Ancient Irish Airs (1810).

7.  Pol Halfpenny
This very distinctive air spawned several dance versions including the two here recorded, the first of which was inspired by the piping of Patsy Tuohy. An Irish traditional musician will approach a harper's tune in an improvisatory style of the tune. Cormac is playing a set of pipes made by Egan in the 1850's. The restoration of this set is a work in progress.

8.  Celia Connellan/ Sile Ni Chonnallain
Nothing is known of Sile Ni Chonnallain and whether she was a relative of the composer or not. This tune is an alman (allemande), a popular instrumental dance form in the Baroque period and a standard element of a suite. Sile Ni Chonnallain appears in a number of collections from the late 18th century. This version comes from Bunting's 1840 volume (No. 49) from Arthur O' Neill (1734-1818). Both tunes have common elements in the second part.

9.  Molly St. George
This delightfull air was collected by Bunting from harper Hugh Higgins and appears in MS29 and in Bunting's 1796 volume. There are several variants printed- in Neal's Collection of The Most Celebrated Irish Tunes(1724), in Wright's Aria Di Camera (c.1730), in Coffey's The Beggar's Wedding and in Burk Thumoth's Twelve English and Twelve Irish Airs (1745-50). The words were collected from Denis Hempson, who states that "this lady was bred in Connaught and heiress to a large estate". The subject of Connellan's song may well have been Mary St. George, daughter of Lieutenant General Richard St. George, commander of the forces in Ireland. On the 15th of July, 1749, she married James Mansergh of Macrony Castle Co Cork.

10. Love in secret; Lady Ivegh
Two galliards, a type of courtly music played for dancers in the Renaissance period - 'a light and stirring kind of dance'. Composers continued to write music for the galliard long after its popularity as a dance had died out. Bunting collected these tunes from Arthur O'Neill at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. Lady Iveagh, who married into the Butler family of Kilcash, Co Tipperary, was the daughter of the 7th Earl of Clanricarde.

11. Lochaber
Limerick's Lamentation (Marbhna Luimni) was known under the name Lochaber in Scotland, the poet Alan Ramsey having published words to it in 1724. Arthur O' Neil recounts in his memoirs the playing of "Limerick's Lamentation or Tom Conlon's stolen tune which he called Lochaber in Scotland". The harpers travelling between Ireland and Scotland were as likely to adapt Scottish airs as they were Irish.

12. Marbhna Luimni / Limerick's Lamentation ; King James's march to Dublin

This beautiful tune appears three times in the Bunting MSS. It has been claimed by both Ireland and Scotland and much has been written about its origin. The consensus of musicologists would now seem to favour a Scottish highland origin to the tune (see Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Vol.6,(reprinted 1967) for a full exploration of the tune's journeying). One of the variants of the tune, with the title King James's March to Ireland, commemorates the march of King James II from Kinsale to Dublin, March 1689.


Recorded mixed and mastered by Bruno Staehelin, Kinvara (
except for tracks 1,2,10,11 recorded by Ruairi O'Flaherty, Artigallivan, Killarney.
Graphic Design Tom Parandyk.
Sleeve notes Kathleen Loughnane.
Harps made by Larry Fisher/Paddy Cafferky.
Translation Moya Cannon.

Thanks to all my friends in music. Cormac, Paul and Catriona, Moya Cannon, Roisin Mc Louglin, Aibhlin Mc Crann, Helen Davis, Ann Callanan and Sean Ryan, Martin Enright, Aidan Mannion, my friends in Dordan Mary, Dearbhaill and Martina, Brendan Flynn, The Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Guest Musicians
Harp:  Kathleen Loughnane (all tracks, bar track 11)
          Catriona Cannon (tr.1)
Tenor guitar : Alec Finn (track 2,3,4,8,12)
Cello : Adrian Mantu (2,3,4,8,12)
Uilleann Pipes : Cormac Cannon ( tracks 5,7,11)
Fiddle : Liam Lewis (track 9)
Vocalists : Sean Garvey (tracks 2 & 11)
Eamonn O Bhroithe (track 9)


Album & Artist Information

Title:     The Harpers Connellan
Artists: Kathleen Loughnane + guests
Instruments:     Harp + acc on some tracks
(see Credits above)
Genre: Irish Music late 17 century
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0353
MCPS: --
Label: Reiskmore Music
Year: 2009
Origin: Ireland