In the early 50s, Irish music was in a very bad way. There were only a couple of programmes of traditional music in the week on Radio (sic) Éireann. Then there came a revival. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in 1951. Then groups of folk singers started to appear, like the Clancy Brothers, the Dubliners and the Chieftains. Gael Linn produced records that were in huge demand. Traditional music went from strength to strength. Riverdance brought Irish music to a worldwide audience. Aimée Banks did the same last Saturday in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Raidió na Gaeltachta and later,TG4, have played an important part in the promotion of Irish music.
There had been a revival of music previously. The old way of life was disappearing in 18th century Ireland. Traditionally Irish poets and musicians had been supported by the Gaelic aristocracy. But with the new order, musicians were ’playing music to empty pockets’. In 1779 a Harp Festival was organised in Belfast. The great harpists of the country gathered and Edward Bunting transcribed their tunes, including some of the work of Turlough Carlin. Carlin had died sixty years previously. His father worked for Annraoi MacDiarmada Rua in County Roscommon. Turlough lost his sight through smallpox when he was eighteen. Annraoi’s wife, Máire, paid for Turlough’s musical education, and he earned his living travelling round the big houses as was the custom then. It is said he was not a very good instrumentalist but gained a high reputation for composing music. He was basically a traditional musician but he also came under the influence of contemporary Italian composers. Mary Connors, an American writer living in Inch, has written a play in English on the life of Carolan: The Harpist it is being performed tonight (Friday) in the community hall in Burt at 8 p.m. This new production deserves whole hearted support.