Ireland's Ancient East: The Music Begins

by Kerry Dexter / May 17, 2015 /
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Ireland's Ancient East: that phrase suggests all sorts of intriguing ideas -- which is why it has been chosen as a way to encourage visitors to spend time at places in the eastern parts of the island, much as the Wild Atlantic Way is helping to connect and bring attention to communities and locations along the island's western sea coast. Ireland's Ancient East is a series of trails, and of ideas and stories, which link both well known and lesser visited places from Cork in the south up to Cavan and Louth along the border with the North. 

Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built by the McCarthy clan and dates from 1446. The noted Blarney Stone is found within the castle.   Chris Hill Photographic

Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built by the McCarthy clan and dates from 1446. The noted Blarney Stone is found within the castle. Chris Hill Photographic

 

Couple at Trim Castle on the banks of the river Boyne. Tourism Ireland

Couple at Trim Castle on the banks of the river Boyne. Tourism Ireland

Viking Triangle Waterford. Keith Fitzgerald/George Munday.

Viking Triangle Waterford. Keith Fitzgerald/George Munday.

 

From the Druid's Circle in Cork to the Viking Triangle in Waterford, from medieval Kilkenny to Grey Abbey in Kildare, from Trim Castle to Blarney Castle to Glendalough to Long Woman's Grave to Powerscourt to Newgrange, that is quite a bit of heritage, centuries of time, and a good bit of landscape to explore. The tourism folk have come up with four strands of storytelling to help with this: Ancient Ireland, Early Christian Ireland, Medieval Ireland, and Anglo Ireland. They've also come up with a distinctive logo.

Ireland's ancient east

Triton Lake in the snow, Powerscourt House and Gardens, Co. Wicklow. Tourism Ireland

Triton Lake in the snow, Powerscourt House and Gardens, Co. Wicklow. Tourism Ireland

Meath-Newgrange. Fáilte Ireland

Meath-Newgrange. Fáilte Ireland

 

As is the case with the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East is not about building new roads or creating new attractions; rather, it is about telling the stories of existing places in ways that encourage exploration. One of the ways Ireland's stories are told best, of course, is through music. To begin your journeys through Ireland's Ancient East, here are ideas of music from artists who have connections with the southern part of the area encompassed by this idea. Take a listen, and see what stories you may discover.

You cannot really speak about music in this part of Ireland without talking of the Clancy family, who have connections with Tipperary and Waterford. Going back to the 1950s and 1960s, The Clancy Brothers found themselves, a bit unexpectedly perhaps, bringing Irish music to  people in the United States, and through a circle of song and circumstance their music found its way back to Ireland as well. These days, the brothers have all passed on. One way their music goes forward is in the individual careers of next generation cousins Robbie O'Connell, Donal Clancy, and Aoife Clancy, who also at times perform together as Clancy Legacy.

 

 

 

 

Donal Clancy is also a longtime member of the band Danu. It has been twenty years now since that band got its start in Waterford, and today with members from Waterford, Dublin, Kerry, and Donegal, they are without doubt one of the world's top class Irish music ensembles. They tour the globe over, and their album Buan has been topping world music charts in recent days. On it you'll find tune and song that take in the whole of the artistry and fellowship of the music of Ireland, from jig to reel to lighthearted song in Irish to ancient ballad in English, to contemporary song from John Spillane from Cork.

Danu at Celtic Connections 2015

Danu at Celtic Connections 2015. Kerry Dexter

 

 

 

Karan Casey lives in Cork these days, though she is originally from Waterford and spent some years living in the United States. Several of those years in the States found her as part of the renown Irish American band Solas (she tours with them on occasion still, and a reunion album is in the works), and has established a fine solo career as well as collaborating with a range of Irish and international artists, and being part of the well respected Irish music collaboration A Stor Mo Chroi, which includes, among others, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh of Danu and the aforementioned John Spillane. Her most recent album at this writing is Two More Hours.

 

 

Luka Bloom has lived in  many places in the world. He grew up, though, in Kildare, where he began a career which led him to be respected worldwide for his guitar style and his singing as well as his thoughtful songwriting. One good place to experience all that, and to find Heart Man, the song in this video, is his album This New Morning.

 

 

These are just a few of the fine musicians who have connections with this part of Ireland's Ancient East. Their music will make a fine soundtrack as you plan or begin or imagine your journey through this part of Ireland. Take a listen -- take more than one -- and stay tuned here at Wandering Educators, as in coming months I'll have more to say about musicians who have connections to the landscapes of Ireland's Ancient East.

Round tower and church at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. ©Chris Hill Photographic

Round tower and church at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. ©Chris Hill Photographic

Birr Castle is a large castle in the town of Birr. Its grounds and gardens are publicly accessible. Tourism Ireland

Birr Castle is a large castle in the town of Birr. Its grounds and gardens are publicly accessible. Tourism Ireland

A group of people enjoy a bike ride around Graiguenamanagh in Co. Kilkenny. Jason Baxter

A group of people enjoy a bike ride around Graiguenamanagh in Co. Kilkenny. Jason Baxter

 

 

Kerry Dexter is music editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach her at music at wandering educators dot com.
You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Symphony, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, and other places on line and in print, as well as at her own site Music Road.

 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy of the listed photographers via IrelandsContentPool, except where noted.