The emerald isle has inspired many of the classical and modern tunes that we love to play year-round. Pipes, drums and harps are the core instruments featured in many an Irish tune, but today we find that the old songs and melodies have been reworked to inspire songs music that is a fusion of many instruments and lyrical styles. Indeed, today’s Celtic genre includes everything from folk music to jazz, pop and even hip-hop.
For our students near the Resound School location in Surrey, BC, we recommend they check out some local Irish music performances nearby at Celtic Fest at the Surrey Museum; our adult music students may also want to take in live performances at Ceili’s and Blue Frog Studios – this is your chance to see and hear Irish music performed by some very talented local artists!
What are the most recognizable Irish-themed tunes around? See if you know these ones – they’re classics that are fun to play!
Danny Boy. “Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…” This ballad, written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly is often played to the Irish tune of the Londonderry Air – it may be one of the most recognizable “Irish” tunes, most often sung in pubs from Dublin to Detroit, though it’s also been covered by a large number of famous artists.
When Irish Eyes are Smiling. A joyful tune composed around the turn of the last century, this song has been covered by countless musicians in just about every genre imaginable. Canadians may recall an unusual and controversial impromptu performance of the tune at a Canada-US summit, by then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and US President Ronald Reagan – naturally, reporters coined the political event the “Shamrock Summit” (We don’t really see a problem with politicians singing songs together – if it happened more often, maybe some good would come of it!).
Molly Malone. “In Dublin's fair city, Where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone…” It’s been called the unofficial anthem of the city of Dublin, but it’s also the anthem of a fair number of Irish soccer clubs. It tells the story of a beautiful young fishmonger who died young – and whose forlorn ghost haunts the streets to this day.
The Irish Rover. This old Irish folk song was popularized in North America by the Dubliners and the Pogues back in the 1980s. It’s a fast-paced tune of a magical sailing ship headed from Ireland for New York city, that doesn’t quite make it thanks to bad weather and the unfortunate placement of some large rocks. Despite the sad ending, it’s generally quite a happy tune (which may be a commentary on Irish music in general).
What Irish songs would you add to this list of tunes you would play for St. Patrick’s Day?