A Musical Landscape

‘And he would whistle a tune, I knew he would hear a new tune. Somebody would play a tune and he would whistle it a couple of times for me and I would play it the next day.’

Traditional music, song and dance was, at one time a part of everyday life throughout County Donegal. Lilters, fiddlers and melodeon players were all part of a dance tradition which was the primary source of entertainment for the majority of people.

Researched and edited by Rónán Galvin and assisted by Rab Cherry, this project recognises the importance of all those who contributed to the dance tradition. It includes those who played for their own enjoyment, along with the dance players who formed the foundation of a tradition which was so much a part of the musical landscape. It also recognises the more noted players who are remembered for their vast repertoires and individual styles.

A Musical Landscape is an innovative way of presenting this tradition through the medium of a digital map of the region. To facilitate visitors to the site a detailed map identifies the homesteads associated with musicians and are represented by a marker. On choosing a marker, the musician’s name will appear, and indeed, for some homesteads up to five or six names may be revealed. Many musicians have a dedicated page containing a short narrative about their lives, and where possible a photograph and soundclip.

Placenames in the Gaeltacht areas are presented in their Gaelic form. Many of these placenames are informative and tell us about the folklore or history of the area where the musicians were born, raised, lived and played their music. To veiw a list of the placenames and their English translation, click here.

We are extremely grateful to everyone connected with the parish who contributed. In many cases, family members and friends of the musicians offered personal anecdotes about their lives and music. This material in particular adds a warmth to the narrative which would not be possible without their generosity. To view the credits, please click here.

As the tradition has evolved and changed with time, so too will the website and we are currently researching neighbouring parishes in County Donegal. If you have a query about the narrative or have information, photographs or other material you would like to contribute to the project, please click here. We apologise if we have omitted any musicians from the map and would welcome further information.

We further hope that it serves to inform both current and future generations of musicians. As a resource, it is a voyage of discovery for anybody interested in the music tradition of County Donegal.

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