Monday, March 16, 2009

Music of Donegal: Altan

Local Ground

Donegal is in the far northwest of Ireland, a land of mountain and water, and one which shares more of its borders with Northern Ireland than with the Republic. Going back in history, it has been a place with many close connections with Scotland, and an area where Irish is often the first language. All those influences have come into play with through the music of the area, producing varied and distinctive styles of melody and song, and musicians who are not afraid to mix up genres and styles to get their points across.

The band Altan is one of the best known and most highly regarded groups of musicians from Ireland’s northwest, attacking tunes with fire and vigor at one moment and turning in haunting ballads the next. That is, in fact, reflective of of both the landscape on the history of their native place. Local Ground is a recent recording, which includes songs in both English and Irish, a crossing the waters American folk song Adieu My Lovely Nancy, a jig from early 20th century Donegal fiddle master John Doherty, one learned from modern Donegal born fiddle giant Tommy Peoples, several original tunes, and a close with a lullabye gently sung in Irish, Dun Do Shuil, Close Your Eyes.

As you are thinking about St. Patrick and lreland, here ia video to go along. celeberating Ireland's far northwest, a place where Irish and Scottish music, landscape, and isolation have united over the years to form a music with its own voice.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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