We love all things Celtic and know that people like us are few and far between. Most don’t recognize the value of this Irish tradition outside the country. Literally, Celtic pertains to the Celts or their languages. They constitute a branch of the Indo-European family that includes Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Manx, Cornish, and several extinct pre-Roman languages such as Gaulish.
Our particular attraction to this culture is the wonderful ancient people with a grand warrior attitude who left the world great art and innovative music. It is a rich heritage we hope to share. We hope to inspire further exploration and hope our passion is infectious. This blog is devoted to all things Celtic and it will take many forms.
Eventually we will get to their contemporary music stemming from the old folk traditions, but today we want to mention something a bit odd that came to mind recently as we were installing some new solar panels on the roof of our home. They’re powering our new hot water system we researched on Tankless Center. Given that we think often about the Celtic culture, we reflected together on how eco-friendly technologies give us a taste of the past. Perhaps invading the past somehow in the present is part of what we seek.
What was the world like centuries ago? How did people live and, in particular, how did they survive the elements such as the bitter cold? They wore layers of clothing of course and had fire. How wonderful it is that today we have a marvelous invention to take care of basic needs. The sun and rain doesn’t just grow crops anymore, it powers a nice hot shower.
I imagine the mysterious Celts as strong, hearty people taking shelter from the cold. Their abodes were simple and primitive no doubt. But their minds and hearts were too busy creating art and music to dwell on the mundanity of weather. Unlike me haha, I need a hot shower every morning.
Actually, the Celtic culture is complex depending upon which group you are talking about and what location in Europe. It is still in question from whence they came. There is some archeological evidence showing migration patterns in Gaul, but questions remain. Unfortunately, the Celts had no writing tradition. It would show that the range of their existence was broad. People often think of “Celtic” as pertaining to six nations: namely Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man, where four Celtic languages are still in use — Breton, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh.
It would take a decade to decipher all the ramifications of this realm, but we are willing to put in the time. We must note that while there are interactions and influences, the Celts and Vikings are not the same group. There are myths surrounding the Celt’s origins and evolution, not to mention integration with other indigenous cultures like the Scottish Picts. Some things remain obscure, but we use our imagination.
Don’t look to the scholars however and there is little consensus on the subject of genetics and language. The prehistory of the Celts is unclear. They formed a tribal society with its own customs and laws that were passed orally through the generations. Think of the Druids stepped in their heritage. The Druids wouldn’t have treated their world as badly we do ours. Hopefully our start on solar is a small step towards treating my world better.
You can’t get away from it
History class may not have been the most exciting class during your high school years but a little history helps one to appreciate the Celts and their stunning music. Knowing where the music came from and the people behind the music makes Celtic music even more special.
Who were the Celts
The Celtic people lived a long time ago. They ruled their lands from 500 BC to 400 AD and those lands extended from Scotland and Ireland to Wales, French Brittany and Spanish Galicia. It is thought that their lands extended to the Danube as well.
The ancient Greeks labelled the Celts as one of the 4 great barbarian nations, yet their society was probably as far from the barbarians as the Greeks were, While they resided in clans and were ruled by chieftains who guided and protected each individual Celtic society.
In later years, Celtic societies often elected magistrates to rule over them but these elected officials probably did not wield much power.
They were not barbarian
While the Greeks may have thought of the Celts as barbarians, their ordered society sent a different message. In the hierarchy of Celtic life, men of art were held in high esteem. These men produced wonderful art work a=that was both beautiful and sought after.
Beside art, their work included creating exquisite jewelry, weapons, and even great music. So respected were these men and their art that many of the noble elite gave themselves the title men of art so that they could be respected and held in high regard
Their title of barbarian may have been given to them by the manner in which they fought their battles. They did not follow strategic military alignments going into battle nor did they follow civilized rules on military conduct.
Their music plays on
While the Celtic nation ended up disappearing into obscurity, it is their music that lives on and is played throughout the world. Since the Celts lived in a variety of European regions, the influences on their music was often varied. The Scottish Celtic music may be a little different than the French Brittany style of Celtic music and so on.
The lute, violin, flute, harp bag pipes and other common instruments were the foundation of Celtic music. Each musically inclined Celt made their own instruments and a child played their parents’ until they were old enough to make their own.
The dominate music has been the Irish and Scottish versions
There are Celtic people still living today but they do not have their own national identity anymore. That does not stop us from loving the people or their music. The Celtic people may have lived in small villages for all of their lives and did not have the advantages of modern technology but their music is hauntingly beautiful, and captivates the soul.
Time has not diminished the quality of Celtic music still played around the world today.
The music is addicting
You may have heard a recording of Celtic music played and sung by one of the variety of groups that still play it today. The music remains popular even though the Celtic people lost their lands and national identity about 1600 or so years ago.
The people may be gone in one sense but the good news is that their music can be heard around the world today. It is not hard to find a place to sit and watch, listen to and enjoy Celtic music with a modern touch.
If you are going to Ireland…
One of the best places to see live Celtic Music is to travel to one of the countries where it all began. Ireland and Irish pubs are the best place to enjoy good live Celtic music performers.
The city of Dublin is one of the more popular cities to find a great variety of Celtic music being played every night in the local pubs. A good tourist information center in the city can set you up with a long list of great places to get a bite to eat, a pint of beer and a hearty set of Celtic music.
If you like bag pipes…
You may want to extend your Irish vacation with a visit to Scotland. There the Celtic musicians add in the bag pipe to give their Celtic music an identity all of its own. You can hear the Celtic music at any of the number of parades that take place throughout the country.
And like Ireland, there are a host of pubs and bars that provide you with modern versions of Celtic music on a nightly basis. You may even hear it played as you walk through the streets of the different Scottish cities
Not to be outdone
Celtic music is not limited to Ireland or the land of Europe. Both Boston and Vancouver have Celtic music outlets. Usually these outlets are bars and pubs which feature the music as their trademark
For Vancouver you may only hear the music on Tuesdays and Thursday each week, while Boston may have it more nights of the week.
There is always Celtic concerts
The popularity of groups like the Celtic Women and the Celtic Thunder allows a person to go to their nearest ticket out let and find a live concert of Celtic music. These are just two of the groups that still perform before a live audience.
These concerts are still a popular entertainment option and tickets may sell out early.
It has been said before and we will say it again. The Celtic people have long been absorbed into modern European nations and have disappeared from history. Yet their music still lives on bringing joy to the thousands who attend the concerts and live shows at the different pubs around the world.
A little research should find a Celtic music outlet near you.
They came into history
It is really not known exactly when the Celtic people became their own nation. Their origins are shrouded and lost to time. Time has a way of destroying any evidence of a people’s origins.
But it is about the 7th or 8th century BC that the Celtics were first recorded in historical records. They may have been recorded as early as the 13th century BC but that fact remains disputed today.
Ancient writers gave the name Celts not to one people but to a group of individual societies living in the European area at that time. Through the centuries different inventions of Celtic culture rose and fell as people died out and new ones with new ideas took their place.
The Celtic expansion
Not content to live in their European regions, the Celtic people sought to expand their territory. They were very much like other nations who needed a lot of land to develop their culture and people.
One of their favorite regions was north of the Alps. To them that climate and environment was just right for their people and their warrior like nature. But they were not content with just that region of Europe.Somehow they got wind of the British Isles and decided to move into that region as well.
The Celts reached Britain about the 5th century BC and them moved into Ireland and Scotland about 200 years later. These are all possible dates as their migration may have been earlier.
Although seen as individual tribes, the Gaels, Gauls, Britons, Irish, and Gallations were all Celtic people.
The push of the Romans
It was probably the expanding Roman Empire that helped push the Celts towards the British Isles. That Empire in its early years conquered just about everything in its path, including Celtic European territory.
It was Julius Caesar who defeated the Celtic Gauls in around 55 BC but his invasion of the British islands was a failure. In fact, it wasn’t till 100 years later that the Romans were able to conquer Britain.
Because the Roans could not defeat Scotland and other Celtic territories on the islands, including Ireland, Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep the Celts out of Roman territory.
The Celtic Religion & Warfare
The Druid religion is often associated with the Celtic people but once Christianity came to Ireland it slowly was eradicated and still practiced by a few people today. Despite their religious beliefs or because of them, the Celtic people were quite the warrior.
Often depicted as long haired and strong muscular bodies, they fought hard whenever they conquered or fought against invaders. It is said that they used chariots against Julius Caesar when he invaded their territory.
As killed as horseman and fighting men that they were, the Celtic people could not stop history. Most of their lands were taken from them but many of the people in Ireland, Scotland and other European countries still trace their roots to the Celtic people of ancient times.
There are far too many of both to be listed here. Celtic music has been played for a 1,000 years or more in one form or another. The bands that played it wrote great Celtic tunes as well as made a name for themselves.
For the purpose of this blog post, we will focus on more modern band names and the great Celtic songs they have brought into existence.
If you have heard of Celtic Thunder
You probably have heard of the Celtic Women. The latter group has become very popular over the years and they hold many concerts each year to bring Celtic music to their fans. Their music though seems to be more traditional than other groups play and Danny Boy is one example of their style singing.
Gaelic Storm hails from California and they play some great Celtic music which originates in the Appalachian Region of the US. Much of their music is given Celtic overtones to make their sound more distinct and unique.
Ireland is not to be left out of this list as they have one top group singing beautiful Celtic music at their concerts. Lark and Spur who got their start singing on Paris streets and are a duet and not a full group.
Irish Descendants is a Canadian group who stuck to the Newfoundland region of Canada for the most of their 20 plus years of existence. They have also played throughout Canada as well.
In what seems to be a very unique place for a Celtic to group to come from orthodox Celts hail from Serbia. Their focus is on traditional Celtic tunes with a little rock influence
Some Great Celtic Songs
It is hoped that you have heard of these Celtic songs and we mean no offense if we did not list your favorite one or your favorite Celtic group. To pick all time classics is not an easy task to do as everyone has their own idea about what is a classic Celtic song.
We hope you like the ones on this list. Starting with Black is the Color its serene melody brings the song into classic territory and it is accompanied by Heart is the Ocean a wonderful love ballad.
Not to be outdone is Down by the Sally Gardens which is also a ballad about love and love that was lost. If you are not into remembering lost loves then Uncle Dan is a popular drinking song that should help drive your worries and cares away.
Come on Eileen and Sweet thing also help Celtic music lovers enjoy a great evening of entertainment.
The wealth of great Celtic tunes and bands make exploring the Celtic music world worth the time and effort. The tradition, the innovation and other awe inspiring influences provide Celtic music with a deep rich sound that can only be described as music to your ears.
Every musical sound
Has something that makes it distinct from other music genres. Country and Western music is often associated with a southern twang to the vocals and guitar playing. Rock and roll is associated with a lot of repetitive chords, a heavy beat and so on.
Jazz has its musical flavor which keeps it distinct from Rhythm and Blues, while the waltzes of Strauss use different musical techniques to separate it from popular classical music.
Celtic music is no different and it has its own musical composition to keep it distinct from every other musical genre in existence today.
The technical aspect of Celtic music
They say that if you can play 3 chords, you can play almost all of classical rock tunes. How true that statement is, is still under deliberation. With Celtic music though it is not that simple.
Celtic music uses a 6/8 time and usually the instruments play in unison and not in harmony. While some Celtic musicians do play their instruments without help, most Celtic musicians play in a group.
Some Celtic music also uses mixolydian and dorian modes with some of the pentatonic scales added in. The music does repeat a lot so Celtic musicians depend on ornamentation to make the music sound original and lively.
Celtic jigs and reels can be played in two parts and those parts have a variety of styles that can be applied to the music. Then the role of the musician is not to play a harmonic progression but to add his or her own color to the tune.
It may be folk music and it may not be
Trying to classify Celtic music into a particular genre is quite difficult. It is a lot like folk music as we understand it but then it is not completely folk music. Celtic music can be labeled traditional music but with the inventiveness and unique contributions artists apply to the music, there is always a modern touch to its sound.
What also makes Celtic music unique is that there are no formal rules to follow that make Celtic music Celtic. From its origins, the music was not written down but passed from one generation to another through oral tradition.
This gave the musicians a lot of leeway in how to play their own traditional music and allowed them the freedom to experiment with other musical influences. Plus, each student is taught to play traditional Celtic instruments by ear.
This style of learning to play allowed for more experimentation and innovation. The common instruments used in traditional Celtic music are the fiddle, harp and flute.
This style of learning to play allowed for more experimentation and innovation. The common instruments used in traditional Celtic music are the fiddle, harp and flute.
What makes Celtic music, music? Probably the heart and soul that goes into playing traditional Celtic tunes. Without those elements, Celtic music may come off flat, out of tune and very stale.
The love for their heritage also influences Celtic music elevating it to its own genre and style of playing.