Origin of "O'Carolan's Air"

Posted In: Repertoire

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    Evolène on #225498

    @ Wil Weten, yes, you’re right, the accidental is only for the accompaniment (I’ve actually taken it out and changed the arrangement, because the lever flip isn’t convenient on the double strung harp).

    The plots thickens. Well, if anyone comes up with something, let us know!
    Biagio, do keep us informed of Josh’s answer 🙂

    josh-layne on #225520

    Thanks Biagio for emailing me about this thread! Evolène, an excellent question and I’d love to know the answer myself! I have no special knowledge of the tune, unfortunately. All I know is what’s in the Paret book, which is not very much 🙂

    In the past I have tried to locate it in the Bunting collection and the oldmusicproject link that Biagio posted earlier, both with no success. I didn’t make a super rigorous search, so it’s certainly possible that it exists in the Bunting collection under another name, but I certainly couldn’t find it.

    As Emma Graham mentioned, the only other place I’ve come across the tune is in Samuel Milligan’s “Fun From the First volume II” (harmonized differently). Milligan titles it as “Air” and lists O’Carolan as the composer. In addition, he says “This Air is supposed to have been a favorite of Benjamin Franklin, who was an amateur performer on the harp”. Might be worth getting in touch with him (Milligan, that is, not Franklin… 🙂 )

    Regardless of the provenance of the tune, it’s a lovely melody and one of my favourites from Paret’s First Harp Book!

    Biagio on #225521

    Thank you Josh!

    I don’t know about you guys but I am coming to the conclusion that someone composed this from elements of O’ Carolan’s known works and just gave it the name. That’s not an uncommon occurrence with these old tunes and perhaps a scholar such as Cathcart would know. Oh well, we tried. It is certainly good to know something about the provenance but I’m tapped out.


    Evolène on #225531

    Hey Josh, thank you for coming on the forum!

    Well, I guess we won’t know for sure who was the composer of the song. Worth a try though! Thank you all!

    Biagio on #225557

    Like a child with a loose baby tooth I kept prodding on this, so I asked a few Irish music scholars. Here’s the concensus:

    “We don’t know, but it is not consistent in style with his other compositions, nor is it any known tune by him. It could be a later ‘imitation’ for copyright or similar reasons, written as a tribute, or a modern composition intended to suggest his style. If Betty Paret cannot be reached it may be the latter (by her).”

    Incidentally, I noticed after looking again that Josh flipped the F lever – logical since most of O’ Carolan’s were probably in the key of Gmaj or Emin.

    Hi ho,

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by Biagio.
    Veronika on #225565

    If it was a favourite of Benjamin Franklin then it can’t very well have been written by Betty Paret…

    It’s all very intriguing.

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