You Really Don't Know Irish Song, do you now ?
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Most Irish of All ?
Think you know Irish music and song ?
Sean Nós, 'old style', Irish singers and
song have long been hidden. If you don't
know it - maybe you should at least know
a little bit about it. At first glance, here is
what I have picked up about it. Best you
research it for yourself .....
It is the oldest form of Irish singing I know
What Sean Nós is
The best way to find out is to listen to some
real Sean Nós singers. The term was first
used in the 20th century to describe the old
Irish way of singing. That was a song generally
sung solo and in the Irish language, with a
particular style, which varied according to locale
and individual in Ireland.
The Irish Culture
It is a link to the lost culture of the Irish going
back for centuries. Queen Elizabeth must have
been impressed, for she had several of the songs
written down. Of course, that would have been
difficult, as this Irish form of song did not follow
the rules of other forms of musical notation.
17th century loss
As the bards began to disappear in Ireland, and
the Irish language and way of life fell under
increasing attacks, singers of Irish song were
under attack as well. This was the beginning
of the end of the old ways. The art form of
Sean Nós singing still survives, but most do
not know it really. ( myself included ).
What it is not
Here is what I hear said :
It is not English 'ballad' singing in style or form.
It is not like the 'Tin Pan Alley' songs in America.
It often tells a story.
Some describe it as 'saying a song'. (Joe Heaney )
It generally does not use standard increases and
decreases in singers volume level for emphasis.
It is not simply 'solo' singing.
Sean Nós Nua
Today most accept songs sung in the English
language as Sean Nós, if the style fits. Most
insist it have cultural ties to Ireland and her
We also have 'Sean Nós Nua' which can have
new adaptations, orchestras, and all types of
instrumentation. But then, this is just my
I am by far no expert, the best way to learn
what Sean Nós is : Listen to it being sung.
We have several excellent examples on our
Sean Nós page here:
Beginning to understand it, we have favorites.
We include on our web page:
Liam O Maonlai (Sadhbh Ni Bhruinneallaigh)
Darach O Catháin (Óró sé do bheatha 'bhaile)
Nell Ní Chróinín - (An Lacha Bacach)
iarla O Lionaird - (Lament of 3 Three Marys)
Call for Sean Nós
On my podcast we called for Sean Nós songs and
singers to make an appearance. We let them define
the term as they saw it. It definitely means different
things to different individuals today. I hope this
broadcast will help spread the word and create
interest in the field of Sean Nós today.
Organizations like Comhaltas provide a venue for
developing your talents in this arena - should you
decide to pursue things more seriously...
This would be a bottom up movement to be sure.
Thank to all who have cared enough to participate,
you have made a great contribution to the effort.
My first attempt online today.
I make no claim to being an expert, nor a singer,
nor an experienced Irish linguist, but I kicked
off the first show myself today, with a song in Irish.
You are invited to do so as well, at some point in
your life !
You'll be able to find it on iTunes under the 'Irish
Song and Recitation' podcast or on my web page
if you are curious about this beginning attempt
into Sean Nós.
Song Nós Song Fest
All of our Sean Nós song volunteers will be
featured on the show this year. If you care to
listen in, you will be able to find all the shows as
they appear, (season three) at:
More detailed accounts of the shows are at:
All the best,