Inspirations and Aspirations

June 17, 2011

Being a Scouse Catholic I have to assume that, somewhere in the dim and distant past, there’s a bit of Irish in me. One of my sisters is the ‘family researcher’ and I’m sure she mentioned it somewhere along the line.

I’d be happy with some roots to the Emerald Isle (as much as I’d be happy with a link to Scotland and Wales) because I love the music that comes from there so much.

There’s one particular musician whose music moves me. Considered by many to be Ireland’s national composer, Turlough O’Carolan was a blind (aren’t many of the best musicians blind? There’s hope for me yet!) harpist who lived from 1670 – 1738. Well, according to Wikipedia he did!

His melodies are sublime, his harmonies hit heights and move souls … he was not bad at what he did! And he had a few things in common with me:

1. He was short sighted (well, actually he was blind but let’s not quibble)

2. He wasn’t much to look at (if the contemporary pictures are to believed) 

3. He wasn’t much of a singer (based on the fact that he mostly wrote tunes, rather than songs)

Trouble is, a harp has many more strings than a guitar so, surely, the music won’t transpose.  Well, fortunately, good music is good music and, whilst it doesn’t transfer directly from harp to guitar, there are people who are able to interpret an O’Carolan tune well enough to keep respectful to the original whilst altering it to suit their own instrument and style.

One such person is Keith Chesterton. I’ve never met Keith – though I know a bit about him… he;’s a retired dentist, he plays guitar in his church worship group, he is generous with his time and money, and he is a great guitar player. His arrangement of the O’Carolan tune “Eleanor Plunkett” is both an inspiration to me to sit down and do some serious work in practicing, and an aspiration – to be able to play with such soul!

So, this weekend I’m at the URC Learning and Resource Centre in the Lake District for a course. I’m taking my guitar and, in the quiet moments (and there must be some!) I’m going to try and work this out.

Wish me luck!