Cultured Wednesday: Brian Boru’s March

Brian Boru’s March is one of the oldest tunes in Ireland’s traditional repertoire, yet it is still widely played by traditional Irish musicians.

The 2nd Daughter found this wonderful piece of music while previewing a Jacquie Lawson eCard, specifically An Irish Blessing.  When we looked at Brian Boru’s pitiful Wiki entry of two sentences, we decided that this calls for a Cultured Wednesday post, and urgently!  The card has more info than the Wiki!

The song goes with lyrics, though not in the above version of the song, and here they are:

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lake and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessing of Saint Patrick behold you.

This tune is one of the oldest tunes in Ireland’s traditional repertoire, yet it is still widely played by traditional Irish musicians.

Brian Boru, also known as Brian Bórumha, is sometimes referred to as Ireland’s greatest king.  He lived from 940 to 1014 and reigned for 39 years.  It was a time of unsurpassed glory, prosperity and happiness.  He promoted the arts and learning, as well as the bardic arts within his clan, and is even credited with having originated surnames.  Some even say he was an accomplished harpist!  His patriotism and personal sacrifice brought the clans together under one king, for the only time in Irish history.  He was eighty-nine when his army faced the armies of the Norsemen at the Battle of Clontarf.  Brian’s warriors won the day, but soon afterward Brian was murdered in his tent.  Legend has it that Brian Boru died thanking God for the victory over the Vikings at Clontarf.  Such was his charisma and celebrity that his harp has remained one of the five symbols of Ireland.

The Brian Boru harp was made in honor of him some 300 years after his death, and remained in Limerick until the 1700s, when the blind harpist Arthur O’Neill restrung the harp and marched through the city.  His playing stirred the hearts of the people.  In his memoirs he wrote:

“The Lord be merciful to you, Brian Boru!  I hope in God that I will tune your harp in your presence in heaven!”

The march, wildly powerful and at the same time full of melancholy, both a music of victory and of mourning, is one of the earliest pieces that a harpist can learn.

Brian Boru's March
For recorder or tin whistle

I love Irish music!


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