An Appreciation of the Donegal Fiddle

February 13, 2004. A few pages were given editing, especially the introductory questions. There are also new reviews of the latest from Donegal fiddlers Tommy Peoples, P. V. O'Donnell, and Matt McGrahaghan.

Welcome! This site is about the fiddle music of Co. Donegal, Ireland. Long neglected and misunderstood, this exciting and beautiful music is finally receiving the attention it richly deserves--largely through the efforts of the Irish traditional ensemble Altan, and various great fiddlers such as James Byrne, Tommy Peoples, Paddy Glackin, and (before them) John Doherty and Neilly Boyle. This site answers various questions about the music, the musicians, recordings and how to get them, reviews, learning the style, etc. Special pages include an online Donegal fiddle tutor, and are devoted to The Northern Fiddler, mazurkas, related web sites of interest, and many other topics.

This site also hosts pages from Cairdeas na bhFidléirí, a society of fiddlers supporting Donegal fiddling. Cairdeas sponsors fiddle events in the county, and offers instruction, tunebooks, and recordings for listening and for learning.

The site is broken into three main pages. An outline is below.

Introductory Questions

The Fiddlers and Their Music

How, Where, and What to Play

The musicians there say that the playing is a reflection of the wild and beautiful landscape. For those making the music, it is certainly demanding, but also rewarding in such a way that it greatly sharpens and motivates the musical talents of those immersed in it--as is the case to some extent with all Irish traditional music. This website is dedicated to the great musicians who have given and are still giving us such great music.

A clarificatory note for newcomers to Irish music--I like to draw a distinction between the Celtic music industry and Irish traditional music. The former has emerged within the last thirty or forty years, is increasingly popular, profitable for a handful of people and involves selling concert tickets and recordings; while the latter is ancient, relatively obscure (but also increasingly popular), profitable for hardly anyone and involves playing great old tunes in one's kitchen, among other things. This website concerns one part of Irish traditional music. For some more information on what is meant by "Irish traditional music" please read an essay, "What Is Irish Traditional Music? Definition and Characteristics" courtesy of the Irish Traditional Music Archive. For related informational leaflets from the ITMA, click here.

The person responsible for the otherwise unattributed content on this website is Larry Sanger--I can be reached at blarneypilgrim (a t) yahoo (d o t) com. I have been studying the music simply because I love listening to and playing it.

I'd like hereby to acknowledge gratefully the help and advice that Caoimhín Mac Aoidh gave while writing some earlier drafts of many of these pages. He is extremely knowledgeable about the tradition and it has been a privilege to be able to work with him in improving this site. He is responsible for the Cairdeas page, the Frankie Kennedy School page, the Donegal On-Line Fiddle Tutor, and many other items (as noted). Several others have contributed and more are quite welcome to contribute (just send an e-mail).