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coda     westport, mayo, Ireland



O’Carolan in Song                    


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O’Carolan in Song is available for €20 which includes shipping to anywhere in the world. For other options (multiple purchases etc), please contact us on codasinging.com

O’Carolan in Song can also be purchased from McLoughlin’s Bookshop, Westport


“In the spring of 2021, Laoise Kelly, the renowned harper, representing Féile Chruite Acla, approached us with an idea for a project. Many people are familiar with the wonderful tunes of O’Carolan, but, until Laoise informed us, we were not aware that most of those famous tunes had lyrics! That was how O’Carolan earned his living, writing songs and tunes in praise of his benefactors. Laoise presented us with two copies of “The Complete Carolan Songs and Airs” by Caitríona Rowsome and asked if we would try out the songs within. The idea was to pick two or three of them and sing them online for the Achill Harp Festival which would be a virtual event that year, due to Covid restrictions. We spent the next few months trawling through the books and whittling down the songs until we ended up with nine songs which feature on this album.

Trying to get a handle on the songs was difficult at the start, as we couldn’t meet up and so had to send recordings around via WhatsApp. Eventually, restrictions were eased and we were able to meet again as Coda. Freda Hatton, a wonderful harper living in Westport, came on board and we all got cracking on the arrangements. Laoise also organised the legendary Steve Cooney to come and meet with us on two occasions and help refine our instrumental arrangements. What an experience! So, we practised all summer long and when it came to doing the recording it was very difficult to get a venue in Achill as “The Banshees of Inisherin” was being filmed at the time! Finally, we got a venue, The Valley House, which proved to be a lovely setting. We recorded the nine songs there, and this live performance was broadcast online as part of Féile Chruite Acla, in October 2021. We had spent so much time and effort and received such good feedback, that we decided to go ahead and make a CD of the concert. The CD is called “O’ Carolan in Song”.                                   Conall Ó Domhnaill, Coda

O’Carolan on YouTube


Freda Hatton

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Description automatically generatedFreda Hatton is a multi-instrumentalist and holds a BA in Music and Irish from UCC. She won the Senior All-Ireland Harp Competitions at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and the O’Carolan Harp Festival, Keadue, Co. Roscommon. She composed and performed music with Branar Téatar do Pháistí and has performed all over the world at concerts, festivals and events. She was the selected harpist on the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann tours of Britain and North America. She is a regular session player around Westport and Galway. 



O’Carolan in Song: song notes


1.      Lament For Eoin Roe O’Neill:
Eoin Roe, a son of Art and the younger brother of Hugh O’Neill 2nd Earl of Tyrone. He spent 40 years serving in the Irish regiment of the Spanish Army having fled Ireland in the Flight of the Earls. He returned to Ireland in 1642 and in 1646 he led a victory at the Battle of Benburb.

2.      John Drury (First Air) :
The air was composed in 1724 for the wedding of John Drury and Elizabeth Goldsmith. It was notated by Edward Bunting from the playing of Charles Byrne at the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792

3.      Bridget Cruise (Fourth Air):
Carolan’s first love was Bridget, a neighbour of his youth and whom he would have known while he still had sight, the more poignant as his descriptions of her were mostly from memory.

4.      John O Connor:
John O’Connor was killed at the battle of Aughrim in 1691.

5.      Ode to Whiskey:
This song is a conversation between a carouser or toper(someone fond of excessive drinking) and their whiskey. The first verse starts out with the toper addressing the whiskey, the second verse is the whiskey’s reply, and the remaining verses are where the toper continues his one-sided conversation.

6.      Bheag, Mhór:
This is said to be the first song that Carolan composed, at the home of a friend, Mr. Reynolds, near Letterfian, Co. Leitrim. A fellow harper and poet, Reynolds encouraged Carolan to try his hand at composing lyrics for the Legend of Bheag, Mhór (the site of a great battle between the fairies). It is believed that Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his Fianna were defeated in battle between these two hills. Some believe Fionn is buried under Bheag and a hero of the opposing side under Mhór.

7.      Hewlett:
It’s not known who Hewlett was but presumably it was written for him.

8.      Fanny Power:
This air, also known as Mrs. Trench, was composed for Fanny Power and Richard Trench on the occasion of their wedding.

9.      Lament for Terence MacDonough:
Terence was a popular and distinguished lawyer, soldier and poet of Carolan’s time. In the early days of the Penal Laws he was the only Catholic lawyer allowed to practise at the bar. When he died in 1713 many poets and musicians of the day wrote tributes to him.


Turlough Carolan was born in Nobber, in Co Meath, in 1670. When he was 14 his family moved west to Connaught. He lost his sight at 18 to smallpox and took up the harp (t’was common in those days for the blind to make a profession from harp playing). His patron, Mrs. McDermot Roe, of Ballyfarnon, provided a horse and guide and at the age of 21 he set off on a journey which has shaped the course of Irish music. He travelled the length and breadth of the country and in 1720 he married, had six daughters and one son. In 1738, he returned to his dear friends the Mc Dermott Roe family to die and on his deathbed composed his last and most haunting melody, Carolan’s Farewell to Music. His wake lasted 4 days and more than 60 clergymen are said to have attended. He is buried in the old church in Kilronan. To this day, people visit his grave and place coins there as a mark of respect.


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