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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - World Music - Celtic

Celtic music is the traditional music of the Celtic-speaking peoples of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and parts of Brittany (in France). It is characterised by its rich and diverse musical heritage, often featuring a combination of instruments, vocal styles, and dance forms. Celtic music has a long history and has evolved over time, but it retains distinct characteristics that make it instantly recognisable.

Traditional Instruments:

  • Fiddle (Violin): The fiddle is a common lead instrument in Celtic music, known for its expressive melodies.

  • Flute and Tin Whistle: These woodwind instruments are used to play traditional melodies and are often featured in Irish and Scottish music.

  • Bodhrán: A frame drum played with a handheld beater, the bodhrán provides rhythmic accompaniment.

  • Uilleann Pipes: These are Irish bagpipes with a softer and more melodious sound compared to the Scottish bagpipes.

  • Accordion and Concertina: These bellows-driven instruments are used for both melody and accompaniment.

  • Harp: The Celtic harp has a rich history and is a symbol of Ireland. It's used for both solo and ensemble performances.

  • Bouzouki and Mandolin: Stringed instruments like the bouzouki and mandolin are often used for accompaniment, providing chordal support.

Vocal Styles:

  • Celtic music features a wide range of vocal styles, including:

    • Sean-nós Singing: A traditional Irish style of unaccompanied singing known for its ornamentation and emotional depth.

    • Puirt à Beul: A form of Scottish Gaelic mouth music where singers use vocal percussion and rhythmic patterns.

    • Close Harmony: Celtic vocal groups often employ close harmonies and can produce hauntingly beautiful arrangements.


  • Celtic music is closely associated with various dance forms:

    • Irish Step Dancing: Characterised by intricate footwork, dancers often perform to lively jigs and reels.

    • Scottish Highland Dancing: Dancers perform to the rhythms of bagpipe music in a variety of traditional costumes.

    • Breton Fest Noz: In Brittany, Fest Noz events feature traditional dances like the An Dro and Gavotte.

Song Themes:

  • Celtic songs often revolve around themes such as love, nature, mythology, historical events, and folklore. Many traditional songs tell stories and are passed down through generations.

Celtic Music Revival:

  • The 20th century saw a revival of interest in Celtic music, thanks in part to groups like The Chieftains and Planxty. They helped popularise traditional Celtic music internationally.

  • Contemporary artists like Enya, Clannad, and Loreena McKennitt have created modern Celtic-influenced music that blends traditional elements with new sounds.

Festivals and Sessions:

  • Celtic music is celebrated at festivals like the Fleadh Cheoil (Irish music festival), Celtic Connections (Scotland), and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient (Brittany).

  • Informal music sessions are common in pubs and community centres, where musicians gather to play together and share tunes.

Examples Of Traditional Celtic Music

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