Exploring Irish wedding music began about ten years ago when my daughter and I experienced the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, OH. Her interest in me going with her revolved around her desire for me to buy her a Celtic Wedding Ring. As the dad of a teenage girl, I relished the time spent to explore this acquisition together.
But it was later I learned the legend behind the unending mystery surrounding this ring and why it has survived fads of style and fashion.
Misty fables surround one of Ireland's unique treasures, “The Claddaugh”, a symbol of Love, Friendship and loyalty. The ring has a design of a heart being encircled by a pair of delicate hands with a crown above the heart. Today, the ring is worn extensively across Ireland, either on the right hand with the heart turned outwards showing that the wearer is "fancy free" or with the heart turned inwards to denote that he or she is "spoken for".
The Origins of the Claddaugh Ring even yet remains a matter for conjecture, both popular stories of its origins attribute it to the Joyce family of Galway City. The two stories are as follows.
The first story influencing Irish wedding music explains that a Margaret Joyce married Domingo de Rona, a wealthy Spanish merchant who traded with Galway. They proceeded to Spain, where he died, leaving her a considerable fortune. Returning to Galway she used her fortune to build bridges from Galway to Sligo, and re-married Oliver Og French, Major of Galway 1596/7. She was rewarded for her good works and charity by an eagle who dropped the original Claddagh ring into her lap.
The second story says that a Richard Joyce of Galway was captured by Algerian corsairs, sold to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him in the craft. In 1689 he was released from slavery as a result of a demand from King William III. The Moor offered him his only daughter in marriage and half his wealth, if he would remain in Algiers, but Joyce declined and returned home to Claddaugh to find that the woman of his heart had never married. According to Irish wedding music legends he gave her the ring and they were married and he set up a goldsmith shop in the town of Claddaugh. (The Claddaugh is said to be the oldest fishing village in Ireland). He brought with him the idea of the Claddaugh ring. The earliest Claddaugh rings to be traced bear his mark and the initial letters of his name, RI (Richard Joyce).
Although bagpipes existed before uillean pipes, both are unique to Irish Wedding Music. Bagpipes are Scottish historically, while the uillean pipes primarily Irish. Bagpipes are blown. Uillean pipes are played by using elbow pressure and holding your fingers over the right holes on the chanter. Bagpipes play one octave and one note compared to the uillean pipes which can play two octaves.
You might want to know the difference between the two if Celtic or Irish wedding music is something you’re interested in for your ceremony music.
Don't let not being Irish keep you from choosing this legend-rooted music. Wedding music that capture your memory will be the result.
Consider these artists’ music choices in your planning as well.