Turlough O'Carolan for Mandolin

I called it The O'Carolan Project. After more than 30 years of being in love with the music of this grand Irish composer I had signed a letter of agreement with publishing company (this in 2009) to author a book on O'Carolan for mandolin as arrangements with chords. I quickly found the web site operator in me never found the inspiration to complete a print project.

Over the years I've used this material to teach classes. People keep asking me to share these arrangements, and now, after them sitting for years on my personal computer I have. Use at your discretion, but do read my notes at the bottom of this page. These aren't arrangements for everyone, and purists won't like the occasional passing tone. There are many, many more of these but at least this is a start!

Song Title
Notes on song, if any
Best of the four he wrote about an early love interest.
Also known as Dr. John Stafford.
Also known as Planxty Irwin. Key changed to G.
Possibly not by Carolan. Appears in O'Neill's.
Ted Nugent's great-great-grandmother. Kidding.
The second part is a jig which is not included.
To be played as an air.
Said to be the 4th Earl of the Inchiquin.
Altered to key of F.
To be played very slowly.
Powerful, strong tune, rarely heard on mandolin.
Yep, we changed one of the notes to our liking.

Notes on these arrangements

These are pieces I've played for years and thus reflect my personal style of playing. Some of them are highly arranged to include chord tones which you may find difficult. These are not meant to be representative of anything other than the way I play the pieces. They may suit your tastes, or they may not. My transcriptions have not been vetted by a professional music editor! O'Carolan's tunes that appear in today's books were edited and changed by the original authors long, long ago. The only thing we know for sure is that the music that survived is like no other. I may get around to completing the other odd 30-40 tunes I play but have no time frame for that.

Use as you see fit!

Interesting notes on O'Carolan

  • Born 1670, died 1738.
  • None of his music was ever written down on paper until after his passing.
  • Most of these compositions had words in Gaelic (of course).
  • Carolan was a prodigious consumer of Irish alcohlic beverages of the time.
  • His Irish name was actually Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin although the spelling is disputed.
  • Carolan had access to Italian classical music in Dublin and some compositions clearly reflect this influence along with a mix of traditional harp music and Irish music of the time.
  • What is behind the differnt references as O'Carolan or Carolan? From Carolan The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, by Donal O'Sullivan: "When Gaelic names of this type are written in full, it is proper to prefix the Ó to the surname. When, however, the surname is used singly, the only satisfactory method is to follow the form used by the owner of the name and by his friends. Carolan twice brings his own name into his poems — in his song for Fallon and his song for John Stafford, and in both cases he employs the form Cearbhalláin, not Ó Cearbhalláin. It is therefore certain that Carolan was known to himself and his friends as Cearbhalláin, or, in English, Carolan."

Indispensable for studying O'Carolan: Carolan The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper, by Donal O'Sullivan.