By: Benjamin Knollman
I have been fascinated with Irish music for some time now, especially the Irish folk group The High Kings. The High Kings were formed in Dublin in 2008, and consist of four members: Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, and Darren Holden. Each member had experience in music performance before the creation of the band. Recorded in Dublin in 2008, a recently televised concert is ripe with Irish traditions and customs and relate to why the High Kings have had such an impact on Americans with their traditional Irish music.
One striking aspect in the concert film is the amount of audience participation. An invitation is offered by Finbarr Clancy, “We have some fantastic songs for you. We know them, we know you know them, so sing up!” For the rest of the concert, the camera pans around to people clapping, smiling, and singing whole-heartedly, giving off the friendly vibe of the atmosphere. It shows the amount of pride the Irish people take in their heritage through music.
In listening through the entire show again, a particular shape to the song choices is noticeable. There is a pattern of slower, emotional pieces in between each of the upbeat and fun songs. It says something about a show that features just as many sad songs as happy ones. This draws attention to the fact that Irish people almost celebrate their history of suffering – also their history of leaving the country – as portrayed in the song “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore”.
Another theme throughout the concert is the importance of family and tradition. Martin Furey is applauded for the great musical tradition in his family, as his father is Finbar Furey, a great singer and piper. Finbarr Clancy’s uncles, Liam and Tommy, are also mentioned because they formed the Clancy Brothers, a group that popularized Irish music around the world in the 1960s. Much like the Clancy Brothers, the High Kings are also responsible for showcasing Irish music around the world, primarily in America. Most of the tours given by the High Kings include stops around the states. And, their first album released in 2008 was eagerly accepted by American audiences and ranked as high as number 2 on Billboard Magazine’s World Music Chart, staying on the chart for 34 weeks.
A lot can be said about the success of The High Kings in America. The many styles of music that The High Kings perform appeals to people of many backgrounds, proven by their worldwide success. A good example of how they fit in to the Irish-American culture is their performance on the show “Live with Regis and Kelly” on St. Patrick’s Day in 2011. An Irish group celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by performing for an American audience seems like a perfect cultural link between Irish-Americans and Ireland. The idea of an American audience accepting and appreciating the cultural importance of Irish music is very significant to Irish-American relations.
The experience of watching this concert and learning more about the band’s influence on the Irish-American culture solidifies learn about Ireland. Traditional Irish music, not complete without a fiddle, some pipers, a few bodhrán drums, and a tap dancer, encompasses many aspects of the Irish tradition between the two countries.