Once regarded as Ireland’s national bard, Thomas Moore's lasting reputation rests on the ten immensely popular collections of drawing-room songs known as the Irish Melodies, published between 1808 and 1834. Moore drew on anthologies of ancient music, breathing new life into the airs and bringing them before a global audience for the very first time. Recognizing the unique beauty of the airs as well as their symbolic significance, these qualities were often interwoven into the verses providing potent political commentary along with a new cultural perspective. At home and abroad, Moore’s Melodies created a realm of influence that continued to define Irish culture for many decades to come.
Notwithstanding the far-reaching appeal and success of the collections, Moore has only recently begun to receive serious attention from scholars. Una Hunt provides the first detailed study of Moore’s Irish Melodies from a combined musical and literary standpoint by drawing on a practical understanding and an unrivalled performance experience of the songs. The initial two chapters contextualize Moore and his songs through a detailed examination of their sources and style while the following chapters concentrate on the collaborative work provided by the composers Sir John Stevenson and Henry Rowley Bishop. Chapters 5 and 6 reappraise musical sources and Moore’s adaptation of these, supported and illustrated by the Table of Sources in the Appendix.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Harry White
Chapter 1 Political Reference and Literary Influence
Chapter 2 Thomas Moore and Music
Chapter 3 The Songs and Sir John Stevenson
Chapter 4 Working with Henry Rowley Bishop
Chapter 5 Re-evaluating the Sources
Chapter 6 Alterations to the Airs
Key to Sources, Collections and Reference Works in Table of Sources
Table of Sources
Una Hunt's main research interests are in the area of nineteenth-century music in Ireland of which she has made an extensive study. Her PhD thesis was the first to acknowledge and provide recordings of music by one of Ireland's foremost pianist-composers, George Alexander Osborne (1806–1893) who flourished in both Paris and London but whose music is now largely forgotten. Hunt brings to her musicological research considerable expertise and experience as a distinguished pianist. She tours extensively as a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist; she has partnered leading musicians and performed in some of the world’s most prestigious concert venues. Una has also released an unrivalled discography of CDs devoted to the music of Ireland reflecting her pioneering research into this little-known area of cultural heritage. This includes My Gentle Harp – the first complete audio archive of Moore’s Irish Melodies which she recorded and produced on a six-CD box set.
Hunt’s book is an invaluable and groundbreaking resource that all future scholars or students of the Irish Melodies will need to read.
Jeffery Vail, Boston University, USA