Cèilidhs are traditional Celtic social events. The Scottish spell it Cèilidh, and the Irish spell it as Cèili.

In translation it means "Social Visit", but in practical terms it involves dancing and celtic music.

Due a large number of Irish and Scottish colonial settlers in Australia, a lot of the Cèilidh dances were adopted as "Australian Bush Dances".

The JarrahCelts host Cèilidhs where they teach the audience to set dance. Here are a few pictures of our Cèilidhs...

2017 Warnbro Scottish Ceilidh

2017 Boddington Medieval Banquet Animation

2017 Core Ceildh Perth
2020 JulieAnn Jim Wedding

 

  

Flutes and Pipes in some form have been played in Ireland by the Celts for at least 1,000 years prior to the more modern instruments we see today. Fragments of flutes and whistles dating to 1,000AD have been excavated in Dublin, Cork and Waterford.

But the Irish flute that you see today in traditional sessions is essentially a very close cousin to the wooden transverse Baroque style flute that was widely popular throughout Europe in the 1700's. The baroque flute was a conical bore instrument in the key of D, with six rather small finger-holes and one key (E-flat). This was the chamber instrument of Beethoven’s day (1770-1827) and Mozart (1756-1791). Baroque flutes continued to be developed and refined until the mid 19th Century.

2021 Irish Flute Chris HorganChris Horgan's Irish Flute

In 1831 a German designer, Theobald Boehm, created the Boehm system – which is the silver flute you seen on Orchestras these days. It is made of metal and has a lot of mechanical keys.

When the orchestral musicians of Europe changed over to the Boehm flute, it is said that the old wooden open holed flutes began to show up in pawn shops for low prices, where the Irish could afford to buy them. Irish makers could also easily make the wooden flutes and have continued to experiment and evolve their designs.

The majority of Irish flutes of today are generally close copies of one of two makes of wooden flute; Rudall & Rose (c1820) or Pratten (c1840). 

The modern "Clarke Tin Whistle" made its appearance 1840. It has the same fingering as the Irish Flute.

As quoted by an unknown, insightful author…

“Never get one of those cheap tin whistles. It leads to much harder vices like pipes and flutes.”

The Medieval Period (Middle Ages) began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century – and lasted until the 15th century AD. Also in the 5th Century, Celtic Christianity was brought to Ireland with Saint Patrick.

Fidel paintingPainting from the Manesse Manuscript: Northern Switzerland Monastery - 14th Century

The Celtic Culture spanned through the Medieval ages, being established in Europe from the 7th Century BC to current day. The Romans called them Galli and the Greeks called them Keltoi-- both meaning barbarians.

Like most Celtic knowlege, the traditional music (Jigs and Reels) were passed down through the generations orally – meaning that they were passed on verbaly and not written. Unfortunately this makes it rather difficult for historians to prove details with accruacy and we need to rely on Roman or Anglosaxon documentation (with inhertent cultral bias and interpretation). 

Bang in the middle of the middle ages, in 1188, a Welsh Monk by the name of “Gerald of Wales” (Giraldus Cambrensis) wrote about Irish Celtic music, describing it in detail...

“For their modulation on these instruments, unlike that of the Britons to which I am accustomed, is not slow and harsh, but lively and rapid, while the harmony is both sweet and gay. It is astonishing that in so complex and rapid a movement of the fingers, the musical proportions can be preserved…”

So from this we have some indication that traditional Irish tunes date back to at least the 12 century, predating musical notation.

Medieval flute playersPainting: Raymond Meylan "The Flute" (1340)

In medieval times musicans would play harps, flutes, pipes, lutes and the fidel (which is the ancestor to the Violin – which is why in Celts call it a “Fiddle”).

FidelThe Medieval Fidel

Brehon Law is the body of ancient native Irish law set down on parchment from the 7th Century until the completion of the English conquest of Ireland in the early 17th century.

They were named after the wanderings lawyers, the Brehons. They show that the Irish Celts in the early medieval period to have been a hierarchical society, taking great care to define social status and the rights and duties.

One interesting law of the time...

“The harpist is the only musician who is of noble standing. Flute players, trumpeters and timpanists as well as jugglers, conjurers, and equestrians who stand on the back of horses at fairs, have no status of their own in the community, only that of the noble chieftain to whom they are attached.”

 

The earliest music notation we know of suceeds the Medieval period, but it may give us an indication of music of the era...

  • Glory to the West - notated in the English Dancing Master, John Playford, 1651.

  • Si Beag Si Mohr - Turlough O'Carolan (the blind Irish Harpist), 1670-1738

  • Greensleaves - offically registered 1580. Rumoured to have been composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn.

 

The English Dancing Master

The Glory Of the West

The Celts (said "Kelts") were a European cultural group first evident in 1000BC. The Romans called them Galli and the Greeks called them Keltoi; both meaning "barbarians". It was not a term that the ancient celts called themselves. The ancient Celts were never a single kingdom or an empire, but a collection of hundreds of tribal chiefdoms with a shared culture and distinctive language.

During the height of their expansion of 200 - 400 BC, the Celts spanned through much of Europe north of the Alps. The Celts were subsequently almost wiped out of most of Europe with the rise of the Roman empire, Germanic tribes, Slavs and Huns.

Celtic WarriorCeltic Warrior. Source yourirish.com

Today, the Celtic language and respective cultures survives in what we now refer to as the "Celtic Nations" of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany.

It is important to note that Celts were not a race of people, but a group of ethnicities that share Celtic languages, cultures and artistic histories. 

The oldest archaeological evidence of the Celts comes from Hallstatt, Austria, where excavated graves of chieftains have been discovered dating from about 1000 BCE.

Timeline summary of the Celts:

  • 1000BC Hallstatt – Austria – Artefacts found of the Earliest Celtic Culture – the 3000 year old Salt mines were mined by Celts. Celts were masters of Iron swords and weaponry. 20,000 artefacts found.
  • 600BC Celts arrive in Ireland during the Iron Age.
  • 500BC Celts reach Italy.
  • 400BC Celts at the peak of their Cultural and Military power. Celts in Switzerland – La Tene. Artefacts found. Evidence of bloody offerings to their gods.
  • 300BC Celts settle in Gaul
  • 300BC Celtic burial grounds in Germany.
  • 387BC  First Celtic VS Roman battle at Clusion (Tuscany/Italy/100 miles north of Rome). Celts burnt Rome to the ground.
    Celts and Romans fought then for the next 400 years. (Romans eventually the victor).
  • 150BC Rome was rebuilt and prospering – dominating Europe. Celts were in Gaul peacefully bartering and trading with Romans.
  • 58BC – Julius Caesar is charged to take Gaul.
  • 52BC – The Celts in Gaul fight back – Celtic Warrior Getrix. Battle of Alesia - Caesar won. Celts begin to fall.
  • 43AD – Romans settle Brittan and start building cities.
  • 60AD – Last stand of the Celts with British Woman Celtic Warrior Bodica (Boo dee ca) from the Iceni Tribe. British Celts used Chariots in war. When Bodica was a Queen, the Romans took her land, publicly flogged her and raped her daughters. This started the British Celtic uprising. While the Romans were hunting down Druids in Mona, Anglese, the Celts under Bodica took back the British cities and slaughtered the roman citizens. The Romans and Bodica’s armies met – the Romans were outnumbered 20 to 1 – but the Roman mechanical and disciplined strategy succeeded over the Celtic individual warrior fighting style - and the Romans won.
  • 367 AD: Roman Empire starts to fall. Scottish Picts enter Britannia with Saxons.
  • 400 AD: Medieval Period
  • 432 AD: St Patrick and Celtic Christianity began. (Ireland)
  • 700 AD: Brehon Law. Ancient Celtic laws of Ireland in Gaelic Language. Clan Society.
  • 795 AD: First Viking raid against the Irish Celts (Ireland).
  • 800 AD: Book of Kells Written
  • 852 AD: Vikings establish a fortress in Dublin Bay (Ireland).
  • 1000 AD: Flutes and Whistles found in Dublin, Cork, Waterford (Ireland).
  • 1014 AD: Battle of Clontarf. Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, won the battle, with the power of the Vikings and the Kingdom of Dublin largely broken.

 

References:

https://www.history.com/news/celts-facts-ancient-europe