Cana Cludhmor was a banfhile, an Irish woman poet of great renown. We know her story from only a few lines in Imtheacht na Tromdháimhe or The Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, found in the fourteenth century Book of Lismore. Only mentioned briefly in the manuscript, we know that Cana Cludmor walks away from a dissatisfying marriage, and finds herself at a beach where the wind is playing in the sinews of a whale skeleton. She falls asleep to this otherworldly music, and when her husband discovers her and hears the lovely sound, he is inspired to construct the first harp. This retelling by Marisa Goudy stays true to the original, but imagines the characters’ motivation (and adds the bit about the poet’s curse, the bloodied hands, and the healing at the end).
Maureen Buscareno is a harper, a music educator, a podcaster, and the founder of Moon Over the Trees Music & Theater Productions. Maureen received her master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Ireland’s University of Limerick. Passionate about bringing music to schools and to the community, Maureen received her master’s in music education from Columbia University. You can hear more from Maureen on her podcasts: HarpSong, Beat Your Heart Out, and Theatre Aesthetics.
Marisa and Maureen connect as two American women with Irish heritage who both received master’s degrees in Ireland at about the the same time (though it took a Hudson Valley Women In Business gathering in 2021 to get them together!). In their discussion, they explore:
The work of world-renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist Mícheal Ó Súilleabhain has been a profound influence on Maureen. He was her thesis advisor at UCL and reveled in the campus’s location on the River Shannon, likening students and faculty to ancient Druids becoming one with the land, landscape, sounds and sights of nature.
Marisa is dedicated to honoring the source of the story, which appears in an 1860 publication from the Ossianic Society. Modern versions of the story have turned the Cana Cludhmor, the banfhile (woman poet), into a “Celtic goddess of inspiration” and credited her with being the inventor of the harp. This article by Morgan Daimler traces the potential causes for the modern revisions of the story.
The Celtic music revival in 1960s
Three kinds of traditional Irish music: celebration, lullabies, laments
The sean-nós tradition, unaccompanied Irish language singing
The Trailblazery, which offers the online Scoil Scairte Irish language and culture program
Music at the start of the show is by the wonderful Beth Sweeney and Billy Hardy, a Celtic Fiddle and multi-instrumental Duo based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The traditional Irish reel we play at the start of the show is called The College Groves. Find out about their music and shows at: billyandbeth.com
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