The Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) was well-known, highly respected and, in many circles, revered during his lifetime. He was one of the last practitioners of the great oral tradition in Ireland and bridged a musical gap between folk music and the art music of the Italian Baroque masters. Although the small gut-strung harp on the European continent was not considered a vehicle for serious study, its wire-strung counterpart in Ireland was the official instrument of musicians in the service of kings, chiefs, and influential families. This afforded the harper great prominence, particularly among the Gaelic nobility. Carolan’s beginnings, however, differed greatly from those who would later grant him fame.
Turlough O’Carolan was born near the village of Nobber, County Meath in 1670. At the age of 14 his father moved the family to Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon to work for the McDermott Roe family of Alderford House. At the age of 18 Carolan lost his sight to smallpox and subsequently encountered difficulty finding work. Like many stricken with blindness at that time, he decided to become a harper and, with the help of his father’s employer, began a three year apprenticeship to study the instrument. Upon completion, Mrs. McDermott Roe supplied Carolan with a horse, a guide, and some money to begin his professional life. Thus began a musical journey which lasted more than 40 years and eventually earned Carolan the title, “National Composer of Ireland.”
Interestingly, Carolan was not regarded as a master performer. It was upon the urging of one of his first patrons, George Reynolds of County Leitrim, that he attempted composition. Realizing that he had a gift for melody, Carolan spent the rest of his life successfully traveling to and from the big houses and castles of Ireland composing tunes, or “planxties,” for wealthy patrons. It is important to note that many of these compositions also contained words. In the Irish oral tradition, perpetuated by harpers who came before Carolan, the music was important but the poetry was paramount. In contrast to traditional practice however, Carolan would write the music first and then supply the words. Although much of the poetry has unfortunately been lost, over 200 of the bard’s melodies survive.
The Seas are Deep offers a sampling of these timeless melodies arranged for two guitars, with several tracks augmented by double bass and bodhran. Running the gamut from the haunting to the beautiful to the celebratory, this album pays tribute to the music of Ireland’s last true bard.
The classical guitar duo of David Pedrick and Jeremy Hutson was formed in 1998. Hailed as “master guitarists,” (The Capital) the Pedrick-Hutson Duo has given critically acclaimed performances throughout the United States. Recent highlights include the Steinway 150th Anniversary Concert Series, the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society Festival, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival, The Lancaster Summer Arts Festival, concerts at the Delaware Center for the Performing Arts, The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and the Johns Hopkins University Concert Series.
Dedicated to both preserving the past and embracing the future, the duo’s concert programs typically sample over four centuries of music by composers from around the globe. They have also commissioned and premiered several new compositions for guitar duo in addition to their own original pieces and transcriptions of works by the masters. Selections from their two critically acclaimed recordings, Mirage (2002) and Environs (2003) have been featured on over 200 NPR affiliates throughout the United States in addition to numerous playlists abroad. The duo has also been heard on radio programs such as All Songs Considered, Crossover, Desert Island Discs, An Hour with the Guitar, The Long and Dusty Road, and The Intimate Guitar.
In addition to their busy performance schedules, both members of the duo are active teachers, clinicians, and adjudicators. On the road and in their home state of Pennsylvania, they have given lectures, workshops, clinics, and master classes for high schools, universities, guitar societies, and music education organizations. David Pedrick is currently on the faculty of Lancaster Country Day School and has served as a contributing author for the Guitar Foundation of America and the National Association for Music Education. Jeremy Hutson is on the faculties of The Pennington School, Philadelphia Biblical University, The Lancaster Conservatory, and the Csehy Summer School of Music and is a 1999 third prize winner of the Pennsylvania/Delaware String Teachers Association Competition.