Dr Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin


A Pocket History Irish Music (O'Brien Press)O’Brien Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music (Pocket Books)

  •  192 pages, print and Kindle versions;  Publisher: The O’Brien Press, Dublin

Part of the O’Brien Press’ Series of Pocket Histories, this book give a superb overview of history of Irish traditional music, song and dance from the mythological harp of the Dagda right up to Riverdance.  Exploring an abundant spectrum of historical sources, music and folklore, this guide uncovers the contribution of the Normans to Irish dancing, the role of the music maker in Penal Ireland, as well as the popularity of dance tunes and set dancing from the end of the 18th century. It also follows the music of the Irish diaspora from as far apart as Newfoundland and the music halls of vaudeville to the musical tapestry of Irish America today.


  • This serves as a great introduction – not too large but plenty in it – to traditional Irish music.
  • We picked this up in the airport after an evening in a pub in the west of Ireland. Highly recommended for musicians and certainly for fans of Irish and ‘Celtic’ music and culture.
  • It lacks an index, but page headings help  you find sections.
  • Really “covers the map” including topics such as Irish Traditional Music in Quebec or The Scots-Irish in the Appalachians. It profiles important musicians in the history of Irish music, but I wanted more details on the recent (1970s-2000) artists. 
  • The list of traditional music organizations, glossary, discography and note on session etiquette were useful.
  • Great treatment of one of my favorite subjects. It would have been nice to spell a lot of the Irish names phonetically, though.


  • Tudor and Stuart Ireland
  • Jacobites, Dancing Masters and the Penal Era
  • Pipers, Spallpins and Patriots: Pre-Famine Ireland
  • Silence in the Land of Song: Post-Famine Ireland
  • Quebec to the Klondike: The Famine Diaspora
  • Records, Radios and Halls: `The New Century’
  • Ennis, Ó Riada and the Fleadh: A Tradition Restored
  • From Friels’ Kitchen to the New Millennium
  • Glossary of Traditional Music Terms
  • Music, Song and Dance Collections
  • Traditional Music Organisations
  • Select Discography
  • A Note on Session Etiquette