Music of the Isle of Man
The music of the Isle of Man reflects Celtic, Norse and other influences, including from its neighbours, Scotland, Ireland England and Wales. The Isle of Man is a small island nation in the Irish Sea, between Great Britain and Ireland (and not part of the United Kingdom).
A wide range of music is performed on the island, such as rock, blues, jazz and pop. However, its traditional folk music has undergone a revival since the 1970s, starting with a music festival called Yn Çhruinnaght in Ramsey.1 This was part of a general revival of the Manx language and culture, after the death of the last native speaker of Manx in 1974.
Musicians of the Manx musical revival include King Chiaullee, Skeeal, The Mannin Folk, Mactullagh Vannin, Moot and many others. The Manx Heritage Foundation provides a central Myspace for Manx Music and Dance, which has links to most performers. Other artists who have produced CDs include Emma Christian (Ta'n Dooid Cheet – Beneath the Twilight), (voice, harp and recorder), and harpist and producer Charles Guard (Avenging and Bright), an administrator at the Manx Heritage Foundation. Many of the web entries about Manx Music stem from Cliff McGann's 1996 article2 which is now somewhat out of date.
Prior to the 15th century, little can be determined about the character of music on the Isle of Man. There are many carved crosses from this era, but they depict a total of two musicians, one lur player and a harpist. Songs from this era may have had Scandinavian origins; some also bear similarities to Irish and Scottish music. The song Reeaghyn dy Vannin (the Manx sword dance), is very similar to a lullaby from the Hebrides and is also said to have been a ritual dance during the Scandinavian era.
The earliest written evidence describes fiddle music and a variety of folk dances. There was no harp tradition as was otherwise prevalent in Celtic music. English folk songs were very popular, later including broadside ballads, jigs and reels. Also extant were traditional Gaelic psalm-singing and other church music.
Church music is the most documented Manx music of the 19th century. Lining out was a common technique, as it was throughout Great Britain and Ireland. West gallery musicians performed for special occasions, using locally-composed or well-known compositions. Organs were a later importation that became standard in most of the island's churches. The first collection of Manx church songs was printed in 1799, and was followed by many other collections, though it was not until the 1870s and 1880s that Manx music began to be published in any great quantity, as drawing-room ballads, religious songs, and choral arrangements all became popular. The proliferation of this music coincided with a boom in the tourism industry for the Isle, and Manx music-hall and dance-hall songs and dances saw increased demand.3 Derby Castle and the Palace Hall became two of the most prominent venues in the British Islescitation needed during this era, and there were a number of thriving smaller establishments. Manx language songs, in particular, benefited from the Gaelic revival from the 19th century onwards.3
Though West Gallery music continued into the 1950s, by the 20th century instrumental music accompanied most worship on the Isle of Man. Later in the 20th century, Manx church musical traditions slowly declined. The legacy of immigration, from England and elsewhere, has brought in many new styles of music to the island.
The Manx Heritage Foundation has a dedicated Manx Music Development Team comprising a Manx Music Specialist who works with the IOM Department of Education to encourage the development of Manx music in the school curriculum and a Manx Music Development Officer, who works to promote Manx Music and Dance in the wider community. CDs by bands, soloists and Gaelic choirs are being produced all of the time.
The Manx Music Festival is an annual music festival held at the end of each April in Douglas. It was originally founded in 1892 after music classes were included in the Fine Arts and Industrial Guild, after which the festival gets its colloquial name of "The Guild". Local people and visitors are invited to take part in various singing, instrumental, drama and public speaking classes. At the close of the festival, winners of the individual voice categories compete to win the Cleveland Medal, first donated in 1923 by the Cleveland Manx Society. The first performance of the Manx National Anthem occurred at The Guild in 1907, accompanied by Harry Wood's Orchestra.
The Garden Party
'We are a small but ever-growing unique festival based on the Isle of Man which started out in 2010. Our mission is to give the public what they really want in a music festival and in doing so, promote the wonderful local talent we have here on the Island, support local business and local charities. The dates of our event are always centred around the Island's Tynwald celebrations and the name is actually a nod to the garden party that is held annually by the Island's Liuetenant Governor who is the Queen's representative on the Isle of Man. The event is held in Begoade Fields, Onchan which is just outside the main village and not far from the Island's capital Douglas.'4
- Mathieson, Kenny. "Wales, Isle of Man and England". 2001. In Mathieson, Kenny (Ed.), Celtic music, pp. 88–95. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-623-8
- Guard, Charles (1980), The Manx National Songbook Vol. 2, Shearwater Press, ISBN 0-904980-31-6
- article on Manx music history by Fenella Bazin
- Article on Manx traditional music