New chamber music from Sean Egan

Turlough O'Carolan was one of the last of the itinerant Irish harpers. He lived from 1670 to 1738, and spent most of his career traveling across Ireland, staying in the homes of his wealthy patrons, and providing them with music, poetry, and song. He was a prolific composer; over two hundred of his melodies have been passed down in the oral tradition, and are still regularly performed today.

Although O'Carolan was trained in the ancient Irish harp tradition, he admired and drew inspiration from the continental composers of his time, what we now think of as the Late Baroque era. The idea of using some of O'Carolan's melodies as the thematic material for a set of fugues (a popular baroque musical form) first came to me in the early 1980s, when I was an undergrad music student exploring Chicago's Irish music scene. The thought has stayed with me all these years, and when the COVID shutdowns were announced, I took the opportunity to act on it.

This project is an evolving work-in-progress, but the plan at this point is to write and record a set of six to ten chamber music pieces based on O'Carolan's melodies, drawing on Baroque compositional forms and techniques, as well as contemporary practice in Irish traditional music. These pieces are designed to be played by musicians from the Irish tradition, but they can also be adapted for a variety of orchestral instruments.

Thanks for listening,

- Sean Egan

Demo Recordings and Scores for Completed Drafts

About the Composer

Sean Egan has been playing Irish traditional music for nearly forty years, performing throughout the Midwest at festivals, ceili dances, pubs, and other venues ranging from house parties to Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall. He has been a member of a number of Celtic music ensembles, most notably the Chicago band Baal Tinne, and the Twin Cities groups Field Day, the Blackbirds, and the Doon Ceili Band, and he has recorded for the Shanachie, New Folk, and √Čire Arts labels. He teaches at the Center for Irish Music in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In addition to playing Irish music, Egan has a degree in music composition from DePaul University, and works as a multi-instrumentalist and composer in a variety other genres.