Celtic Music

Many fundamentalists (especially those of college age) have a love affair with all things Irish that borders on obsession. This yen of fundies for Ireland is a bit confusing on its face. After all, fundies don’t approve of liquor, Roman Catholics, dancing, luck, or kissing people merely based on their ethnic heritage. In fact, they think so little of Ireland that it’s a fairly popular missionary destination. But regardless of all these flaws, what many fundamentalists do approve of is traditional rhythmic folk music played by white guys. And the Irish have plenty o’ that. (So do mountain-dwelling banjo-pickers but that’s a post for another day.)

Now this is not to say that fundamentalists will listen to all Irish music or singers. U2, The Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly’s music would never pass music checks at any Fundy U worthy of the name. But when it comes to the instrumental folks songs or hymns played in “Celtic” style, many fundamentalists have love for it that borders on obsession. You’ll rarely find a church bookstore without at least a few CDs of “Celtic Hymns Played Slowly and Drearily Volume III.”

But what is Irish music really but songs of love and loss and oral histories that are sung to variations on tunes as old as time. Are they really that different from the folk music sung by people in Botswana, Kyrgyzstan, or Poughkeepsie? What sanctifies the Irish to sing and play what would cause others to fall from grace with God?

Perhaps it does all come down to color. And I’m not talking about green.

154 thoughts on “Celtic Music”

  1. The Will Galkin evangelistic team does Celtic stuff and I actually like it. You can take the girl out of IFB, but you can’t take IFB out of the girl.

    1. I’ve wondered when Durl was going to do something on IFB/Celtic music. Since I saw the “Pettit team” and the “Galkin team” whip out their penny whistles, I’ve wondered about this obsession. I like it, too, but I find it strange.

  2. In my parents’ home, Irish dancing was semi-approved, because the dancers don’t wiggle their hips, and therefore are probably not causing anyone to have impure thoughts. ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. I have this CD! ๐Ÿ˜›

    I’ve always liked Irish and Scottish folk music, although I wasn’t exposed to much. I was the only BJU freshman I knew who could sing “Bonnie George Campbell” or “The Ballad of Glencoe” (and, yes, I realize that one song is pro-Campbell and one is not!!)or “The Skye Boat Song.”

    I was thrilled when I discovered hymns done in Celtic style.

  4. In fact, they think so little of Ireland that itโ€™s a fairly popular missionary destination.

    And *that* is a whole ‘nother post unto itself: the correlation between how backward Fundies consider a nation vs. the amount of money spent on missionaries to that nation.

    1. OTOH, since the Eurozone crisis, Ireland is a big mess. Young people are leaving in droves to work in the UK.

      1. If you know any Irish history, you know that wishing someone “the luck of the Irish” is a curse.

  5. Well, top o’ the mornin’ to ya! (someone had to say it) and Happy St. Patrick’s day tomorrow. :mrgreen:

    I love the Irish Tenors. And this cd above I’d love that too. Every now and then something I like actually happens to be fundy-approved! What a shock! ๐Ÿ™„

    I’m partly of Irish extraction and have always been proud of that fact. In fact my name is a combination of my cat’s name Macushla and my name. Macushla means my darling in the Irish language.

    Happy St. Patrick’s day! :mrgreen:

    1. THANK YOU! I had wondered about your name every time I tried to spell it in a reply to you. (Thus, I never did actually put it into the reply so you never really knew I was talking to YOU.) I think I shall just call you “My Darling” now. (At least in my head)

    2. Love the Irish Tenors! I got to see them once in Milwaukee for a Christmas concert. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  6. I am going to quote Homer Simpson when I first wake up tomorrow:

    “Awww. This is St.Patrick’s Day and I am not drunk yet.”

  7. There is a Canadian evangelical musical group called The Skyes who do Celtic music. I’ve never heard them but I’ve heard they’re terrific. I wonder whether the affinity that fundies and evangelicals have toward things Gaelic may have to do with Southern fundamentalism’s Scots-Irish roots.

    On a side note: I’ve long heard that fundies disown the notion that St. Patrick was (A) actually Irish and (B) Catholic. To illustrate the point, here’s a YouTube clip from the Free Presbyterian Church of Ireland. I love the narrator’s delicious Irish brogue.


    1. In all fairness, St. Patrick was probably born a Welshman – although he was a missionary to the Irish after his conversion. And he lived in a period in which the Catholic Church had not been formed yet…well, at least according to everyone that’s not Catholic….It’s kind of like saying Justin Martyr was Catholic….

      1. Um, Justin Martyr *was* Catholic.

        Allow me to send you my copy of the Church Fathers, free of charge. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (Only kidding — it would cost too much for postage. Just google ’em.)

        The notion that the Catholic Church didn’t exist until some indeterminate point in the Middle Ages simply does not stand up to historical scrutiny.

        Was the primitive Catholic Church as fully formed and crystallized as the modern Catholic Church? Of course not. That does not mean it did not exist. You were once a zygote. I can safely guarantee that you do not much resemble one now. Yet you are the same person, the same entity, as the zygote you once were, with the same DNA.

        One thinks of mustard seeds becoming flourishing bushes and sheltering the birds of the air….

        1. Are you sure?
          (Mostly) the same DNA, yes. But I’m not the same person I was yesterday afternoon, let alone umpteen years ago.

        2. Whoops, the comment above was supposed to be preceded by this quote:
          “Yet you are the same person, the same entity, as the zygote you once were, with the same DNA.”
          Just read the whole thread backwards, OK?

        3. In the last part of the 1st century, Clement claimed the superiority of the bishop of Rome over any other church leaders in Christendom. Other church leaders in the Empire were less than thrilled about this claim. They became much more comfortable with this idea after Constantine made the Roman church his official religion. The Catholic church with its organizational structure (and identifying itself as such) is a product of the 4th century. It claims all the church fathers as its own…Justin Martyr for example. Catholic theology claims that the Roman Catholic church began with Jesus Christ….everyone after him is Catholic.

          Landmark Baptists also claim the church fathers (some of them), the apostles, and John the Baptist. Just because you trace your roots through somebody does not mean that they are part of your church.

          I will concede St. Patrick. I consulted the best sources on the topic (Wikipedia and Google) and have determined that my Irish Protestant friends have a weak grasp of history. I will summarily slap myself (ouch) for accepting and promulgating facts without verifying them.

          But I’ll stand by Justin Martyr — my copy of the church fathers is pretty good. I’ll email it to you if you like.

        4. Todd, WADR, I think you still need to brush up on your church history. But I will refrain from saying anything further. I am not here to proselytize for Catholicism. I just can’t let it pass when someone says Justin Martyr’s not Catholic or that Catholicism started with Constantine. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ However, as I say, I’m not here to engage in Catholic apologetics. I’m here as a guest, just to enjoy the fun — this is one heck of a funny site.

          Now here’s a nice Irish smiley for you: :mrgreen:

        5. WADR? geez…i don’t need any…i’m the guy who said that Patrick wasn’t Catholic… ๐Ÿ˜€

          My point simply was that denominational lines were almost nonexistent in the first 3 centuries…you were either Christian or you weren’t. If you want to trace your history back through the Apostolic Fathers, you’re definitely able to do so….just recognize that Protestants do the same thing.

          And of course…we have a much stronger claim ๐Ÿ˜€

        6. Well, Todd, as I said, I’m definitely not here to argue apologetics, so I will only say: Pish-tosh! :mrgreen:

        7. Good for you for not engaging in Catholic apologetics. I won’t engage in it either, except to recommend Catholicism as a potential option to recovering fundamentalists. Going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) is a lengthy process, but it is useful because you will get a chance to talk to Catholics and get their perspective and not just rely on what fundamentalism tells us. However, I do realize there are some issues about Catholicism that are just too hard for people raised fundamentalist or moderate evangelical to overcome.

    2. Parick was not born in Ireland, he was a missionary TO Ireland. But not a Catholic? That’s a real stretch.

      1. St. Patrick was a Catholic. And a good Christian. I don’t pray to saints, but if I did, I might down a pint with the man.

  8. I remember being told that St. Patrick was really a Baptist, just like Jesus made grape juice not wine at the wedding!

    1. Definitely not a Baptist. But maybe he could be a Pentecostal, given the snake handling.

  9. One of the only Christmas cd’s I had during my first year of marriage was “A Celtic Christmas” purchased at the local dollar tree. What can I say? It was our last year of Bible college, and we were practically living out of a homeless shelter.

    And I hate Celtic music.

  10. “Perhaps it does all come down to color. And Iโ€™m not talking about green.” – Ouch :mrgreen:

  11. Flogging Molly kicks ass–they were the first “uncheckable” band I was introduced to coming out of my sheltered period. \m/

    1. Same here! I got turned on to Flogging Molly by the Vans Warped Tour 2004 Comp CD. First non-Christian CD I ever listened to.

  12. I personally would like to take a rcording of the dropkick murphy’s amazing grace and play it on the sound system at all of the fundy churches until the mogs head explodes and the congregations ears bleed. I knew a fundy mog that cast espersians on ccm but didnt see anything wrong with country gospel. I think that in the fundy rule book its ok to say something is acceptable if you are the mog and like it because gawad has chosen you to lead the congregation.

    1. I plan on having that played at my husband’s funeral, whenever that may be, and especially if his parents are still alive.

  13. lol, I love Celtic music (and U2!). But I can’t say I’ve heard any Celtic hymns.

    I blame my Irish grandfather …

  14. My enjoyment of Celtic music is more a celebration of my heritage, as it is predominantly northern white European – both Scandinavian and English/Scotch/Irish

    I know there is controversy among the fundy lite circles of my youth regarding the music of Petit and Galkin, and even more over the Sovereign Grace stuff that is predominantly Celtic. Of course these circles in the fundy north would condemn sutherin gospel as well, and are not fond of Appalachian music either. Something else I enjoy because of my heritage there.

    Of course in the BJU orbit, folk music might be tolerated, but it is decidedly looked down upon over the clearly superior music of the continental European Renaissance – most notably the Baroque period. It twas not a joke when someone once said to me “If it ain’t Baroque…don’t play it” They genuinely believe that is God’s favorite music. I for one have never heard any worship like that I heard done with folk music in the third World – people in American fundy churches just don’t sing like that.

    1. Hey, loooove that hymn.

      Wasn’t it written by a 6th-century Irish monk?

      An IFB monk, of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Although the number of criticisms I got for being a U2 fan (especially if they listen to Wake Up Dead Man) are as numerous as the stars in the sky…

  15. white people, non-communist, and cold dreary climate(which means less swimming/revealing clothing possiblilities)

  16. Well, I’ve never been fundy, but I love love LOOOOVE Celtic music. I have hundreds of Celtic songs on my ITunes here at work. Irish, Scottish, you name it. Including a boatload of drinking songs. And songs about revolution and stuff. And haunting ballads about lost love. And lots of stuff in Gaelic.

    But hey, I’m half-Irish; I come by it honestly.

    WRT the color you mention — and you don’t mean green ๐Ÿ™‚ — have you ever heard the Carolina Chocolate Drops?


    1. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I certainly have now. I feel a youtube search coming on. Thanks!

  17. In college, I was the singer and guitarist for a pseudo-Celtic group, but I don’t think the fundies would approve, since we specialized in murder ballads. It was kinda weird, I guess, for an Italian/Puerto Rican girl from NYC to be singing these traditional English and Appalachian songs in a Celtic style, but it was cool.

    My stepmom, who is becoming more fundy-lite these days, is obsessed with Celtic Woman. According to my sister, her DVDs of their PBS specials are being secretly passed around amongst the women in her Bible study group. ๐Ÿ˜ˆ If she keeps up this corrupting streak, maybe I’ll finally be able to get along with her!

        1. Dang, that posted in the wrong place.
          It’s supposed to go with the song about the Black-and-Tans.

        2. I really like Paul Brady’s performance of “Arthur McBride.”

          The classic murder ballad, though, ends very abruptly, gives minimal context, and often the violence seems quite unmotivated. There’s really nothing else like it.

      1. Big Gary, I am intrigued! Can you provide examples of the classic murder ballad? I must have missed those –can’t imagine how, lol!

        1. “The Knoxville Girl,” by the Louvin Brothers, is very much in that tradition (although the Louvin brothers were Americans, originally from northeastern Alabama). It’s a little unusual for a murder ballad, in that it is sung in the first person.

          What’s very striking about “The Knoxville Girl” is that, while the violence is described in some detail, no motive for the crime is stated, or even suggested, and the narrator expresses no real remorse.


        2. If you want the most lurid murder ballads, you have to go to the earlier English and Scottish ones, which often involve not only murder, but incest. In “Child Owlet,” for example, Lady Erskine attempts to seduce her nephew (the titular Child Owlet, who is thankfully not an actual child, because the story is horrifying enough as it is) and convince him to kill her husband; when he rejects her, she stabs herself and tells her husband that she was attacked by Child Owlet. Her husband then has him executed by being torn apart by wild horses. Blood and guts everywhere. Makes modern slasher films look lame, really! ๐Ÿ˜›


    1. Whoa, I just found a crappy clip on my flash drive of me singing “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” over a drum machine! I think it must have been my audition for the group. I can upload it if anyone wants to hear it (I don’t want to just post a link and look like I’m fishing for compliments!).

        1. Gah, I couldn’t get that one to upload right! The only song on the flash drive that I could get to work was a cover of “Blackbird” I did when I was 16, which I’ll link in case anyone’s curious (even though it has nothing to do with the holiday, except maybe that Paul McCartney has an Irish name). I’m playing guitar here, too. And apparently my window was open, because you can hear the traffic outside, lol.


        2. Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, but he is of Irish descent. So he’s just as Irish as many of the Americans who call themselves Irish.

        3. The second link worked. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you, Miranda, that was very good.
          You were only 16 then? Wow.

          I’d still like to hear the murder ballads.

        4. Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€ I got my first guitar when I was 5, so I’d had a lot of practice by then.

          Most of the stuff I recorded in college is still at my dad’s place. I’ve been meaning to get it from him for a while, but I always forget. If I remember when I see him next week, I’ll try to upload some stuff to YouTube.

        5. @Miranda. That was very good! You have a great voice and know how to use it. And you are also great on guitar. If an SFL get together ever happens you need to come and bring your guitar!! ๐Ÿ˜€

        6. Thanks, you guys, I’m glad you liked it! I’ll probably do some new stuff as well, once I get over my respiratory problems (I kinda have a Darth Vader voice going on at the moment). :mrgreen:

  18. BTW, y’all can keep the Dropkick Murphys, with my compliments. I’ll stick with the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners. Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners — the Irish Nightingale, lol!

  19. People insist that I am of direct Irish descent, because of my red hair. Sure, and ALL blondes are from Sweden.

    1. My paternal grandmother had hundreds of years of full-blooded Dutch ancestry on both sides. She and her four brothers were all redheads. The recessive gene that causes this is most common among Germanic and Celtic peoples. It doesn’t know geographical boundaries, except that it’s “northwestern” European. A lot of Irish and Scots are redheads because the dominance of the gene.

      — And, of course, a lot of Irish have jet-black hair, too.

      It’s the freckles that are common to both!

      There is a good bit of concern in Ireland and Scotland that redheadedness will die out in another three or four generations because the gene pool that has made it so preponderant is becoming “diluted” (as it were) by intermarriage with people of other ethnic backgrounds.

      1. A surprising number of Ashkenazi Jews are red-headed, too.

        As for red-headedness dying out, I read the same prediction about blondes a few years ago. I don’t think either trait is in any danger in the near future, even if you don’t count all the people who get their red or blonde hair color from bottles.

    2. Here in Ireland, there is so much red hair, because so many people rust with all the rain we get

  20. Faith and begorrah, happy St. Paddy’s Day Eve to all of you. (St. Patrick’s Day is a much bigger holiday in America than in Ireland, by the way.)

    Kiss me, I’m partly Irish!
    I haven’t worked out the percentage, but it’s back there somewhere in my family tree. (The Scottish is a lot more obvous: I’m a Burns on my mother’s side.)

    And did anyone else catch Dar-El’s shout out to my favorite Irish band, the Pogues?

    1. Someone asked me last year what my favorite Christmas song was. I told them A Fairytale of New York. They didn’t get it. Apparently they went home and listened to it because they called me a heathen later. :mrgreen: I was actually joking.

        1. One of the few Christmas songs to come from the pop industry that doesn’t cause diabetes…

  21. I have all of Flogging Molly’s and the Dropkick Murphy’s albums.
    It makes me remember my trips to Ireland. We borrowed a Flogging Molly CD from the library to take and listen to in our rental car. Corny I know. We drove all over Southern Ireland listening to them over and over. We heard some great music live while we were there.
    Going to a concert to hear them live is on my bucket list.

  22. ACTUALLY, at BJU (where i was forced to attend for 4 painful years)most Celtic music was “uncheckable.” My roomie had her Celtic music CD taken by the RA and held for the entire year, because of the “rythmic celtic drums” that could faintly be heard in the background. Also, my prayer group was given demerits and a little bit of counseling for, GASP, being caught doing an Irish line dance in the hallway to Celtic music that was just simply “a little too jazzy”. UGH…….

  23. You forgot to mention Mumford & Sons, the “new” folk influenced band from Britian. Prety cool stuff!! Authentic instruments with a twist.
    Definitely NOT fundy.

  24. The folk music of Poughkeepsie, Arkansas includes a wash board, 2-4 spoons and a half empty jug. (jug will be empty by the time you finish)

    1. Many people see Appalachian (and Ozarkian) folk music, white gospel music, and bluegrass as being part of the Celtic music continuum. The influence is certainly there.

      1. Agree absolutely! There is a direct connection.

        Shape-note music (Sacred Harp, Southern Harmony) is also heavily influenced by Celtic music. That’s why it’s so haunting and eerie (IMHO). And so beautiful.

      1. Many years ago, I saw Pete Seeger do that song live. He is very funny.

        This version would be pretty good, except the guy talks for over a minute before he starts singing– and it’s a three-minute video! He badly needs an editor.

  25. I can tolerate Celtic music, but I’m at least half Irish. :mrgreen:

    I don’t want to hear it at church, and I listen to loud CCM in my car.

  26. Great Big Sea–no hymns but great music! The whole idealization of Irish music reeks of racism. If fundamentalists would show some appreciation for Hispanic or African music, I would fall over dead!! Everything good springs forth from white people, apparently.

      1. Love that, Dr. Fundystan! Is that Boston, my hometown, in the background? Reminds me why I’m glad I don’t live there anymore, lol.

  27. Let’s see if I can generate an ecclesiastical divide. Do you pronounce it Seltic or Keltic?

    1. It’s kelt-ick (unless you’re French).

      Back in my undergraduate days there was a legend that a certain stammering professor who taught Celtic studies was a stickler for correctness. It was an upper-level course, so you had to get the professor’s permission to take the class. If anyone asked to take his “Seltic” class, he would say, “It’s K-k-k-k-keltic, and you k-k-k-k-kan’t.”

      1. Unless we’re talking football, in which case its Seltic. A well known Scottish team.

        1. ๐Ÿ˜ก *obligatory New York BOOOOO! for mentioning a Boston sports team* ๐Ÿ˜ก


  28. It’s funny because just Monday I was talking with a friend about the adoration of “Irish” music by fundy evangelist teams after a well-known team visited his church. It seems that to be a credible fundy team you have to have this in your repertoire. It just strikes me as odd with the “pagan” roots of this music you would think fundies would run the other direction.

  29. Very interesting, Darrell. I never realised that American fundies liked Irish folk music, as Ulster Protestant fundies generally don’t. They (we) tend to prefer marching bands, Lambeg drums, and the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Do you think there’s any connection with, say, arch Northern Irish fundie-in-chief Ian Paisley’s honourary doctorate from Bob Jones? I bet they didn’t play Irish folk music that day!

    1. If they were really in the spirit of honoring the Butcher of Belfast, they would have had a human sacrifice.
      Preferably of some “Papists.”

      1. I am embarrassed to say that had the Rev Paisley sign my Bible. Fortunately, his influence is waining.

  30. I LOVE Celtic music! Celtic Woman, Irish Tenors, and Celtic Thunder are some of my top favorites. I seem to remember an attitude though in some in the 90’s that Celtic music was deemed to be “New Age” because of drums, thin whistle, etc. Anybody else heard of that? Pettit and Galkin seem to have “legitimized” the music now, I think. Why is Celtic music popluar? Because it’s some of the best music white people have ever done, that’s why! :mrgreen: I love songs from ‘Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile” to “Fields of Athenry. Good stuff and great culture! Oh, I do have a wee bit of Irish in me.

  31. Let’s face it – and I speak as one with an Irish Granny – what Irish music and Fundy music have in common is self-pity.

    1. The difference being that, for the Irish, Actual Bad Things like conquest, oppression, plague, famine, and real persecution for both their religion and ethnicity have actually happened. Unlike most Fundies who imagine that being told they can’t have everything all their own way is persecution and that having a Democrat as their local mayor is oppression and an Actual Bad Thing.
      Also, the Irish handle the Bad Things with gallows humor. The Fundies with absolute seriousness. Which makes the former more pleasant to be around.

      1. The fundies don’t like me because my humor offends their sensibilities.

    1. does it count that I was thinking about them? Probably the most popular Irish band of the 90’s…It definitely is still good, unlike much of the rest of the music of the 90s.

      1. hahaha hey! i’m a 90’s kid ๐Ÿ˜• you must have been listening to the pop music if thats your opinion ๐Ÿ˜†

  32. Slightly off-topic: It’s funny that this should be posted today, because my husband, son and I drove up to Rock City, and they were having a Shamrock Festival complete with Irish music!

  33. I wonder if part of it is that the slower style of Celtic music is very calming. Fundamentalists aren’t allowed to hug their friends (defrauding! or gay! or both!), drink alcohol (GRAPE JUICE JESUS GOT THE PARTY STARTED WITH GRAPE JUICE SHUT UUUUUP), meditate (pagan!), escape into a book that doesn’t push their guilt buttons (worldly!), or have sex just because it feels good. Celtic and Celtic-ish music is as close as they can get to the soothing strains of New Age or slow jazz.

    That said, here’s one for ya (NWS if you think your boss might know what bollockitis is):


  34. I usually lurk, but am delurking to say if we are talking Irish music, this site gives the title of “Up the RA” a whole new meaning. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I now return to previously scheduled lurking.

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