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Carl Gilbert Hardebeck was a classical pianist, organist and composer, a music teacher and choirmaster, and also a dedicated collector, arranger and publisher of Irish traditional music. Traditional song was his main area of Irish interest, and he edited and arranged for voice and piano several influential collections of Irish-language songs. But he was also responsible for three published collections of instrumental traditional music.
Born in London of prosperous German and Welsh parentage, the precocious Hardebeck was blind from childhood. He received his music education at the Royal Normal School for the Blind, and in 1893 moved to Belfast to establish a music store. When this failed, he devoted the rest of his life to music, living in Belfast until 1919, moving to Cork to take up academic positions before returning to Belfast in 1923, and ultimately moving to Dublin about 1933. His final years were spent in poverty but he remained a keen advocate of Irish music until his death.
Married to an Irishwoman and poet Mary Reavy, Hardebeck became involved with the Gaelic League and Feis Ceoil movements in the 1890s. He learned Irish and devoted his life to Irish traditional music after coming into contact with traditional singers and musicians: ‘I decided to leave all and follow it’. His arrangements respected the nature of the music and are still highly regarded. Hardebeck’s music was published by himself in Belfast and by various London publishers; his other publications and re-publications came from Dublin publishers: Conradh na Gaeilge, Pohlman, Whelan & Son, Sullivan & Co, Pigott & Co, The Sign of the Three Candles, Browne and Nolan Ltd, and Oifig an tSoláthair.