Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ, has announced the establishment of the Irish Music Center. The Center will collect and preserve Irish music, especially as performed and recorded in the United States, and will document traditional forms of Irish music from its origins to the present, with emphasis on its influence in America.
The Irish Music Center will be a component of the Boston College Irish Collection — the largest and most comprehensive collection of Irish research materials in the country — which is housed in the University’s John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections.
“It is especially fitting that the Irish Music Center be established in 1998, the year that Boston College celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of its Irish Collection, the 20th anniversary of the founding of its Irish Studies Program and the recent establishment of its Irish Institute,” Father Leahy said. “These programs have combined to make Boston College the premier institution in America for the study and preservation of Irish life, history and culture. The Irish Music Center will be a unique resource for the study and appreciation of this important part of Ireland’s tradition. Irish music will flourish at Boston College as never before.”
The Center is the outgrowth of an archive of traditional Irish music that was founded at Boston College following the highly successful 1990 musical festival My Love Is in America: The Boston College Fiddle Festival. Organized by the acclaimed Irish musician Micheal O’Suilleabhain, the festival tapped an immense reservoir of interest in Irish music both locally and nationally. In response, the Boston College Music Department, Irish Studies Program and Burns Library came together to establish the Irish Music Archives at the library in 1991.
Since then, the success of the University’s annual Gaelic Roots Festivals — organized by internationally recognized fiddler Seamus Connolly, who is now music director of the Irish Studies Program — has underscored the importance of the project.
“There was clearly increasing responsibility to collect, preserve and make these materials accessible, to document Ireland’s musical heritage and to promote greater awareness of the contribution of Irish traditional music to Irish and American culture,” Boston College Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill said of the initial archive, which quickly became home to a growing store of material, including significant early recordings. “The popularity of Gaelic Roots gave even greater impetus to that responsibility, which the establishment of the Irish Music Center will enable us to fulfill.”
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According to O’Neill, the Irish Music Center will seek to collect, preserve and make accessible a complete record of Irish music as performed in America, as well as document the history of traditional Irish music through collecting, research and publication. It also will seek to record important and unique performances, such as cultural festivals, that would otherwise be lost to posterity and to sponsor events that will recognize and promote greater awareness of the contribution of Irish music to culture, especially American culture. It also may publish selected recordings, songs and musical scores.
The Center will house not only audio recordings in all formats (78s, 45s, LPs, compact discs, audiocassettes, DAT, reel-to-reel), but also: music videos in all formats (film, video cassettes and video discs); printed music (sheet music, musical scores and books); manuscripts (holograph musical scores, diaries, correspondence, journals); music-related photographs, posters, ephemera and memorabilia; musical instruments, and archival records of organizations, groups and individuals related to Irish music as performed in America.
To enhance access to the collection, the Center will catalogue the collection on an international database and maintain a World Wide Web site.
Currently, the Boston College Irish Music Archives contain hundreds of recordings of Irish music, some of them extremely rare and dating back to 1903, donated by alumni and friends of the university.