Irish folk music revisited

July 30, 2015
Benjamin E. Bates
Paddy Moloney and Seán Potts. cover of Tin Whistles.

The Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) has recently begun cataloging Irish folk music recordings donated by the family of Thomas Quilter. The collection features items representing a significant span of Irish and Irish-American music from the 1910s to the 1980s and a progression in performance practices leading up to and including the revival of Irish traditional folk music.

'Revival' of Irish instrumental folk music

Among the vinyl discs within the collection, we can see the impact of the 'Folk Revival' on the Irish instrumental musical scene of the 1960s. An important artist featured in this revival is Seán Ó Riada.  As a composer and broadcaster for Radio Éireann, Ó Riada explored the possibilities of bringing the traditional dance music of rural Ireland to a broader audience.  He later founded a traditional band, Ceoltóirí Chualann, with members who would shortly form the world-famous band, the Chieftains. This revival period sought to create original works and arrangements of Irish folk music for listening rather than in live traditional settings and also reintroduced songs sung in Gaelic as a widely accepted art form.

Seán Ó Sé, Seán Ó Riada with Ceoltóirí Chualann on the 1967 album, Ceol na nUasal.

 

Early recorded legacy in Irish America

Recent additions to the collection also include 78 rpm discs made in the U.S. between 1910s and 1950s.  These recordings show the influence of Anglo-Irish songs, vaudeville, and the immigrant experience on the Irish-American music scene of the period with such artists as Shaun O'Nolan "the Wicklow Piper" , Peter Conlon, the Flanagan Brothers, and the McNulty Family, once referred to in the U.S. as the 'First Family of Irish Music'.

Dorothy McManus singing 'Irish Soldier Boy' on the Copley label, based in Boston, Massachusetts [1950]

For further inquires about this collection, or any other materials, please visit the Archive of Recorded Sound website.