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Irish Music Center Begins Work in New Quarters

(11-3-99) - The Irish Music Center, now housed in its new quarters, has embarked upon its task of preserving and showcasing the history of traditional Irish music in America.

The center recently began operations in the renovated MacNeil Room of Bapst Library. A reception marking the facility's formal opening will take place on Sunday, Nov. 21, from 2-4 p.m.

Visitors to the center can listen to recordings of Irish music, some of them rare and difficult to obtain, and browse through a variety of reference materials, both paper and electronic. But as Irish Music Librarian Elizabeth Sweeney notes, the center's usefulness goes beyond its four walls.

"We are seeking to foster the study and appreciation of Irish music in America," explained Sweeney, "not only by housing audio collections or publications donated to BC, but by coordinating the acquisition of such materials for the University libraries, for example, or sponsoring initiatives and events that promote a greater awareness of Irish music."

The center was founded as the Irish Music Archive in 1990 by the Music Department, Irish Studies Program and Burns Library to document the history of Irish traditional music in America through commercial and field recordings, sheet music, memorabilia and books about music.

As part of its efforts, the center works with Irish Studies Music Programs Director Seamus Connolly, organizer of the annual Gaelic Roots festival at BC. The center also has arranged with the O'Neill Library Media Center to designate a special room for browsing and listening to Irish music recordings. This collection of recordings is growing rapidly, focusing on recently published materials. The Media Center also collects and provides access to videos of Irish music and dance.

"If we don't have a particular item a person is looking for, we'll certainly be able to point them in the right direction," she said. "We're planning to put as much information online as possible, so visitors can get oriented even before they come inside."

The Nov. 21 event will feature one of the more recent donations to the archive, according to Sweeney: the Frederick M. Manning John McCormack Collection, the most comprehensive collection of resource materials in the United States documenting the great tenor's career. The collection includes such personal effects as a small black book containing song lyrics McCormack would refer to inconspicuously while performing.

More information can be found on the center's World Wide Web site.

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