The Irish Music Collections in the O’Neill and Burns Libraries
Curious about the folk music traditions of Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Canada? Brainstorming for a research topic? Searching for music that is off the beaten path? Interested in learning to play Irish traditional music?
The libraries’ Irish music collections are available for your research, entertainment, and listening pleasure. From the O’Neill Library Media Center and stacks areas, your Boston College I.D. allows you to check out CDs, DVDs, CD-ROMs, sheet music, and books about music. Databases, journals, and reference books at Boston College provide a wealth of biographical and subject background. One of these, the Smithsonian Global Sound database, offers streaming music from many folk traditions, including those of Ireland and Britain.
For in-depth research projects, the archival collections at the Burns Library document the history of Irish traditional music in America, through older recordings, photographs, and correspondence, books, and much more.
Many are surprised to find such a rich collection of Irish music at Boston College. There is a decades-long history of Irish-studies collecting activity in the Boston College Libraries, and the Irish Studies Program offers courses and events in history, literature, folklore, Irish language, music history, ballads, film, art history, and performance. The library collections support these interdisciplinary programs, providing a wealth of material for research projects.
Classes in Irish fiddle, tin whistle, and dance run throughout the academic year, with a student & faculty performance at the Arts Festival in April. Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Music, Song, Dance, Workshop, and Lecture Series presents acclaimed performers and lecturers from Boston, New England, Ireland, and beyond. Séamus Connolly, ten-time All-Ireland fiddle champion and Sullivan Family Artist-in-Residence, teaches advanced fiddle, directs the Gaelic Roots series, and welcomes new students to the music, song and dance offerings.
So ... if you would like to hear what virtuoso fiddle playing sounded like 80 years ago, or find the lyrics to Irish songs about Napoleon, or learn about women’s involvement in music, song, and dance...there are many resources at your disposal! Please visit our online Irish Music Research Guide, and while you’re in O’Neill, stop by to see the exhibit, “Somewhere a Voice is Calling: American Irish Musical Interpreters, 1850-1975.”
Beth Sweeney is the director of the Irish Music Center in the John J. Burns Library.