American Irish Musical Interpreters,
1850 - 1975
Many types of Irish-influenced
music, song, and dance are flourishing in the United
States today, from the ancient wire-strung Irish harp
tradition to old-time Appalachian fiddling, from ballad
singing to Riverdance. These and other examples show the
contributions of Irish-born musicians to American culture
to be plentiful, heterogeneous, and enduring.
Over time, American Irish performers have embodied and
interpreted various forms of musical expression. Some
Irish-born musicians living in the U.S. have made a tremendous
impact by staying within Irish musical traditions, accommodating
American influences only minimally. Other American Irish
musicians have absorbed a wide variety of influences,
from Ireland, Britain, Europe, and the U.S. These artists
have reshaped their artistic vision and output, for audiences
in the U.S. and beyond.
Through the lives and careers of a few public musical
figures, this exhibit shows some of the breadth of “American
Irish” vocal and instrumental music. The Irish contribution
to American music, song, and dance is vast, and this exhibit
can only offer a hint of its diversity in the public sphere.
Nevertheless, each of these Irish-born musicians has helped
to shape the American musical landscape, whether by popularizing
existing Irish traditions, expanding American traditions,
or blending styles and repertoire into new genres.
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