John McCormack in 1918, without amplification, at the Hippodrome Theatre in New York. More information:


American Irish Musical Interpreters, 1850 - 1975

John McCormack singing
Somewhere a Voice is Calling

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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