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Gaelic Roots Preserves Irish Legacy

For The Heights

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 00:02

On Jan. 31, Brendan Bulger kicked off the semester’s Gaelic Roots Concert Series in the Walsh Function Room with an evening showcasing his mastery of the Irish fiddle. The first event in a five-part series, the evening was hosted and directed by Seamus Connolly, Boston College’s Sullivan Artist-in-Residence. The series itself is sponsored by the Center for Irish Programs, the Irish Music Center and the Boston College Libraries.


Previously a weeklong summer-school and festival program titled the Gaelic Roots Festival, the concert series took on its present form in 2003 when Connolly moved the program to the regular academic year allowing the BC community to participate in and appreciate the program. The series itself highlights music traditions from Ireland and Scotland and has hosted a number of internationally acclaimed musicians since its inception. Originally from County Clare, Ireland, Connolly himself is a “10-time All-Ireland fiddle champion—a feat still unmatched—and directs Irish music and dance instruction at BC,” Beth Sweeney, Director of the Irish Music Center, said. Over the semester, the series will feature a range of musicians, from fiddlers to accordion players and whistlers, and will conclude on April 17 with an Irish folk dance—or ceili—accompanied by the music of Seamus Connolly, BC students and other local performers.


Concerts in the series are open to all members of the BC community as well as the general public and are free to attend. In addition to traditional music, attendees can expect to hear commentary and story telling from Connolly, creating an air of warmth and welcome for every event. Moreover, Sweeney adds, “the performers provide continuity with the past, while at the same time keeping the sound fresh and vibrant.”


The Irish Music Center of the Burns Library is tasked with preserving the rich history of traditional Irish music in America and houses a number of archives, including sheet music, recordings, and memorabilia. The Center began at BC in 1990 under Michael O. Suilleabhain, then a visiting professor from Ireland, who also launched the Boston College Fiddle Festival. Since then, the Irish Music Center has continued to work toward documenting Irish music in America while also sponsoring, with the Center for Irish Programs, a number of music events on campus.


One of the programs sponsored by the Irish Music Center this year is a perfect accompaniment to the Gaelic Roots Concert Series: a new exhibit in the Burns Library titled “The Musical Roots of Seamus Connolly, Sullivan Artist-in-Residence.” Before coming to BC, Connolly made a name for himself as “one of the world’s most respected master Irish musicians.” Connolly took up the fiddle at the young age of 12 and soon found himself performing on Irish television and radio. He later traveled internationally performing, lecturing, and teaching. He has appeared on The Today Show, produced and hosted a radio show of Irish traditional music for WNTN-1550 AM and has released two records.


Both the Irish Music Center and the Gaelic Roots Festival reflect the dedicated work of the Center for Irish Programs. As the University was originally founded for the sons of Irish immigrants, the Center continues this Irish legacy today through its programming. From sponsoring musical events to promoting academic and business pursuits, the Center serves as a representative of BC’s rich Irish heritage while seeking to “support the many Boston College students, alumni, and friends with an interest in Ireland and all things Irish.”

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