Irish-American Music Cultures Symposium June 2023

Published: 18 May, 2023

Date of Event: Thursday, 8th June 2023

Irish-American Music Cultures


09:00 - 09:30


09:30 - 10:00

Scott Spencer ( University of Southern California): Collections, Archives and Digital Humanities: Making Irish-American Heritage Accessible

10:00 - 10:30

Colin Harte (City University of New York): Teaching the Tunes: Understanding the Role of Irish Traditional Music in Higher Education in North America

10:45 - 11:30

Welcome SMI and PGIL: Helen Lawlor (TU Dublin) & Liam O'Connor (ITMA), Paula Farquharson, (PGIL) John O'Flynn (SMI) and Paul McNulty (TU Dublin)

11:30 - 12:00 Tea & Coffee

Session 1: 12:00 - 13:30  Session 1a

Axel Klein (Independent Scholar): Ireland on Broadway

Maria McHale (TU Dublin Conservatoire): ‘Two famous operas’: Irish opera and America

Liam O'Connor (Irish Traditional Music Archive): TBC


14:15 - 15:00

Concert: Fintan Vallely, Tríona Ní Domhnaill, Maighread Ní Domhnaill, Dubh Linn

15:00 - 16:00

Keynote Address | Don Meade & Dan Neely: Irish Traditional Music in America and the Legacy of Mick Moloney

16:00 - 16:30  Tea & Coffee

Session 2:  16:30 - 18:00 Session 2a:

Fintan Vallely (Independent Scholar): Interpreting the Princess Grace Song-Sheet Collection

Helen Lawlor (TU Dublin Conservatoire): Harp Imagery and Symbolism in the Princess Grace Song-Sheet Collection

Aileen Dillane (University of Limerick): Irish American Musical Imaginaries

Closing comments

18:30 - 19:15

Concert: Una Hunt & Heather Sammon: The Irish American

19:15   Reception

General Admission: Free - Please click here to reserve a spot


About the event:

Irish emigration to North America has consistently generated cultural exchange, particularly in the wake of the famine era of the 1840s.  The socio-cultural experience of early emigrants was often fraught with and compounded by arduous journeys and difficult living conditions.  The economically-driven emigration inculcated an intergenerational nostalgia and longing for the real or imagined homeland. ‘Ireland’ was mythologised in music and song.

The cultural products of Irish sentiment generated popular appeal in the early twentieth century through song sheets and recordings of musicians.  Song sheet production supported public appetite for songs that sentimentalised Ireland but also crucially served to construct both a metaphorical conception of Ireland and to support Irishness as a positive cultural identifier in twentieth century American socio-political contexts. Irish identity gradually pivoted from new emigrant positionality to an influential and dynamic force in American life.

One such example is Princess Grace of Monaco.  Widely known before her marriage as Grace Kelly, she was the granddaughter of an Irish emigrant and daughter of prominent Philadelphia industrialist. Following her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco, she nourished her lifelong interest in her Irish heritage through the acquisition of works of literature and music, now housed at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco. The Princess Grace Irish-American Song Sheet Collection was catalogued by Dr Fintan Vallely in 2019 and contains 1,099 discrete song sheets initially collected by Michael E. O’Donnell in Philadelphia. Princess Grace acquired this collection in 1977.

Inspired by the Princess Grace Irish-American Song Sheet Collection, this symposium seeks to explore the dynamic interaction of Irish-American music making. It seeks to take an expansive view of transatlantic music making, with a focus on song and instrumental music.  The symposium is convened by Dr Helen Lawlor (TU Dublin Conservatoire).  It is funded by an IRC New Foundations Award and supported by the ITMA and TU Dublin.


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Irish-American Music Cultures June 8th