Sean-nós (Irish for “the old way”) is a traditional style of unaccompanied singing native to Ireland. The Philadelphia Ceili Group audio collection in the Villanova University Digital Library contains a wealth of information and beautifully performed examples of this interesting and unique element of Irish culture.
Here is an introductory explanation of the craft by Irish musician and musicologist Mick Moloney, from an Irish Songs Workshop at the 3rd Annual Irish Traditional Music, Song and Dance Festival, held in Philadelphia in September 1977:
Mick Moloney, Johnny Moynihan, and Andy O’Brien are just a few of the prominent Irish artists who can be heard on recordings in the Philadelphia Ceili Group collection singing songs in the Sean-nós style. Try searching the Digital Library by subject on the term Sean-nós, and you will find a wealth of significant tracks available for streaming.
For a real treat, check out this incredible concert-length performance by traditional Irish singer Paddy Phelan, recorded at an event sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group on March 6, 1992:
The uilleann pipes are an incredible piece of Irish heritage. This unique wind instrument, a close cousin of the Scottish bagpipes but powered by a bellows rather than the breath, makes a distinctive and awesome sound that to many is the essence of Irish music. The uilleann pipes also have colored the fabric of Irish-American cultural history, as the modern pipes were developed here in southeast PA in the late nineteenth century by Irish immigrants the Taylor brothers.
The Philadelphia Ceili Group archive contains some incredible recordings of modern-day pipers explaining the history, technique and construction of the instrument and playing traditional piping tunes. Check out expert pipers Tim Britton and Al Purcell as they entertain and educate in this new digital library collection:
Uilleann Pipes Workshop, recorded live in Philadelphia at the 1979 Philadelphia Ceili Group Music and Dance Festival.
In addition to the hours and hours of great Irish traditional music recordings in the Philadelphia Ceili Group collection, it has recently become apparent that the collection also includes some incredibly compelling audio documents of cultural lecture events from years past by top scholars in Irish Studies. Check out these recordings from 1979 events sponsored by the Ceili Group:
“The Irish in Philadelphia”, a lecture by Dr. Dennis J. Clark.
“Passing the Time in Ballymenone”, a lecture by Dr. Henry Glassie.
“Irish Literary Tradition”, a lecture by Dr. Thomas Kinsella.
“Celtic Epic Poems, Heroic Cycles”, a lecture by Dr. Ann T. Matonis.
More to come as digitization progresses!
Calling all Irish music enthusiasts, here is a challenge for you!
The archive of traditional Irish music in the Philadelphia Ceili Group collection in Villanova University’s Digital Library is growing steadily, now featuring over 200 recordings of Irish jigs, reels, and other tunes from performances at the annual Philadelphia Ceili Group Traditional Irish Music and Dance Festival.
Growing alongside this list is….the list of unidentified titles. Listen to this excerpt of a 1977 performance by the group DeDanann, in which the title is obscured:
“We’re going to start with two jigs, the first is called ‘The Munster Buttermilk’, and the second is called….” (Huh?!)
Kudos to anyone who can discern the title of the second jig!
Even better, if you are able to listen to that jig and identify the tune by ear, here is a further challenge for you….
Check out this search of the Digital Library.
All of these recordings contain pieces unidentified by their performers. Can you help to name these tunes?
Please send any information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!