Cerddoriaeth & Ceol: Welsh and Irish Anthracite Music Traditions

March 27, 2021.  Zoom webinar, 2 pm. EDT.  Cost:  $5/computer screen.  Tickets:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cerddoriaeth-ceol-welsh-and-irish-anthracite-music-traditions-tickets-142741845703

Each March, we celebrate our Celtic roots in Pennsylvania with the Welsh St. David’s Day on March 1st and the Irish St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th.  The Anthracite Region is home to some of the largest populations of Welsh and Irish in the United States who have had a profound impact our local culture. Immigrating here to work in the growing coal industry in the 19th century, the new residents brought many customs including their music.  Join us for a special program on these unique treasures with special guest scholars from Ireland and Wales.

Dr.  Bill Jones, Emeritus Professor of Welsh History will present, Môr o Gân [A Sea of Song]: Welsh choral and communal singing in the Anthracite Region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Anthracite Region contained the largest concentration of Welsh people in America. The immigrants brought with them from Wales their native language and many social, cultural, industrial, musical and religious traditions that flourished in, and influenced the communities in which they settled. This presentation explores one of the most widely known and enduring of those traditions. Singing, a key element of Welsh ethnic identity, made an inestimable impact on the region’s musical scene. It pervaded the social and cultural activities of the Welsh and their ethnic institutions, the churches, the eisteddfod (literary and musical competitive festival) and, later, the Cymanfa Ganu (hymn singing festival). ‘Môr o Gân’ is how contemporaries frequently described Welsh ethnic life, because of the scale, vibrancy and quality of its choral and communal singing. It is a tradition that is still evident today.

Dr.  Deirdre Ní Chonghaile will present The Rev. Daniel J. Murphy Archive: Irish Sean-Nós Singers in 19th century Pennsylvania.  This presentation shares the story of Rev. Daniel J. Murphy from Sligo and J.J. Lyons from Galway, who transcribed over 1,200 sean-nós songs from Irish-speakers in Philadelphia and the anthracite region of Northeastern Pennsylvania from 1884 to the 1920s. With each song transcription event capturing a unique moment of encounter and art, the Rev. Murphy Archive demonstrates forcibly but eloquently the conviction with which the Irish diaspora treasured, performed, and celebrated their home-country heritage in their new homes in America. Preserving the pre-Famine memory of Ireland in a diasporic setting, this extraordinary collection of manuscripts represents a monument to Irish heritage, to American heritage, and to the diasporic experience. It also reveals a unique opportunity to map song through time and space and so highlight its currency, mobility, and enduring power.

Bill Jones is Emeritus Professor of Welsh History at Cardiff University, Wales, where he taught modern Welsh history in Welsh and English. His main research interest is the history of the Welsh overseas in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He has published extensively on the Welsh in the United States, including Wales in America: Scranton and the Welsh 1860-1920 and Welsh Reflections: Y Drych and America, 1851-2001. He has delivered presentations in the United States many times during the past forty years, the most recent being in 2019, at the North American Festival of Wales in Milwaukee and the 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the Avondale Mine Disaster.

 Deirdre Ní Chonghaile A musician, broadcaster, writer and curator from the Aran Islands, Deirdre Ní Chonghaile (MA Oxon, PhD) is the co-ordinator of the on-going community-based project Amhráin Árann – Aran Songs. She was previously NUI Postdoctoral Fellow in Irish/Celtic Studies and Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at NUI Galway, Alan Lomax Fellow at the Library of Congress and NEH Keough Fellow at the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include the untold story of the cultural lives of Irish-speaking immigrants in nineteenth- and twentieth-century North America; and the potential of digital humanities to enable creative access to the rich archive of Irish music and folkloric material that survives on both sides of the Atlantic. As a consultant, she has served Harvard University, the Library of Congress, English National Opera, Druid Theatre Company, and the Irish-American Climate Project among others.

The Anthracite Heritage Museum is a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum site dedicated to the study, promotion, and collection of material culture, traditions, and stories of the people who created built, lived in, and sustained an industry and community in Northeast Pennsylvania.  The Anthracite Heritage Museum is currently closed due to COVID.  Please check our website and Facebook pages for details about our reopening. www.anthracitemuseum.org, www.facebook.com/anthraciteheritagemuseum.

This project was supported by a Lackawanna County Arts and Culture Community grant a program of Lackawanna County Commissioners Jerry Notarianni, Debi Domenick, Esq. and Chris Chermak.