From the Bridge: a view of Irish traditional music in New York – a new online microsite hosted by the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) – was launched recently by Clare concertina master, Noel Hill, at the Archive’s offices in Merrion Square, Dublin.
For centuries waves of Irish emigrants have carried their local song, music and dance heritage across the Atlantic from rural homes all over the island of Ireland.
Disembarking at Castle Garden, Ellis Island, and JFK Airport they dispersed to establish new lives throughout the United States, but also settling in New York city and its environs.
From the Bridge opens a window to traditional music, from the 1870s to the present day, played socially in the homes and bars of New York, as well as commercially, on stage and in recording studios.
The exhibition, contained on a dedicated microsite, features over 370 specially selected sound and video recordings, 190 images, as well as engaging and informative biographies of the musicians, and contextual introductions.
The user can focus on a particular musician, browse through galleries and playlists, or follow a musical timeline to discover new sounds and stories.
While drawing on material from the existing ITMA collection, this project has been enhanced by the generous donation of previously unheard recordings and unseen images from private collections held by New York families. Through digitisation and digital preservation, these at-risk materials have been preserved by ITMA and are now freely accessible to a global audience.
“This launch is the first milestone in an ambitious three-year plan,” said ITMA Director, Liam O’Connor, “to expand the scope of the exhibition, to curate concerts on both sides of the Atlantic, and to produce a documentary film inspired by artists engaging with New York’s archival musical heritage.”
The exhibition was curated by New York musician and historian, Don Meade, who joined the launch by Zoom from New York, and folklorist Rónán Galvin. It has been supported by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Scheme.
Also present at the launch were Nigel Hutson, Deputy Director, Irish Abroad Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs, while New York fiddler, Jesse Smith, and Irish bouzouki player, Libby McCrohan, joined Noel Hill in providing live music for the event, while the attendance also heard some recordings from the exhibition, as well as a 78 rpm disc recording of Michael Coleman played on a gramophone.