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Notes and Narratives

Emmett Gill
Notes and Narratives

Notes and Narratives – 14th March 2019 – 20:00

Dan Neely – “From the Variety Stage to the Shamrock Band: A Brief History of Irish Music in Boston, 1890-1930.”

The turn of the twentieth century was a turbulent time for Boston’s first and second generation Irish. Although newfound political agency accelerated the transition from disenfranchisement to respectability, it also revealed competing attitudes about what being “Irish” and “American” meant in the Commonwealth.

This tumult had an enormous effect on Boston’s Irish music. However, a small community of Boston’s leading Irish musicians emerged in the period 1890-1930, which included Daniel Sullivan, his son Dan J. Sullivan, the Hanafin Brothers, and Shaun O’Nolan, whose work in print, on the stage, and on record helped define the sound of Irish Boston. Each made music that not only engaged with and reflected the city’s Irish community, but that connected them in direct ways to musical trends in Irish America and many of its most important musical figures, including Patsy Touhey, Captain Francis O’Neill, Chauncey Olcott, George M. Cohan, and the McNulty Family.

In this lecture, Daniel Neely tells an inviting story that begins with the variety stage and the Gaelic revival, and continues through to the dance bands of the 1920s and the Depression. Using primary source archival research, recently discovered photos, and seldom heard recordings, he reveals a new facet of Irish America’s music history in rich detail that recognizes Boston’s place in Irish music history.

Daniel Neely is a musician, an ethnomusicologist, and the traditional music columnist for New York’s Irish Echo newspaper.

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