Celtic music in the United States

Irish and Scottish music have long been a major part of American music, at least as far back as the 19th century. Beginning in the 1960s, performers like the Clancy Brothers become stars in the Irish music scene, which dates back to at least the colonial era, when many Irish immigrants arrived. At first, these were mostly Scots-Irish Presbyterians, whose music was most "closely related to a Lowland Scottish style".

The most significant impact of Celtic music on American styles, however, is undoubtedly that on the evolution of country music, a style which blends Anglo-Celtic traditions with "sacred hymns and African American spirituals". Country music's roots come from "Americanized interpretations of English, Scottish, Scots and Scots-Irish traditional music, shaped by African American rhythms, and containing vestiges of (19th century) popular song, especially (minstrel songs)". This fusion of Anglo-Celtic and African elements "usually consisted of unaccompanied solo vocals sung in a high-pitched nasal voice, the lyrics set to simple melodies (and using) ornamentation to embellish the melody"; this style bears some similarities to the traditional song form of Sean Nós, which is similarly highly-ornamented and unaccompanied.

Celtic-Americans have also been influential in the creation of Celtic fusion, a set of genres which combine traditional Celtic music with contemporary influences.

1. Traditional Music in the US
Irish traditional music in the United States has a long and varied history, both in recording culture and by live performances. Emigrants from Ireland have brought their instruments and repertoire to the United States since the earliest days of European colonization of the New World.

The history of Irish musicians from Ireland taking up residency in New York and beyond is one side of the story. Another is the learning and playing of Irish music by first and second generation Irish-Americans. And then yet another is the widespread interest in the music by Americans from every background.

Masters of the tradition have come to live in the United States. Chief O'Neill in Chicago was a major promoter of musicianship and tune collection, greatly impacting the tradition beyond his own day and place of re-settlement. In the late nineteenth century and long after that, from Loughrea was a popular touring artist.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the classic recordings of Irish traditional music were made in New York by Michael Coleman, Packie Dolan, Hughie Gillespie, Jim Morrison and many others. This recording culture continues to the present day.

In the wake of the Depression and World War, Irish traditional music in New York was belittled by showband culture, and performers like Jack Coen, Paddy O'Brien and Paddy Reynolds kept the tradition alive in the United States, and were teachers of the music to Irish Americans.

Many great Irish American performers like Andy McGann, Brian Conway, Joannie Madden, Jerry O'Sullivan, Liz Carroll and Billy McComiskey would rise to achieve a level of accomplishment in the traditional music usually associated with native Irish.

Later Irish emigration to New York and beyond by James Keane, Mick Moloney, Paddy Keenan, and others through the 1960s, 1970s and 80s, ensured the music performed in America stayed connected to Ireland.

Recent emigration by Ivan Goff and Cillian Vallely to New York has kept the stream of native players strong, and the American scene rich with native talent.

While Irish American players like Patrick Mangan continue to prove Irish American culture is strongly connected to the roots.

2. Irish American Music
Irish émigrés created a large number of emigrant ballads once in the United States. These were usually "sad laments, steeped in nostalgia, and self-pity, and singing the praises... of their native soil while bitterly condemning the land of the stranger". These songs include famous songs like "Thousands Are Sailing to America" and "By the Hush", though "Shamrock Shore" may be the most well-known in the field.

Francis O'Neill was a Chicago police chief who collected the single largest collection of Irish traditional music ever published. He was a flautist, fiddler and piper who was part of a vibrant Irish community in Chicago at the time, one that included some forty thousand people, including musicians from "all thirty-two counties of Ireland", according to Nicholas Carolan, who referred to O'Neill as "the greatest individual influence on the evolution of Irish traditional dance music in the twentieth century".

In the 1890s, Irish music entered a "golden age", centered on the vibrant scene in New York City. This produced legendary fiddlers like James Morrison and Michael Coleman, and a number of popular dance bands that played pop standards and dances like the foxtrot and quicksteps; these bands slowly grew larger, adding brass and reed instruments in a big band style. Though this golden age ended by the Great Depression, the 1950s saw a flowering of Irish music, aided by the foundation of the City Center Ballroom in New York[citation needed]. It was later joined by a roots revival in Ireland and the foundation of Mick Moloney's Green Fields of America, a Philadelphia-based organization that promotes Irish music.

During the late 20th century came the rise of Celtic inspired rock groups like Flogging Molly, who reside in Los Angeles, Black 47 from New York, The Shillaly Brothers, also from Los Angeles and the Dropkick Murphys from Boston.


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