The Irish in Cincinnati

This website grew from a University of Cincinnati Honors Program seminar, “The Irish in America,” in coordination with the Archives & Rare Books Library. The focus is on the history and the living heritage of the Irish in Cincinnati and is designed to be a sustainable and informative site that is a collaborative effort between archivists, students, scholars, and the general public.

Category: Music

Loreena McKennitt

By: Mickayla Beckett

With all of the festivities and business in Cincinnati during autumn, it may seem a bit surprising that a non-themed concert could be completely packed.   For many of the Irish-descended or Irish-interested people in Cincinnati, however, it seems that a concert was the best place to be. The concert was a stop in Loreena McKennitt’s 2016 world tour, and it was indeed completely packed at the Taft Theater on the 2016 Halloween night.

Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian with an Irish background and a love for the Celtic heritage generally, had only one concert in Cincinnati on this tour.  Perhaps that was part of the attraction that drew people from their festivities to the event, or perhaps it was the night itself: sunset of All Hallow’s Eve would be the beginning of Samhain’s festival for the end of harvest.  It would have been a day of feasting, music, and games in ancient Ireland and was also considered a time when the borders between this world and the otherworld weakened.  With a history like that, perhaps an event centered on the rich history of Ireland made perfect sense.  Playing the song “Samain Night” may have set the mood even more.

The concert featured plenty of music and stories, some from McKennitt’s life and travels and others from ancient myth, poetry, and sources contemporary to Irish events such as the Easter Rising of 1916, the centennial commemoration of which was a major part of Irish life. As such, the concert not only entertained but taught as well. The myths and legends of the bonny swamps, Anachie Gordon, and Brian Boru were paired with stories of red-haired mummies believed to be pre-Celtic being found in an ancient Chinese burial ground.  McKennitt wove an atmosphere of learning with careful choices in music and literature.  In the true Irish spirit, she also made sure to stress the future and the importance of making choices to take care of people, the environment, and our world as a whole.  It was an experience that hints at the power a seanachie, or storyteller, may have had on the ancient Celts.

For some of the distant descendants of the Irish people, it may have been the closest they could get to connecting with their ancestral culture in the middle of a Cincinnati autumn and perhaps that is why the standard hours we set for Halloween celebrations were spent listening and feeling rather than eating candy or partying.  Instead of all that, All Hallows’ Eve was spent nurturing the soul-felt connection to ancestors and heroes long gone.

The High Kings: Irish Music Around the World

By: Benjamin Knollman

I have been fascinated with Irish music for some time now, especially the Irish folk group The High Kings.  The High Kings were formed in Dublin in 2008, and consist of four members: Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, and Darren Holden.  Each member had experience in music performance before the creation of the band.  Recorded in Dublin in 2008, a recently televised concert is ripe with Irish traditions and customs and relate  to why the High Kings have had such an impact on Americans with their traditional Irish music.

One striking aspect in the concert film is the amount of audience participation.  An invitation is offered by Finbarr Clancy, “We have some fantastic songs for you.  We know them, we know you know them, so sing up!”  For the rest of the concert, the camera pans around to people clapping, smiling, and singing whole-heartedly, giving off the friendly vibe of the atmosphere.  It shows the amount of pride the Irish people take in their heritage through music. Continue reading

More than Music

By: Jason Cochran
Dropkick Murphys 3rd Album Art

Dropkick Murphys– 3rd Album Art

Groups like the Dropkick Murphys and Black 47 are at the core of Irish influence in the music today. Their new styles and songs are created, with the style of traditional Irish music certainly not forgotten. Though these groups were not all trying to brand themselves with Irish influences, they have. Groups like the Dropkick Murphys even go as far as to try to avoid the “Irish sound” in their music. However, in the end the Irish tones persist. This is in part because their Irish upbringing is not something they can simply forget.  Founded in Quincy Massachusetts, the Dropkick Murphys, whether they wanted it or not became a staple in the music industry as a popular Irish and Celtic rock band. The band was particularly impactful in their home grounds in south Boston. They were quite representative of the working class that lived there. With songs like “The State of Massachusetts” and “Workers Song” They created a strong relationship with the people of South Boston by displaying the hardships and social wrongs those blue-collar families had to endure. They even pay homage to their Boston fans with a mural of their logo painted in south Boston as the cover art for their third album. Their lyrics impacted people but not always in a positive way. In 2014 a 18 year-old was arrested and convicted on two counts of assault, one against a women who needed to be hospitalized. After being stopped by the police, the teen shouted out, “Dropkick Murphys!” Obviously, this fan’s actions horrified the band, they even sent the officers and victims merchandise and tickets to their show to show their support. Examples like this just go to show that the message the Dropkick Murphys sent out was both powerful and damaging at the same time. Continue reading