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Last on

Fri 12 Oct 2012 23:27 BBC Radio 4

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 08 May 2012

In 1947, the Irish Folklore Commission and the BBC established a scheme to seek out and record folk music and stories throughout Ireland. The project was the idea of Donegal-born BBC producer Brian George and it lasted until 1952.

Field recordings in Cork, Kerry, Donegal and Galway were made by singer, storyteller, piper and broadcaster Seamus Ennis along with Brian George and his colleague Maurice Brown, a features producer from the BBC. Recordings were simultaneously being made in Northern Ireland by Peter Kennedy and Sean O Baoill. In all 1500 performances were preserved.

In early 1951, American folklorist and musicologist Alan Lomax travelled to Ireland on a similar mission, to record '...authentic performers in the isolated places where songs are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth' and which '...are threatened to be engulfed by the roar of our powerful society.'

Lomax is regarded as one of the great field collectors of the twentieth century: His recordings introduced the world to such talents as Jelly Roll Morton and Leadbelly. With Seamus Ennis as his guide, Lomax visited villages across Ireland, recording singers and musicians.

Lomax and Ennis pooled their unique archive - from their separate 1947 and 1951 field trips - to assemble the very first anthology of Irish traditional music ever to be compiled on an LP - what they described as '...the first systematic mapping of the folk or oral musical tradition.' Filled with accordions, fiddles, pianos, stories and songs, the album would become a template for future musicians, introducing generations to songs which would eventually become standards: I'll Go No More A Rovin', Whiskey In The Jar, She Moves Through The Fair.

Presenter: Colum Sands
Producer: Owen McFadden.


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