Seamus Connolly named National Heritage Fellow

We are delighted to share the exciting news that Irish-born and longtime Massachusetts resident  Séamus Connolly has been named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. Though he recently moved to Yarmouth, Maine, we still like to claim him as one of our own.

In drafting his nomination letter, Irish music journalist Earle Hitchner writes, “I can think of no Irish traditional musician more qualified and deserving than Séamus Connolly for a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His achievements as an Irish traditional fidder, music school organizer, and music teacher are long and lustrous. . . First and foremost is his fiddling, a combination of virtuosity and vitality that stamps his style of playing as original, unique, and highly influential . . . Every time he picks up the fiddle — whether on stage, in a recording studio, in a class, or in an informal session —  Séamus both preserves and advances the Irish tradition. His zeal and love for this music are as ardent now as they were when he was a boy in Ireland, and the body of art and work he has created is exceptional and formidable.”

Séamus Connolly grew up in a home filled with music in Kilaloe, County Clare, Ireland. He won his first All-Ireland National Fiddle Championship only ten months after initially picking up the fiddle and it wasn’t long before he gained national prominence. He joined the famous Kilfenora Ceili Band, traveling throughout Ireland and Britain playing for dances, concerts, and radio broadcasts and television programs.

Séamus came to the United States in 1972 as a member of the first Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann (CCE) tour, an ensemble of 26 musicians, singers and dancers. He then returned in 1976 and settled in the Boston area. At the request of the Boston branch of CCE, Séamus agreed to teach and pass on to American-born students the various regional styles of Irish fiddling.

Séamus directed the highly acclaimed Gaelic Roots Summer School and Festival at Boston College from 1993 – 2003. In 2004, Boston College named Connolly the “Sullivan Artist in Residence.” He also coordinates a Gaelic Roots Series of free concerts and lectures by visiting artists throughout the academic year. In 1990 and 2004, he was awarded a Fellowship in Traditional Arts by the Massachusetts Cultural Council;  he was also awarded three Master/Apprenticeship Grants for teaching traditional Irish music.

Séamus often performed and recorded with two stellar musicians —  Irish button accordion player   Joe Derrane, who won a National Heritage Fellowship in 2004, and guitarist John McGann, a gifted guitarist and mandolin player, who passed away unexpectedly in 2012.

Indeed, it has been a momentous year for  Séamus — On May 11, 2013, he was awarded another highly prestigious prize: the Ellis Island Medal of  Honor, given by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to American citizens for their outstanding contributions to the United States. An exhibition titled ” the Musical Roots of Seamus Connolly” recently ran at Boston College’s Burns Library.

We are so very proud of you  Séamus.


Joe Derrane to be feted at Boston College

Boston-born button accordionist and composer Joe Derrane is a living legend of Irish music.  We’re delighted that he will be celebrated at Boston College in a lecture/concert titled, “The Genius and Growing Impact of Joe Derrane.” The program will take place in Gasson Hall, on September 22 from 7-9pm. Featured presenters are Wall Street Journal and Irish Echo music writer Earle Hitchner and Berklee College of Music professor John McGann. Derrane will provide commentary. A live performance will feature fiddler Seamus Connolly and multi-instrumentalist John McGann.

Don’t miss this evening honoring one of our country’s National Heritage Fellows. Learn More.

“Gaelic Roots” lives on in concert series

It has been six years since the wonderful “Gaelic Roots” was last held at Boston College. Seamus Connolly put his heart and soul into gathering some of the most talented Irish and Scottish musicians, singers, and dancers for a week of performances, lessons, late night sessions, and an all round great time. Though “Gaelic Roots” week no longer takes place, a top-knotch concert series throughout the year does — and it is free to the public. Concerts take place in the historic Connolly House in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. An intimate space which basically feels like a house concert.

Tomorrow evening, February 10, the Center for Irish Programs presents Donna Hébert — Traditional Franco-American, Northern, and Contradance Fiddle Music.” A third-generation Franco-American, Donna Hébert co-founded two music groups, Chanterelle and The Beaudoin Legacy. A versatile performer, teacher, and author, Donna Hébert received a 2008 Massachusetts Artists’ Fellowship in the Folk Arts from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Performing on fiddle and vocals, Donna Hébert will be joined by Max Cohen (guitar and vocals) and Jeremiah McLane (accordion and keyboard). For more information about the series this spring, go to the Gaelic Roots website.