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Arts, History

Is the Irish Language Dying?

Alene O’Malley

“Ireland has its own language?”

This is a question I have been asked several times since moving to the United States and every time I hear it, my heart breaks a little more. Yes, Ireland does have its own language. It’s not the most well-known or the most romantic language but it has been through more trials and tribulations than many. And more impressive than that, it has survived. Our mother tongue has endured and is now rightfully enjoying a period of prosperity and popularity.

The history of the Irish language is complicated and at times bleak. During colonial rule the English saw it as a weapon and moved to ban it before it could be used against them. Sadly, the language has never truly recovered from this time and has not yet reached the heights of its pre-penal law usage and fluency.

The origins of Ancient Irish are rooted in Celtic times. Examples can be seen as inscriptions on Ogham stones around Ireland and date back to as early as the 3rd century. The Celts appear to have been a well-travelled people as in 1989 archaeologist Robert Pyle discovered a bone needle etched with Ogham writing in Wyoming County, West Virginia.

Middle Irish, which existed between 900-1200 AD, included some Scandinavian influences as Anglo-Normans began settling in Ireland. Despite this, the Irish literary traditions remained strong and several manuscripts have survived from this time. Middle Irish is the language of a large swathe of literature including the entire Ulster Cycle or the Red Branch Cycle, a collection of Irish mythology. Continue Reading

Arts

“Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” at Villanova University

The island of Ireland is known for its outsized literary tradition: Its novelists, poets, and playwrights have produced many of the world’s most significant works, across centuries, genres, and styles. As a student of that grand tradition, Philadelphia-area photographer Robin Hiteshew has made a decades-long project of capturing the images—and even the essences—of as many contemporary Irish writers as he can. Fifty-eight of his finest portraits will be presented at the Villanova Art Gallery from March 13-April 14, 2020, in his exhibit, Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers.

Visitors to Beyond the Words will encounter the likenesses of poets Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Eamon Grennan, and Michael Longley; and novelists Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, and Glenn Patterson, among many others. Some writers—like Heaney—sat for Hiteshew multiple times over the course of several years, and each portrait captures a different moment in the writer’s evolution. Always, the images represent a collaboration between the photographer and the subject. Hiteshew says, “My goal is to try and capture in a portrait something about who the person is. I hope that the viewer will come away from the photograph knowing something about who that person is in some kind of intangible way. But also, I hope that the viewer will leave wanting to know more about the writer—to read his or her work, perhaps.” Continue Reading

Arts, Music

Caitríona O’Leary Sings Ón Dá Thaobh

Caitríona O’Leary did not conceive of the concept to translate the music of Joni Mitchell into Irish, that idea originated with the poet and writer Liam Carson who is the founder and director of IMRAM, the Irish Language Literature Festival. She did not do the initial translation of the lyrics from English to Irish (although she has done so on other projects), that “transcreation” was brought about by poet Gabriel Rosenstock.

But it is the Donegal born singer who has infused the words with her ethereal voice and her passionate rendering of the Irish interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s classic song, “Both Sides Now.”

In her vibrant and eclectic career, Caitríona has performed music that spans multiple genres, a variety of time periods and several languages; it’s absolutely instinctual that she was drawn to singing Joni Mitchell in Irish, “Ón Dá Thaobh.”

“She’s such an amazing songwriter. Her music just bowls me over, it really does. I can’t sit through all of the album ‘Blue’ without just being an emotional mess, reduced to tears every time. It’s so unique, actually, she has a voice all her own – her singing voice, but also a poetic voice. She just touches on subjects and brings everything to life, she brings a whole story to life in just a few words. I think she is absolutely remarkable, so it was a total joy for me to immerse myself in her music and her songs, and to be part of the “transcreation” of them into Irish…that’s the word that Gabriel Rosenstock always uses. He doesn’t translate, he transcreates. Of course, he says that in Irish!” And, in Irish, that word is “trascruthu.” Continue Reading

Arts, Photo Essays, Photos

“Straight Out of Ireland” Draws an Enthusiastic Audience

Between 600 and 700 art lovers eager to savor the best of the Emerald Isle’s contemporary works visited the “Straight Out of Ireland” exhibition last weekend in Bryn Mawr.

Organized by the Philadelphia Irish Immigration Center in an ornate mansion on the campus of Sacred Heart Academy and pulled together by a dedicated crew of volunteers and committee members, the display showcased the work of 20 artists from Ireland and another dozen artists from the United States who have been influenced by the culture of Ireland. “Straight Out of Ireland” featured a range of contemporary art, including ceramics, glass, drawings, lace, jewelry, photography, paintings, fashion and more.

The event began with a grand gala Friday night, followed by a day of exhibits and informative panel discussions the next day, and a special family day on Sunday.

Immigration Center organizers were expecting 500 or so visitors, so the event exceeded expectations, says Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the center. Continue Reading

Arts, News

It’s Art, It’s Unique and Contemporary, and it’s Straight Out of Ireland

Talk about Ireland, and most people envision green, rolling hills, pastures dotted with sheep, thatched cottages, quaint little villages, sprawling beaches and high, craggy cliffs. And make no mistake, Ireland is all of those things and more. Chances are pretty good that you’ve seen paintings, photography, crafts, knitwear, glassware and other works of art that depict all of the above.

Maybe you haven’t seen everything, even if you think you have. The folks at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia believe there are more and unique ways of capturing the essence of Ireland. And they’re presenting a sweeping three-day event called “Straight Out of Ireland” that displays a wide variety of art that captures new and distinctive ways of seeing the Emerald Isle.

The works of more than 25 Irish artists, and a dozen American artists who have been influenced by Ireland will present their works in an Immigration Center benefit from November 15th through the 17th at Sacred Heart Academy (480 South Bryn Mawr Ave, in Bryn Mawr. Many types of art will be showcased, including exquisite paintings, glassware, needlework, sculpture, fabrics, and much more. You’ll also have a chance to meet the artists.

“We really wanted to showcase contemporary Ireland,” explains Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the Immigration Center, who hopes that “Straight Out of Ireland” will become the Center’s signature fund-raiser. “I think that while we all love the traditional Celtic art we’ve grown up with, I think sometimes we tend to forget that there is a great deal of work being done currently. Ireland has such a rich history, but I don’t want to forget that it has a very rich current art scene. There’s a real mix of media—and that’s one of the cool things. We have some knitwear, we have some textiles, we have jewelers, we have painters, sculptures, photography and ceramics. We have a lace artist. It’s some really cool stuff. And from the local people, we have a furniture maker, somebody who does wooden bowls, and more. It’s just a wonderful showcase of work that is coming out of Ireland and inspired by Ireland.” Continue Reading

Arts, History, News, People

A Night at the Museum of the American Revolution

Two Portraits of Richard St. George

During a multi-day visit to Philadelphia, where most of the focus fell on the modern era politics of Brexit and the interest of the Irish diaspora, Ambassador Daniel Mulhall’s presence at the Museum of the American Revolution’s launch of their new exhibit “Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier” was an opportunity to talk history.

Ambassador Mulhall, along with Dr. Martin Mansergh, historian and former Irish political advisor who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, gave context and insight into the influence of the American Revolution on Ireland’s own path to independence. In addition, Dr. Mansergh is a descendant of Richard St. George Mansergh-St. George (from here on referred to as Richard St. George, as he is in the Museum’s exhibit) who is the subject of the “Cost of Revolution” exhibition, providing a personal connection to the historical narrative.

The evening’s events were planned by an Honorary Event Committee including Honorary Chair, Governor Edward G. Rendell; State Representative Mike Driscoll; Charles E. Hopkins; Marita Krivda Poxon; Kevin Kent, Esquire; Honorable James Murray Lynn; Joseph S. Martz; Edward D. McBride and Kathleen M. Sullivan. The crowd was welcomed in by bagpipers William Watson, Frank Watson, Tom Conner and Lee Nolan, and then treated to traditional Irish music throughout the evening performed by musicians including Paddy O’Neill, John McGillian and Darin Kelly. Continue Reading

Arts

A Look at the Past and the Future at the Immigration Center

(Photo by Tom Reing)

Young people and those who’ve been around a lot longer have a lot to learn from each other, and a good deal to share with the rest of the world.

That’s the general idea behind “How I Got Here – Where I’m Going,” a series of monologues to be presented Monday night at 7:30 at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia, 7 South Cedar Lane in Upper Darby.

The monologues will be presented by three actors from Philadelphia’s acclaimed Inis Nua Theatre Company, and the material is drawn from both the senior and youth programs at the Immigration Center.

Tom Reing, the theatre company’s founder, is directing the presentation.

“It’s an intergenerational piece where we have some immigrants who became Americans, and some first-generation people,” says Reing. “Then we have some young people who have connections to Ireland as well and are part of the youth group—they’re the next chapter of the story.” Continue Reading

Arts, Music, Videos

Dave Curley in Concert

There’s not much that can top the pleasure of spending a Sunday evening in early June listening to Dave Curley performing live for the Philadelphia Ceili Group. And the crowd gathered at the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center last week got to bask in the experience firsthand. It won’t be the same as being there yourself, but Irish Philadelphia captured a few of Dave’s songs on video which we bring to you here.

Hailing from Corofin in County Galway, Dave is a triple threat in the world of Irish music: a multi-instrumentalist, a singer and a dancer. For the past several years, he’s been touring with the groups SLIDE and RUNA, and more recently he’s been performing with fellow SLIDE bandmate, Mick Broderick (the duo released an acclaimed CD that can be found on his website).

But Dave Curley performing solo is a treat for the ears that shouldn’t be missed. If you’re able to be in the York County vicinity tomorrow, Saturday, June 15th, be sure to catch him at the Penn-Mar Irish Festival. At the very least, watch the videos and be sure not to miss him the next time he’s in the area!