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Phonograph Project

Music, People

Musical Duo Mines Century-Old Irish Traditional Recordings for Modern-Day Gold

You might call Philly-native fiddler Caitlin Finley and uilleann piper/flutist Will Woodson a little old-fashioned.

Well, maybe a lot old-fashioned.

Now residing in Portland, Maine, the traditional Irish music duo has a deep affection for the tunes of Irish traditional music pioneers—from a century ago—and they want to share their fondness with other Irish musicians.

It’s called the Phonograph Project, an effort to dissect the playing of musicians such as famed fiddlers Michael Coleman, John McKenna and James Morrison. Much of their music was released on 78 RPM albums for the first time in the 1920s—and it is highly distinctive, dating back to when they themselves learned the tunes decades before in Ireland.

Finley, a medical physics assistant in radiation oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, is—like so many of us—now working remotely.

She and Woodson first got to know each other when both were living in New York City and playing in local pubs. “We really enjoyed playing music together and then lost touch for a couple of years,” says Finley. “Will, in the meantime, had moved up to Portland and I had moved up to Boston, and then we just wound up reconnecting through the music scene and started playing a bunch of music together again.”

Finley, for one, first became interested in the old recordings when she took lessons from the famed Brian Conway in New York. She was about 15 at the time. Conway and his sister Rose introduced her to a lot of the old tunes. “At that point,” she says, “I was pretty much hooked.” Continue Reading