Musician, teacher, and scholar, Séamus Connolly is recognized worldwide as a master traditional Irish musician. Born in Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland, into a musical family where both his parents and two brothers played instruments, he began playing the fiddle at age 12. His father encouraged him to listen to the recordings of the famed County Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman, who became one of Connolly's musical heroes. By his mid-twenties, Connolly had won the Irish National Fiddle Championship ten times, a feat unequalled by any other musician, and he traveled throughout Ireland, meeting and playing music with some of the legends of Irish music, such as Paddy O'Brien, Joe Burke, Denis Murphy, and Cathal McConnell. Connolly was also a member of the Kilfenora Céilí Band, an ensemble noted for its strong rhythms, musicality, and rare tunes indigenous to North County Clare.
Connolly traveled to the United States in 1972 as a member of the first Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) tour, an ensemble of musicians, singers, and dancers. In 1976, he immigrated to the U.S., settling in the Boston area where, at the request of the Boston branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) -- an international organization founded in Ireland to preserve traditional Irish music and culture -- he began teaching various regional styles of Irish fiddling. Since 2004, Connolly has held the Sullivan Artist in Residence position at Boston College's Center for Irish Programs. From 1993-2003 Connolly also directed Boston College's highly acclaimed Gaelic Roots Summer School and Festival and he currently coordinates a Gaelic Roots Series of free concerts and lectures by visiting artists throughout the academic year.
In 2013, Connolly was awarded the 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is given to outstanding American citizens who have distinguished themselves through their significant contributions to the United States. In 2002, he was named Traditional Musician of the Year by The Irish Echo and was also inducted into the CCE Hall of Fame. Connolly has performed at numerous festivals throughout the U.S., including the National Folk Festival, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Wolf Trap Irish Folk Festival, and American Roots Fourth of July Celebration at the Washington Monument. He has also represented Irish music on three Masters of the Folk Violin tours organized by the National Council for the Traditional Arts.
Connolly has numerous recordings to his credit including his two solo CDs, Notes from my Mind and Here and There, as well as The Boston Edge with 2004 NEA National Heritage Fellow Joe Derrane and John McGann. He is currently working on a music book of 300+ tunes, along with accompanying recordings, that will include both newly composed tunes and older tunes not often heard.
[Excerpts of traditional Irish songs by Séamus Connolly from the album, Notes From My Mind, used courtesy of Green Linnet and Mr. Connolly.]
Photo by Lee Pellegrini, Boston College
It's a tuneful podcast as we go to the heart of Irish music with Seamus Connolly.