Mary McPartlan, Traditional Artist in Residence and University teacher at NUI Galway performs at the launch of the Jean Ritchie Scholarship and ‘From Mountain to Mountain’. Also pictured is musician Seamie O’Dowd.
Feb 15 2016 Posted: 09:57 GMT

Galway Kentucky links celebrated through Pickow-Ritchie Archive

Building on the Ritchie-Pickow archive housed in NUI Galway's James Hardiman library, The ‘Jean Ritchie Scholarship’ was officially launched by the University’s International Office celebrating its growing links with Berea College, Kentucky in the US.

The Scholarship offers a full tuition waiver to one outstanding Berea College graduate pursuing a one year MA programme in NUI Galway. Permission was granted by Jean Ritchie and her family to name this scholarship in her honour prior to her demise last June.

In a project which celebrates these links between Galway and Appalachia, Mary McPartlan, Traditional Artist in Residence and University teacher at NUI Galway, has recorded a CD in tribute of the late Jean Ritchie, whom she met during Mary’s Fulbright Scholarship in 2013. The CD ‘From Mountain to Mountain’, also launched at the event, brings full circle the Fulbright projects of Jean Ritchie and Mary McPartlan in an exchange of musical interpretation, with Irish and Appalachian songs recorded by Mary with US jazz legend, Bertha Hope.

In 1996 the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, acquired the Ritchie-Pickow Photographic Archive, along with tapes of sound recordings. These included many of the singers and musicians that Jean recorded as part of a project to trace the roots of many of the songs and tunes she would have grown up with in the Southern Appalachians. The photographs were taken and the recordings made by the US husband and wife team, George Pickow and Jean Ritchie on visits to Ireland in 1952 and 1953.

Jean Ritchie, singer, folklorist and dulcimer player was born on 8 December 1922 in Viper, Kentucky. She was the youngest of a family of 14 children, known as 'The Singing Ritchies'. Jean graduated from the University of Kentucky and in 1952 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to enable her to research the origins of her family's songs in Great Britain and Ireland. Ritchie's late husband George Pickow, a photographer, accompanied her and they spent approximately eighteen months recording folk songs and traditional musicians and taking photographs. The photographs include images of many well-known uilleann pipe players, such as Seamus Ennis, the McPeake trio, Leo Rowsome; vocalists, including Elizabeth (Bess) Cronin from West Cork, Sarah Makem and story tellers, such as Paitsín Faherty from the Aran Islands.

Speaking on the Scholarship Launch, Anna Cunningham, Director of International Affairs at NUI Galway, said: “NUI Galway is honoured to establish a link with Berea College, Kentucky. Through our bi-lateral exchange two NUI Galway students have already spent time in Berea and currently four students from Berea are on campus in Galway. Berea College has a deep and enduring commitment to preservation, promotion and enjoyment of traditional and folk arts, in addition to its commitment to social justice, global understanding and inter-racial education. We look forward to welcoming the first Jean Ritchie Scholar to NUI Galway this September to pursue an MA programme.”

ENDS

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