Nov 16 2010 Posted: 00:00 GMT
On Saturday, 20 November, Liam Mac an Iomaire will launch a new website of Joe Heaney's songs at NUI Galway's centre, Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim in Carna at 8pm. Joe Heaney's sudden death in May 1984 came as a shock to his supporters and followers in Seattle and to his pupils at the University of Washington, Seattle where he had worked as resident artist-teacher of sean-nós singing. Although he had only lived there for two years, his impact had been tremendous. As a way of dealing with their loss and as a way of commemorating the great singer's achievement, a call was issued to those who had worked with Joe during his years in America to contribute copies of their recordings of him to archive in his memory. The material came pouring in and over the years was catalogued and organized by Laurel Sercombe, the ethnomusicology archivist at the University of Washington and Sean Williams, among others. Both of them had been students of Joe and remained staunch in their support after his death. A request from Micheál Ó Cuaig, who was organising the annual Joe Heaney Festival at Carna, that a copy of the archive be sent to the Carna community was granted in 1992 and Micheál received a complete copy of it through the assistance of Údarás na Gaeltachta. In 2003 the Joe Heaney Festival Organising Committee, headed by Mícheál Ó Cuaig, bestowed this copy of the archive on Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim, Carna so that the community would have access to it. In 2009, an application by Dr Lillis Ó Laoire, of the Irish Department at NUI Galway, to the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences was successful. The research plan proposed to finish a book on Joe's life and work already partly written and the creation of a digital online archive that could be accessed free by anyone interested. Dr Virginia Stevens Blankenhorn, herself an authority on traditional singing and culture, was hired as a one year post-doctoral researcher to compile and edit an inventory of items to be uploaded to the digital online archive. Also on the research team were Séamas Ó Concheanainn, Director of Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim, Dr Seathrún Ó Tuairisg, Administrator of the Information Technology Unit, NUI Galway and Micheál Mac Lochlainn, metadata architect and designer, ably assisted by Marian Ní Chonghaile, all of whom cooperated to prepare and organise the online archive. Up to 400 items, some with visual content, may be accessed in the archive. The majority are from the archives of the University of Washington, Seattle. Due to the generosity of the Delargy Centre for Irish Folklore, and the National Folklore Collection, UCD, however, some of Heaney's earliest recordings, dating from the 1940s are also included. Additionally, a rare performance of Joe's interpretation of the caoineadh, recorded by the late Liam Clancy, and presented by Máire Nic Fhinn is also a part of the material. A search engine will enable any user to conduct detailed searches songs, story and other spoken word items. Full texts of all songs are provided, enhanced by spectacular photographs of the Carna area taken by Dr. Blankenhorn. 2009 was the 25th anniversary of Joe Heaney's untimely death and this website provides a fitting monument for his life's achievement. It will now be available world wide to anyone who wants to access it, whether simply from interest or for scholarly purposes. It will also serve as an important teaching resource for classes in Irish culture both in Ireland and the U.S. The website is available at www.joeheaney.org.