Cúirt concert showcases NUI Galway early audio archive of the West of Ireland

Tomás Ó Máille (1880-1938). Credit – NUI Galway
Mar 29 2022 Posted: 04:54 IST

An extraordinary audio archive from NUI Galway will be showcased at this year's Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway. 

Nearly 100 years after they were first captured, wax cylinder recordings held in the University Library were digitised last summer with support from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. 

The recordings were made by Tomás Ó Máille (1880-1938), the inaugural Professor of Irish at the University. Appointed in 1909, the Joyce Country native held the professorship until his premature death in 1938. 

A pioneer in many ways, Tomás Ó Máille’s greatest foresight was his commitment to the newest technology of his day - audio recording. Focusing on folklore, song, and dialects, he created hundreds of recordings of Irish speakers from every county in Connacht and also Co Clare. He assisted the recording work of other collectors and scholars including Wilhelm Doegen, head of the Sound Department at the Prussian State Library in Berlin.

In this concert as part of the Cúírt festival, Dr Deirdre Ní Chonghaile will introduce Tomás Ó Máille and his work, along with excerpts of his recordings from the NUI Galway archive. She will also introduce three special guests - singers Sarah Ghriallais, Mary Staunton, and Saileog Ní Cheannabháin - who will perform their own renditions of songs retrieved from Ó Máille’s recordings. 

Speaking ahead of the Cúirt showcase, Dr Ní Chonghaile said: "This event sees one of Ireland’s most significant audio archives come to life for the first time and witnesses songs returning to their rightful place - in each community’s repertoire. We are thrilled to partner with Cúirt and Arts-in-Action to celebrate Tomás Ó Máille’s outstanding legacy in capturing artistic treasures of the Irish language from every county west of the Shannon."

With surtitles in English, An Chartlann Bheo - Animating the Archive takes place at An Taibhdhearc on Wednesday 6 April at 1pm. It is free to attend but booking is advisable at https://www.cuirt.ie/whats-on/an-chartlann-bheo-animating-the-archive/.

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