Saturday, March 08, 2014

Misc. creolization quotes and links: Chicago Irish | Capt. Francis O'Neill | police pipe & drum bands | Irish pipers

Irish music is played on all manner of instruments, even on specially tuned guitars these days. Of all the places in America, Chicago is one of the best for listening to it. ... -- Charles Madigan, The Chicago Tribune, Sept. 11, 1995

Robin Cohen - Diaspora and Creolization. Nov 12, 2013. Robin Cohen provides an overview of 'Diaspora and creolization: diverging, converging' project that is part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme.

Posted to YouTube by International Migration Institute, Oxford. More on the Oxford Diasporas Programme website, including 37-minute interview with Cohen, at:

Lawrence E. McCullough, dissertation in 1978 on Irish music in Chicago paraphrases Bruno Nettl's Introduction to Folk Music in the United States (1962): Nettl (1962: 59) has postulated 3 outcomes for "a rural-based European folk music tradition once it arrives in the United States" …

  1. "… full-scale acculturation in which the stylistic elements, instruments repertoire, and aesthetic ideals of the tradition merge with an American tradition or traditions to form a new synthesis." e.g. "blend of various British Isles idioms with African and colonial American elements that formed the basis of a new Anglo-American folk tradition of music, song, and dance in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  2. "… that the Ruropean tradition might remain distinct yet manifest evidence of considerable borrowing from other traditions -- the polka phenomenon, for instance …"
  3. "Finally, it could happen that the emigrant tradition is not influenced at all but consinues to be distinctive, separate, and self-contained while still maintaining close links to its Old World source; it has been this course that Irish music brought to America after the mid-19th century has followed, though the path has been far from straight and narrow." (343)
Lawrence McCullough. Irish Music in Chicago: An Ethnomusicological Study. Diss. University of Pittsburgh, 1978. McCullough is now executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway, N.J. Resume available on Linkedin.

Bibliography cites:

  • "Chicago Leads Ireland As Storehouse of Irish Music." Chicago Tribune March 2, 1902: 53.

Perceptive, and very quotable, article by Charles Madigan of the Trib on a talk in 1995 by Harry Bradshaw from the Irish Radio network on Capt. O'Neill at the Irish American Heritage Center on the northwest side. A couple of snippets:

It was a lovely evening. The music was wonderful. But the story, like many of the stories from Ireland, was as sad as it could be. It also went some distance in explaining why Irish music is such a force in this town and why some of Ireland's best musicians end up here. The seeker of Irish music here might run into fiddler Liz Carroll or Larry Nugent playing the tin whistle or John Williams, the button accordion player.

That would be fortunate, because each of them has been recognized as among the finest in the world, winners of tough Irish competitions that leave only the best of the best standing.

The search might lead to the Abbey Pub at Grace Street and Elston Avenue on any Sunday night, when McKinney is likely to be playing his pipes with a collection of fiddlers and whistle players, or to Nevin's in Evanston on a Sunday afternoon, when a pickup session might draw everyone from singer and tin whistler Brighid Malone to Celtic guitarist Phil Cooper and singer Margaret Nelson, to McKinney, to a wild collection of professionals and amateurs.

These informal sessions have been growing in number for years and have become so popular that the Irish-American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., plans to add its own on Sunday afternoons beginning in October.

And especially this:

... Bradshaw, the music collector and recorder for Irish Radio's archives, polished the mood with his story about Chief O'Neill.

Late in the 19th Century, he noted, some 20 percent of Chicago's population was Irish. It was a big market for entertainment, and vaudeville responded. Unfortunately, the result was a collection of stereotypes, among them the tippling Irish fool, that the culture battles to this day.

The music was awful, and so abysmally un-Irish as to be unrecognizable as Irish music today. Bradshaw named the five biggest "Irish" vaudeville entertainers, then noted that not a single one was actually Irish.

Into this cultural mess came Daniel Francis O'Neill, a young man fresh from sailing the oceans and the Great Lakes. He had left his home in County Cork in 1865, headed to the city to enter the seminary, got turned around somehow and went to sea and, in the manner of all great Irish ramblers, ended up in America.

And thence into Capt. O'Neill's familiar story, but with some wrinkles I hadn't known before and written by one of the Trib's best reporters and storytellers ever.

Charles M. Madigan. "The Pipes Are Calling." Chicago Tribune Sept. 11, 1995.

Cf. discussion of vaudeville stereotypes and "lace-curtain Irish" in Jennifer Mooney's dissertation at University of Ulster (2012)

I would suggest that the stereotypical portrayals of the naïve, ignorant Irish working man and woman, represented by the Caseys, Brannigans and Bridgets, and the rising ‘lace-curtain’ Irish seen in the figures of the Irish cop or politician, can be read in the context of establishing and defining acceptable behaviours, allowing a proportion of the audience to recognize how they should behave in order to be accepted as fully fledged Americans, leaving behind the brash, boisterous Irish so apparent in the caricatures presented on stage and screen. I would also argue that these representations can add to the debates on the nature of that audience. Russell Merritt, writing of early cinema’s ‘seduction of the affluent’, cites as evidence for this the fact that it did not address the experiences of the immigrant and working classes traditionally perceived as cinema’s natural audience base (Merritt, 1976). I would suggest, at least in relation to the Irish, that neither vaudeville nor early cinema ignored their experiences, but rather used them as often comic material for what appears to have been an increasingly respectable, middle class, and perhaps ultimately ‘American’ audience.

Jennifer Mooney. "Representations of the Irish in American Valdeville and Early Film." Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network 3.2 (2010) [Media Communications & Cultural Studies Association]

This possible evidence of creoloization from an appreciation of "Francis O'Neill - The Man Who Saved Our Music" on the Irish Culture and Customs website by Bridget Nancy Margaret and Russell O'Flaherty, who "pursue freelance careers in consulting, writing and whatever else will keep the lights on" in Cincinnati ...

Afterwards, he did some ranching in Montana, before going to Chicago by way of New Orleans and Missouri. In Missouri, he married a young lady, Anna Rogers, whom he had met when she was an outbound passenger on one of his voyages from Ireland. He served for a time as a schoolteacher in Edina, Knox County. In his book "Irish Folk Music," he provides one of the best descriptions of traditional music in 19th-Century Missouri:

"Not a week passed during the winter months without a dance or two being held among the farmers. Such a motley crowd - fiddlers galore, and each with his instrument. Irish, Germans, French...and the gigantic Kentuckians, whose heads were endangered by the low ceilings, crowded in, and never a misunderstanding or display of ill-nature marred those gatherings. Seated behind the fiddler, intent on picking up the tunes, was my accustomed post, but how much was memorized on those occasions cannot now be definitely stated. Three tunes, however, distinctly obtrude on my memory, A reel played by Ike Forrester, the "Village Blacksmith," which was named after him; "My Love is Fair and Handsome", and a quickstep, which I named "Nolan, the Soldier." Nolan had been a fifer in the Confederate army during the Civil War. His son was an excellent drummer, and both gave free exhibitions of their skill on the public square at Edina to enliven the evenings when the weather was fine."

* * *

culture, his books helped to keep Ireland’s music alive. Noel Rice, President of the Academy of Irish Music, has taught O’Neill’s music to his students for the past 25 years. “He did a magnificent job. . .of gathering it together and trying to keep it from dying.” Kevin Henry, an Irish piper who plays in the sessions at Chief O’Neill’s Pub1, says, “I have to take off my cap to the Chief; there was nobody like him.” Paddy Ryan, music officer of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, the organization that promotes traditional music in Ireland, concurs. “He put Chicago on the map in the musical sense. Chicago is a very important place in the history of Irish traditional music. Extremely important place. Because of Francis O'Neill.”

Sadly, Francis O'Neill died a very disappointed man. He was convinced that once his fellow Irishmen in America heard the music, they would love it. But they didn't want to love it. They wanted to be American.

Bridget Haggerty. "Francis O'Neill - The Man Who Saved Our Music." Irish Culture and Customs.

Encyclopedia of Chicago -- detailed, espec. parishes

Since the 1890s, the city's Irish have played a leading role in the cultural revival of traditional music and dance here and abroad. Francis O'Neill, a native of Tralibane, County Cork, Ireland, and chief of police in Chicago from 1901 to 1905, is widely credited with preserving Irish traditional tunes passed down orally for generations. He drew on the talents of fellow Chicago Irish policemen-musicians in compiling O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903), still a standard reference work in Ireland and America. Among Chicago's best-known Irish musicians today is fiddler and composer Liz Carroll, the daughter of Irish immigrants, who has won the All-Ireland award twice since 1975. Likewise, Noel Rice's music students at the Academy of Irish Music (1994) have achieved acclaim both in the United States and Ireland. The popularity of Irish dancing also has soared, thanks to such innovators as Mark Howard, founder and artistic director of the Trinity Irish Dance Company (1990), and Michael Flatley, who grew up in Little Flower parish on Chicago's South Side and trained in the Dennehy School of Irish Dance. No longer confined to parish auditoriums, Irish traditional dance now attracts international audiences through such lavish productions as Riverdance and Flatley's Lord of the Dance, a mixture of Celtic mythology and rock and roll.

Ellen Skerrett. "Irish." Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: Newberry Library and Chicago Historical Society, 2004-2006.

There's a lot of romantic nonsense on the internet about the Great Highland Pipes (or Irish war pipes), but a essentially accurate capsule history that you see on a lot of pipe and drum corps websites comes for a syndicated column by Cecil Adams of the Chicago Reader. It says in part:

… A dying art a century ago, bagpipes playing was revived in large part by Irish immigrants to the New World who wanted to preserve their culture. Many of these guys were cops. For instance, Francis O'Neill, Chicago police chief from 1901 to 1905, organized an Irish music club that sparked renewed interest in the bagpipes. When cops wanted to salute their fallen brethren they thought quite naturally of the pipes, which had been played at funerals for hundreds of years. A big promoter of this practice over the past half century has been the Emerald Society, an Irish fraternal organization found at many police departments. Many chapters sponsor pipe-and-drum bands. …
Discussion of the origins of "Kumbaya" in the same column. Cecil Adams. "The Straight Dope." Chicago Reader 10 Sept. 1998

Some thoughts on Irish Piping By Frank Timoney Published winter issue 2006/7 "Bulletin' Military Historical Society London

Around 1880, a new Gaelic awareness began to hit Ireland. A Celtic twilight instituted mainly by Anglo Irish residents. The country began to look for ties to other Celtic countries, and Scotland seemed to hold the greatest appeal. The Irish began to reason, that since they had settled the north of Scotland, the Scottish traditions were actually theirs! Onto the great stage of myth stepped the Royal Tyrone Fusiliers, a militia Bn. Of the 27th Royal Inniskilling Fusaliers, and one William O'Duane of Belfast. O'Duane invented a weird pipe he called the Dungannon. Most people today feel he hated pipes, because the instrument was utter junk! The Royal Tyrone Fusiliers felt the time had come for a pipe band in their regiment. Many "experts" in the regiment convinced the young Anglo Irish officers that it was only right for an Irish regiment to adopt the pipe, since Scotland really adopted Irish culture and traditions. So the old flute band was thrown over, and the flautists informed they would shortly become "pipers".
And this, which he dates after about 1900:
The young Anglo Irish officers fell for it, no questions asked. However, there was a great cry of disapproval from the older Irish officers who missed the auld flute bands and lovely Irish tunes. "Aping the Scot" was their unheard cry because the English CO was totally enamoured with the Celtic "revival" going on, and felt his regiment needed a little more gregarious panache, as much the same as the Scots regiments had. By now, one of the first things the newly formed regiment of guards did was to form a pipe band. Some said the new regiment should even be kilited! What everyone overlooked, was the fact that their was no native Irish music specifically composed for the mouth blown pipe, so that new keyed chanter fit the bill quite well. Starck's son A.H went on to become "instructor" to the London Irish Rifles pipe band.
Timoney has nothing good to say about Gratton Flood's standard history of the bagpipe, which he calls "totally false" and "a book of fantasy" -- includes in his list of references: "Interviews by the author during late 1950's with many ex-army Irish regimental pipers from the 1914 period and prior. Much to their credit, these old boys (contemptibles) never went back to the flute after their military service. They continued with the pipe and were much the backbone of the Irish piping scene. Their good natured humour made them a great pleasure to be with. To a man however, they continue to play with the tips of their fingers and with a minimum of graces notes some forty years after their introduction to the instrument."

Frank Timoney. "Some Thoughts on Irish Piping," Bulletin of the Military Historical Society. Winter 2006-07. Rpt. Concise History of the Bagpipe.

Bob Dunsire Bagpipe Forums > General Discussion > History, Tradition, Heritage > Irish Pipe Bands

well-informed thread including this post dated 02-19-2003, 01:29 PM by Ian Lawther:

This thread had me reaching for my copy of O' Neils Irish Minstrels and Musicians. Writing before the First World War O'Neill cites the "Gaelic League, with its adjuncts, "Feis" and "Oireachtas", ostensibly started with the object of reviving Irish music" as introducing and spreading the popularaity of GHB among the Irish in the US. He feared that in doing so they would kill uilleann pipes (luckily he was wrong). O'Neill added that the job of learning uilleann pipes was a long one but with GHB all one needed do was get a set of pipes, dress the part and he was an Irish piper. He was very clear that what such people needed to do was take proper tuition from "competent Scotch instructors". O'Neill also makes passing references to this "revival" being the responsibility of "three visionaries ranging from Belfast to Cork". In a thread (;f=12;t=001185#000000) some time ago, started by Erracht regarding pipemakers in Ireland I came up with a name of a makers in both Cork and Belfast (Crowley in Cork - Belfast name escapes me) who may well be two of the three O' Neill is refering to. My understanding is that Irish pipe bands started to appear in the British Army in the 1860s or 70s modelled on the Scottish regiments. This would have been a forerunner to what O'Neil describes.
Later ref. in another post to "New York based Irish Historian and piper Frank Timoney"

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