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Nicholas Carolan to present 2015 Chuck Ward Memorial Lecture

Published April 22, 2015

 Nicholas Carolan, Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) in Dublin, travels to Milwaukee this week. A world-renowned expert on Irish music and an inspiration for our own Ward Irish Music Archives (WIMA), Carolan is joining us to present our annual Chuck Ward Memorial Lecture.

Originally from Drogheda, County Louth, Carolan is a distinguished archivist, researcher, writer and public lecturer on Irish traditional music. In 1977, Carolan became Secretary of the Folk Music Society of Ireland and continued there for 15 years. In 1985, he began lecturing on Irish traditional music at Trinity College Dublin. Perhaps his best known role, however, is researcher and presenter of the longest-running ever television series on Irish music, RTE's "Come West Along the Road" (1994-2014). Carolan has also written several books and articles on Irish music and its history - an expert on the subject, to say the least.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive came together in 1987, due largely to Carolan's efforts. Along with Harry Bradshaw, Carolan made a proposal to the Arts Council in Dublin to preserve historical Irish traditional music sound recordings cound while producing an RTE radio program, "The Irish Phonograph."

Over nearly three decades, ITMA has expanded considerably, both in staff and in collections. ITMA is now a respected multimedia archive with not only sound recordings, but also printed materials, photographs, artifacts and more. What began as a pilot project has grown to become the largest collection of Irish traditional music in the world.

In the early 1990’s, Milwaukee Irish Fest founder Ed Ward traveled to Ireland to visit Carolan at ITMA. While sitting in the library waiting for his appointment, Ed stumbled upon the book, “John Ward’s Collection of Irish Comic Songs,” as well as several others written by his own grandfather in the collection.

Inspired by the sentimental find and impressed by the Archive’s vast collection, Ed proposed funding for the Ward Irish Music Archives to the Milwaukee Irish Fest Board. In 1992, WIMA was established right here in Milwaukee and has grown to become one of the largest public collections of Irish and Irish-American music and memorabilia in North America.

As Director of ITMA, Nicholas Carolan oversees the organization’s aims to collect, preserve, organize and disseminate all the materials in their holdings. Carolan is widely respected as the go-to person about historical information on Irish music both in Ireland and worldwide. Aside from his impressive body of work, Carolan is an enthusiastic lover of music, old and new.

The Milwaukee Irish Fest organization is grateful to Nicholas Carolan for his pioneering efforts in preserving the history of Irish music. The Ward Irish Music Archives quite possibly would not exist without him!

On Friday, April 24, 2015, Carolan will visit the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to present “Across the Wild Atlantic: An Overview of Irish Music in the United States" in collaboration with UWM's Center for Celtic Studies. Learn more about this free lecture by clicking here.


By Chelsey Porth
Digital Marketing Coordinator, Milwaukee Irish Fest
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