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Boston’s Gaelic Music Jam Session


Scott Yoo visits Boston to learn more about the early career of Amy Beach and gets treated to a Gaelic jam session courtesy of Celtic Sojourn radio host, Brian O’Donovan.


Amy Beach began her career in Boston.

Many American composers at the time were looking for an American sound, different from the European romantic style. Beach joined their quest, in her own way, beginning with her Gaelic Symphony.

We went to one of Boston's best Irish pubs to talk to Irish American musicians, Caitlin Lynch and Maura Scanlin, and Celtic Sojourn radio host, Brian O'Donovan.

If you're Polish, you can take a mazurka and turn it into a piano piece and maybe your name is Chopin. Or Czech music and your name is Dvo ák.

But you know, if you're American, we don't really have our own sort of national folk traditions.

So what Dvo ák said when he was the director of the National Conservatory, he said, 'You should really draw upon American folk music as your inspiration.' And by American folk music, we mean spirituals and native American music.

And then later Amy Beach replied, I think.

Yeah, she totally did saying, 'I don't know these musics.

I don't know the Native American songs, I don't know the Negro spirituals.' And that took a lot of guts for her to do that because, I mean, some of the reviews you read about her music, it talks about how, 'I've heard some women being able to write music, but I'm not sure that they should.' And she still wrote a response. To Dvo ák!

But not just reviews of her music. I mean, there were famous psychologists at the time saying that a woman didn't have the capability, the strength, to be a composer.

I wonder if the reason she wrote a Gaelic symphony because there's such a huge Irish population, or there was a huge Irish population in Boston.

It's fairly well documented that the Irish started coming here way back. So, she would've been surrounded by a teaming immigrant population of Catholic Irish, where she gets the influences from -- the airs, the dance music of the time -- and incorporates what must have been an extraordinary time to live in this city.

Well, I think this is Amy Beach really saying, 'I think that Irish American music is American music.

And I want to try my hand bringing this music into a more Romantic context.

So who wants to go to hear some music?

Great. Let's play some music. Okay.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [Cheers and applause]


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