Director Liam O'Connor takes up office

Liam New Director

Is mór an onóir dom a bheith ag tosú mar Stiúrthóir sa Taisce Cheol Dúchais Éireann. Thosaigh mé i mbun oibre leis an bhfoireann anseo ar an Luan seo caite. To serve the public as Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive is a huge honour and privilege for me. During my first week here at 73 Merrion Square, I am witnessing the internal workings of the most comprehensive and finest collection of Irish traditional music anywhere in the world. The behind–the-scenes processes of digital preservation, the conservation of existing collections and the on-going cataloguing of new material is a huge part of our operation and goes largely unseen by the public.  With over 100,000 items listed on the online catalogue, there is something here for everyone.

I would like to pay tribute to former Director Grace Toland, who brought about many innovative, creative and ambitious projects in ITMA during her directorship (2015-19). Highlights of her tenure must include: the cutting-edge technology developed in the PORT: Interactive Tune Resource; the insights into Irish tradition in Canada in A Grand Time: The Songs, Music and Dance of Newfoundland’s Cape Shore; and of course, The Inishowen Song Project which is very close to her heart as a Donegal singer of renown. The team at ITMA and its users will continue to benefit from the skills, expertise and knowledge developed during such projects and I am delighted to say that Grace will continue in a new role here. Comhghairdeas a Grace. Rinne tú gaisce ar son TCDÉ.

I would like to thank the Board of ITMA for their faith and confidence in appointing me following a rigorous and thorough application process. I am conscious of how fortunate ITMA is to have such a committed, diligent and talented Board and that I am building on the success of founder and former Director, Nicholas Carolan, (now Director Emeritus), who developed the organisation since its foundation in 1987 until his retirement in 2015.

I derive great inspiration from the venerable line of collectors who have contributed to our collection in the past. The idea of a central archive for Irish traditional music goes back to at least the mid-19th century when George Petrie (1790–1866) in the aftermath of An Gorta Mór, noted that the “land of the song was no longer tuneful” and so established the Society for the Preservation and the Publication of the Melodies of Ireland [SPPMI] in 1855. With Petrie’s death in 1866, the activities of SPPMI ceased and it fell upon individual collectors such as Canon Goodman, P.W. Joyce and Captain Francis O’Neill to document traditions they believed likely to vanquish without trace. Breandán Breathnach’s collections and scholarly legacy continue to inspire ITMA.

For the most part, these collectors did not have the opportunity to focus solely on collecting and preserving Irish traditional music given their respective professional careers. Therefore, I feel hugely privileged to be given this opportunity at a time when there are unprecedented resources, opportunities and interest in Irish traditional music on both a national and global level, to fully commit to directing ITMA in delivering on the Board’s new Strategy.