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Séamus Connolly papers

Collection IM-M064-1999: Séamus Connolly papers


  • Creation: 1929 - 2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1957 - 2013

Scope and Contents

The Séamus Connolly Papers document aspects of the music career of Irish traditional fiddle player Séamus Connolly. All materials were donated by Séamus Connolly. The collection highlights Connolly’s career as a performing artist as well as his commitment to preserving Irish traditional music through teaching and community outreach.

The collection includes various printed materials, including posters, fliers, and press clippings; manuscripts, including music-related correspondence; field recordings; photographs; art and artifacts; and ephemera. The field and commercial recordings feature many well-known traditional musicians from Ireland and the United States. Twenty-five percent of the collection consists of published material, such as commercial recordings.

The oldest item in the collection dates back to 1929. Eamonn and Alice Cronin gave Séamus Connolly a gold medal won by Johnny McMahon at the 1929 Thomond Feis in Limerick. The majority of the materials date from the late 1950s onward.


Language of Materials

The majority of the materials are in English with some materials in Irish.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. Digitized versions of original recordings are available for Burns Library Reading Room use. Some audio and video items may not be immediately available due to formatting issues.

Copyright Restrictions

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Séamus Connolly, a world-renowned Irish traditional musician, performer, teacher, and collector, was born in 1944 in Killaloe, Co. Clare, Ireland, and he began to play the fiddle in 1956. He won ten All-Ireland solo fiddle championships, including both junior and senior division titles in 1961 and the senior title in 1963. Additional honors include the Sligo Fiddler of Dooney Competition in 1967, and four Oireachtas duet titles with flutist Peadar O Loughlin. As a young man, Connolly played with several prominent bands including the Kilfenora Céilí Band, the Inis Cealtra Céilí Band, and the Leitrim Céilí Band, which in 1962 won the senior céilí band All-Ireland title.

Connolly immigrated to the United States in 1976 and settled with his family in the Boston area, where he quickly became a recognized leader within New England’s Irish traditional music community. He taught fiddle classes for Boston’s Hanafin-Cooley Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, and co-hosted the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann weekly radio show with fiddle player Larry Reynolds. Connolly received numerous distinctions for his work as a performance artist, teacher, tradition bearer, and community leader within the international Irish music traditional community. He received a Fellowship in Traditional Arts from the Massachusetts Arts Council in 1990, and three master/apprenticeship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1990-1993) for teaching Irish traditional music. In 2002, Connolly was inducted into the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Northeast Region Hall of Fame, was named the Irish Echo’s traditional artist of the year. He also received the Master Music Maker award for lifetime achievement from the Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, North Carolina.

Connolly has recorded two solo fiddle albums, Notes from My Mind (1988, remastered 2006) and Here and There (1989), as well as the critically-acclaimed The Banks of the Shannon (1973, reissued 1993) with Paddy O’Brien and Charlie Lennon, and Warming Up (1993) with Martin Mulhaire, Jack Coen, and Felix Dolan. All in all, Connolly has been involved with nearly 30 albums. In addition to performing, recording, and composing, Connolly has contributed significantly to Irish traditional music education and preservation throughout the United States.

Connolly’s music career at Boston College began in 1990, when he was recruited to work with visiting ethnomusicology professor Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin in coordinating the Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival. Joining the Boston College Music Department shortly thereafter, Connolly developed the Irish Music, Song, and Dance Program within the Irish Studies Program. Further collaboration between Irish Studies and the Music Department produced a festival of sean-nós song in 1991 and a Celtic harp festival in 1992. Connolly founded the Gaelic Roots festival as a weekend event in 1993 and expanded it to a week-long event in 1997 through 2003. In this endeavor he was advised and assisted by his wife Chrysandra Walter. The Gaelic Roots Festival evolved into the Gaelic Roots Music, Song, Dance, Workshop and Lecture Series, and Connolly continues to play an integral role in building the Irish Music Archives at the Burns Library. The Center for Irish Programs publicly recognized Connolly’s contributions to the university in 2004 by awarding the chair and title, Sullivan Artist in Residence in Irish Music at Boston College.


Hitchner, Earle. “From Prodigy to Preservationist.” Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2011.

-----. "Séamus Connolly, Top Trad Musician of '02." The Irish Echo LXXVI, No. 3 (2003): 28.

Vallely, Fintan. The Companion to Irish Traditional Music. 1st ed. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1999.

-----. The Companion to Irish Traditional Music. 2nd ed. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2011.


69.75 Linear Feet (103 containers)


This collection documents the musical activities and career of Irish traditional fiddle player Séamus Connolly. The collection includes field recordings, correspondence, press clippings, publications, photographs, awards, and artifacts. It also includes research notes and materials collected by Connolly on Irish traditional music.


This collection is arranged in nine series: I. Teaching, performance, and community activities; II. Digitized audio field recordings; III. Video field recordings; IV. Published audio recordings by various artists; V. Correspondence; VI. Music-related research and teaching materials; VII. Photographs; VIII. Material culture; and IX. Source audio field recordings.

The teaching, performance, and community activities series is divided further into four subseries: A. Posters, brochures, advertisements, and programs; B. Articles about Séamus Connolly's music career; C. Materials about students, events, colleagues, and family; and D. Memorials and obituaries of colleagues.

Digitized audio field recordings is divided into two subseries: A. Digitized audio from sound tape reel compilations; and B. Digitized audio from sound cassettes.

Both analog sound discs and digital discs are included in the published audio recordings by various artists series.

Correspondence is divided into two subseries: A. Personal and music correspondence; and B. Boston College correspondence. Music-related research and teaching materials is made up of three subseries: A. Music notebooks, sheet music, and teaching notes; B. Essays, articles, and other documents; and C. Promotional material: music institutions, education programs.

Photographs is composed of eight subseries: A. Séamus Connolly; B. Personal life, friends, and family; C. Events and performances; D. Séamus Connolly's students; E. Boston College events; F. Boston area events; G. Professional portraits; and H. Photographs of other musicians.

Material culture has three subseries: A. Awards; B. Musical instruments; and C. Medals, trophies, and plaques. Awards is further subdivided into three sub-subseries: i. Fleadh certificates; ii. Other certificates; and iii. Medals, trophies, plaques.

Source audio field recordings has four subseries: A. Compilation reels; B. Unedited source reels; C. DATs; and D. Cassettes.


Gift of Séamus Connolly, 1999-2013.

Related Collections

For more information, including streaming audio of Séamus Connolly, visit the library guide:

Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival Collection, IM.M003.1990, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

CCÉ North America Collection of Irish Music Materials, IM.M104.2001, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Gaelic Roots Festival Collection, IM.M070, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Gaelic Roots Music, Song, Dance, Workshop, and Lecture Series Recordings, IM.M071, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Séamus Connolly Papers
1929-2013 (bulk 1957-2013)
Deanna Malvesti, 2013; Rachel Banke, 2012; Amanda Cavanaugh, 2011; Stewart Harris, 2011. Managed and reviewed by Elizabeth Sweeney, 2011-2013. Completed
May 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States