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Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music

Collection IM-M082-2007: Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music


  • Creation: circa 1935-2003

Scope and Contents

This collection of recordings includes impromptu music sessions that took place in the Muise home in Boston. The recordings document a segment of traditional Cape Breton and Irish music making from circa 1956 through circa 2000. Many of the recordings were made by Johnny and Mary Muise at their home in Dorchester and, later, Roslindale. The collection also includes other recordings from unknown sources. The instrumentation includes fiddle, piano, banjo, and "clappers," as well as singing. Performers include Mary "Gacie" Edmonds Muise on piano, Ron Gonnella on fiddle, Eddie Irwin on piano, Jimmy Kelly on banjo, Sally Kelly on piano, Bill Lamey on fiddle, Betty "Aunt Liz" Maillet on piano, Johnny Muise on "clappers," Johnny Wilmot on fiddle, Janine Randall on piano, and many others.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. Open reel tapes and audiocassettes are restricted (boxes 2-6). All open reel tapes have been reformatted, and digital versions are available for use in the Burns Library Reading Room. All audiocassettes have not yet been reformatted, but can be upon request. Note that there may be a delay in availability of digitized versions.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Johnny Muise (1923-2005) was born in Boston and was raised in the Inverness area of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. After enlisting in the Canadian army as a teenager during World War II, he returned at age 20 to Massachusetts, where he worked as a union bricklayer as well as in other trades.

One of five sisters, Mary "Gacie" Edmonds Muise (1926-2014) was born in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, to Mary Margaret Cameron and Robert Edmonds. Margaret MacNeil Cameron Maillet, Mary Margaret’s mother, grew up in Scotch Hill, Margaree, Nova Scotia, settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and relocated to Digby, Nova Scotia, with her second husband Mr. Maillet. Robert Edmonds’s parents were from Co. Kerry, Ireland and Prince Edward Island.

Betty Maillet, Mary Margaret’s half-sister and “Aunt Liz” to Mary, was born in Boston and learned piano from the Irish nuns at St. Patrick’s School in Roxbury before moving with her parents to Digby, Nova Scotia. She subsequently learned Cape Breton traditional music through her mother’s family connections in Scotch Hill, Margaree, Nova Scotia. In the 1930s she recorded professionally for Decca Records with the Inverness Serenaders. Whenever Maillet would visit the Edmonds family in Boston, Mr. and Mrs. Edmonds would invite traditional Cape Breton musicians to gather and play music in their Boston home. The Edmondses acquired a piano specifically for her visits, and with "Aunt Liz" as a role model, young Mary learned to play piano by ear, as well as to step dance. Mr. and Mrs. Edmonds both died in their thirties and the five daughters were raised by their paternal grandmother.

Mary Edmonds and Johnny Muise married in 1951 and settled on Neponset Avenue in the Dorchester area of Boston. The couple acquired a piano, and, by the mid-1950s, they were hosting impromptu music sessions, some of which were occasioned by the visits of Betty Maillet. In 1965, Mr. and Mrs. Muise moved from Dorchester to Roslindale. From the mid-1950s through the mid-1990s, they hosted many informal house sessions of Cape Breton and Irish traditional music. Mary was an accomplished pianist, and Johnny made an effort to record the music, first on open reel audio tapes and in later years on audiocassettes.

The eldest of Mr. and Mrs. Muise’s four daughters, Janine Randall was born in 1953. An accomplished pianist, Randall learned piano and step dancing from her mother. She received a bachelor’s degree in business management in 1983 from the Woods College of Advancing Studies at Boston College, and went on to attain a master’s degree in education from Curry College. In 1996 Ms. Randall co-founded the Ceilidh Trail School of Celtic Music in Inverness, Cape Breton.


Janine Randall, personal communications with Elizabeth Sweeney, 2007-2015.


5 Linear Feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection consists primarily of field recordings of Cape Breton and Irish traditional music performed by various musicians in the Boston area, as recorded on home recording equipment by Johnny and Mary Muise. Included are informal music gatherings and social events that took place in the Muise home in Dorchester (1951-1965) and Roslindale (1965 and later), as well as concerts and other gatherings. Some of the audio recordings also contain published material.


The collection is arranged in two series: I. Open Reel Tapes; II. Audiocassettes.


Gift of Janine Randall, 2007-2015.

Processing Information

The Burns Library worked with Janine Randall to identify performers, venues, and dates of music on digitized versions of the open reel tapes. The information about the audiocassettes was transcribed by the library from the audiocasette labels, and has not been verified as matching the audio content.



Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music
circa 1935-2003
Elizabeth Sweeney, Jack Kearney, and Bill Kelson
October 2015
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