The Irish Traditional Music Archive have publicly released previously unheard recordings of the legendary Sligo fiddle player, Michael Coleman (1891-1945). The acetate disc recordings were privately made in 1942, in the New York home of his fellow Sligo fiddle player, James ‘Lad’ O’Beirne (1911-1980). Gifted to Galway accordionist Joe Burke by Lad O’Beirne in the 1960s, the two discs have been personally safeguarded by him since that time. ITMA was entrusted by Joe Burke with the professional digitisation and preservation of these unique Michael Coleman recordings in the months before Joe himself sadly passed away. With the added blessing of Lad’s son, Jim O’Beirne, they have now been preserved for future generations to freely enjoy.
The Coleman recordings are part of ITMA’s growing collection of Sligo masters recorded in New York. Other acetate recordings made in Lad O’Beirne’s home during the 1940s have been recently donated to ITMA by Mick O’Connor who, in turn, received them from Mrs Kathleen Harrington (née Gardiner). Highlights from the previously unheard Michael Coleman recordings, as well as other recently digitised tracks featuring Lad O’Beirne, Andy McGann, Louis Quinn, Martin Wynne and Tim Fitzpatrick, were broadcast recently on the RTÉ Radio 1 Rolling Wave programme. They are now also freely accessible on the ITMA website as part of a blog written by ITMA Director, Liam O’Connor.
He states: “Michael Coleman is regarded by many as the most influential Irish traditional musician of the 20th century. From an archival perspective, to have these vulnerable and fragile acetate discs safely preserved, digitised and made accessible to the public is very satisfying. The recordings highlight the enduring artistic excellence of these exceptional performers, and remind us of the deep cultural and musical connectivity between Ireland and the USA.”