Streaming Audio: Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, Reel 2 Side 1

For all our readers and researchers eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, we continue a series of blog posts featuring audio from the Joe Lamont collection. The open-reel audiotapes in Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings are a mix of live instrumental music—much of it from New York City’s Irish music clubs of the 1950s and 1960s—along with dubs of both published and unpublished 78-rpm discs. Compiled by fiddle player Joe Lamont (1905-1974), the collection is now digitized and is part of Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives.

Photo of reel-to-reel tape recorder

In nine audio clips, this blog post presents music digitized from reel 2, side 1. The corresponding portion of Lamont’s typed tracklist appears below each clip.

reel 2 side 1 tracklist

Lamont’s tracklist for reel 2 side 1, Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College


Reel 2, side 1, audio clip 1 (00:00 to 10:05)

  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle
    • My love is in America (aka My Love is on the Ocean) ; Kitty in the Lane (reels)
    • Pretty Peg (aka Bill Clancy’s Delight) (reel)
    • The Flogging (aka The Flagon) (reel)
    • The Foxhunter’s (slip jig)
    • The Traveller (reel) 

Lamont tracklist: reel 2 side 1 track 1


Reel 2, side 1, audio clip 2 (10:05 to 13:01)

  • Probably Patrick Cawley, fiddle
    • The Laird of Drumblair (composed by James Scott Skinner) ; The Miller o’ Hirn (composed by James Scott Skinner) (strathspeys)

reel2-side1-track2


Reel 2, side 1, audio clip 3 (13:01 to 15:38)

  • Michael Coleman, fiddle; Michael Walsh, flute; Arthur P. Kenna, piano
    • The Beauty Spot (aka The Tempting Spot); The Sunny Banks (aka The Flowers of Ballymote) (reels) (New Republic 2333 at reduced pitch and speed) 

reel2-side1-track3

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The Inklings

Whether the Transcendental Club of the 1830s boasting members such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau or the Bloomsbury Group of early 20th century London composed of Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes, literary circles have left their marks on the cultural landscape for centuries. Another such group was the Inklings. Formed in the 1930s, the Inklings were an informal literary group that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis – two giants of 20th century literature. They met for almost twenty years in C.S. Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College as well as a local pub in Oxford. They discussed their writings and read aloud their unfinished works. Members of the Inklings were some of the first to learn the fate of Frodo Baggins and the ring of power. While Burns Library has many holdings by Tolkien and Lewis (including a first edition of The Lord of the Rings) the purpose of this blog post is to explore some of the lesser known members of the Inklings and their accomplishments. These members include: Charles Williams, David Cecil, Nevill Coghill, Owen Barfield, and Roger Lancelyn Green. 

Image of cover of Charles Williams novel War in Heaven
War in Heaven 03-54709 KINGSLAND

Charles Williams (1886-1945) joined the inklings when he was forced to move from London to Oxford at the outbreak of World War II. He was the managing editor of the Oxford University Press at the time. It allowed him to share his final novel, All Hallows’ Eve, with the group. Williams and Lewis shared a great admiration after reading each other’s novels in 1936. Burns library has several books by Williams, including a proof copy of War in Heaven, a fantasy novel which takes place in modern times revolving around the reappearance of the Holy Grail. Our copy is part of the King’s Land collection, the personal library of Hillaire Belloc. Belloc was a novelist himself, and could have received an early copy of the book in order to write a review.

Lord David Cecil (1902-1986) was married to Mary MacCarthy, the daughter of Desmond MacCarthy – one of the original members of the Bloomsbury group. Virginia Woolf even attended David and Mary’s wedding and wrote about it in her diary. In 1939 Cecil began teaching at New College in Oxford and remained there until his retirement in 1969. It was during this time that Cecil was a member of the Inklings. One of his most famous works was a two-part biography of Lord Melbourne published in 1939 and 1954. Melbourne was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1835-1841. He also wrote biographies of William Cowper, Jane Austen and Charles Lamb. The Burns Library copy of Melbourne was published in 1965 and compiles both parts of the biography: The Young Melbourne and Lord M creating a complete story of Melbourne’s life. Our copy was owned by Flann O’Brien, the Irish novelist famous for his modernist works such as At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman.

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The Allure of Sea Shanties

Everyone is suddenly talking about sea shanties. With COVID-19, work from home has become the reality for many people; isolation and disconnection from the outside world resulting.  Perhaps that is why sea shanties, songs meant to be sung in groups while working, have taken over the internet. On TikTok, a video sharing social media platform, users can “duet” and add their own video on top of another user’s, creating long chains of users singing in unison.   “The Wellerman,” a nineteenth century New Zealand whaling song, has been especially popular I even find myself humming songs like, “Blow the Man Down” while I am pulling objects from the stacks. There is a reason for this. Though often confused, what differentiates “sea shanties” or “chanties” from “sea songs” is the context in which they were sung. There are three types of shanties: short haul shanties, which are to the tune of quick, rhythmic pulling; halyard shanties for harder, more time intensive pulling with breaks; and capstan shanties for sustained tasks that do not involve work on the lines (Draskoy 2009). 

The timing of sea shanties makes the repetitive tasks of pushing, pulling, and heaving together easier. Some sea shanty experts argue that sea shanties lose their meaning when not sung while doing manual labor, but I have to argue that what we need now more than ever, is something to take our mind off our work and troubles and come together in camaraderie. What worked for the 19th century whalers, just might work for us.

Album cover of Lou Killen's Sea Chanteys
Lou Killen’s Sea Chanteys (1973). M074/2000-1 LD0722  

If you, like my roommates, are tired of hearing “The Wellerman,” luckily enough the Irish Music Archives at Burns Library has plenty of other sea shanties and ballads that sailors would have also sung. Though most of us have not travelled in almost a year, the songs of the sea are uniquely relatable, as we, like so many whalers and sailors, are alone, in small crews, longing for connection with each other through a shared history.  

“Row, Bullies, Row” is a capstan sea shanty that tells the story of a man who goes on a drinking binge and is “shanghai-ed”, a fairly common former practice in maritime cities that involved incapacitating a man, kidnapping him, and sailing away with him, forcing him to be a (typically not well paid) crew member. The jaunty song tells of all the places the man sees in his forced labor “from Liverpool to ‘Frisco” in the tow of the “Liverpool judies.” Judies was originally Liverpool slang for girls, but came to be used on ships to refer to pleasant winds. Lou Killen’s version from his 1968 album Sea Chanteys fills the listener with pep and, naturally, the happiness to not be the unfortunate main character of the song. The song is a capstan shanty, meaning sailors wouldn’t have sung the song while hauling ropes, but instead while doing longer tasks on whaling ships, such as rowing (Hugill, 1984, 306). 

Illustration in book of men rowing on a small boat as a whale attacks them
Rowing on a whaling ship from Whale Ships and Whaling Scenes as portrayed by Benjamin Russel by Allan Forbes (1955). 03-44385 Boston

“Rolling Down to Old Maui” is not a sea shanty, but a forebitter, a song sung for pleasure, named for the ”forebits” of the ship on which the singers might sit while entertaining their crewmates (Hugill,1977,120). I found it on A.L. Loyd’s Leviathan!: Ballads and Songs of the Whaling Trade. The artist explains on the back of the record that the Pacific whalers would travel to Maui twice per year: in March and November, heading there from the bitter Arctic. The song carries the hope that Bostonians feel each March, looking forward to good weather and fun. As we come out of the woods of winter, the lines of “six hellish months have passed away in the cold Kamchatha Sea, but now we’re bound from the Artic ground, rolling down to Maui.” ring true. 

Album cover showing boat being capsized by a whale as sailors lunge for safety
A.L. Loyd’s Leviathan!: Ballads and Songs of the Whaling Trade. M074/2000-1 LD0761 

New England has a rich history in the whaling trade and as we listen to the songs the crews of whaling vessels may have sung, we can both accomplish our work and dream of far away lands as we continue to have hope for the future. 

–Erin Sheedy, Burns Library Student Assistant, Boston College Class of 2022

Sources Consulted:

Draskoy. A. (n.d). Shanties and Sea Songs. Retrieved March 1,2021  from http://shanty.rendance.org/what.php

Stan Hugill, Shanties and Sailors’ Songs (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969).

Stan Hugill, Songs of the Sea (Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill, 1977), 120. 

Stan Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 306. 

Harold Whates. “The Background of Sea Shanties.” Music & Letters 18, no. 3 (1937): 259-64.  Accessed February 12, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/727760

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Streaming Audio: James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, Reel 4

For all our readers and listeners eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, our audio series continues with reel #4 from the James W. Smith collection. The open-reel audiotapes in James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings primarily feature live instrumental music and song from the Boston area in the 1950s and 1960s. The box for reel #4 lists Paddy Cronin on fiddle, Frank Neylon on flute, and Gene Preston on flute. The accordionist heard on the tape is probably Mike McDonough.

Conversation on the recording among the musicians, mainly about the tunes, suggests an informal music gathering. Smith’s container label places the session at Frank Neylon’s house on Sunday, November 11, 1962. Sometimes all four musicians are playing; at other times smaller groups or solos can be heard.  

Reel boxes from the Smith collection

Digital audio from this open-reel tape is presented in 16 audio clips. In this collection, Smith’s container labels were the library’s initial source of performer information. Tune titles and additional insights are based on the library’s listening work, as well as on input from longtime faculty colleague and fiddle player Séamus Connolly.


Audio clips from Smith collection, reel 4

Reel 4, clip 1 (00:00 to 10:31) (music begins at 01:02)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: I Wish I Never Saw You — Eileen O’Callaghan’s ; The Galway Rambler ; The London Lasses — The Bag of Spuds — The Bucks of Oranmore (reels)


Reel 4, clip 2 (10:31 to 14:15)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Hare’s Paw (reel) — The Boys of the Town (jig)


Reel 4, clip 3 (14:15 to 16:37, from left channel)

  • Either Frank Neylon or Gene Preston, flute: unidentified reel — The King of the Clans (reel)


Reel 4, clip 4 (14:15 to 15:31, from right channel)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, and either Frank Neylon or Gene Preston, flute: The Green Mountain (reel) 


Reel 4, clip 5 (15:31 to 17:32, from right channel)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Blackbird (set dance)


Reel 4, clip 6 (17:32 to 22:12)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Girl Who Broke My Heart — The Connemara Stockings — The Mullingar Races (reels)


Reel 4, clip 7 (22:12 to 23:31)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle and either Frank Neylon or Gene Preston, flute: John McFadden’s Favourite (reel)


Reel 4, clip 8 (23:31 to 26:42)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, and Gene Preston, flute: The Morning Dew — The Reel of Mullinavat (reels)


Reel 4, clip 9 (26:42 to 28:55)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Woman of the House (reel)


Reel 4, clip 10 (28:55 to 30:52)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, and Gene Preston, flute: Rattigan’s (aka Larry Redican’s) (reel)


Reel 4, clip 11 (30:52 to 34:45)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Steampacket — Greig’s Pipes (reels)


Reel 4, clip 12 (34:45 to 36:26)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute: The Queen of May (reel)


Reel 4, clip 13 (36:26 to 48:32)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: Tom Ward’s Downfall — Music in the Glen — Down the Broom; The Gatehouse Maid — The Boys of Ballisodare — The Sally Gardens (reels)


Reel 4, clip 14 (48:32 to 50:11)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, and Gene Preston, flute: The Mountain Road (reel)


Reel 4, clip 15 (50:11 to 59:34)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Jolly Tinker — The Doonagore — The Dublin Reel — Paddy on the Turnpike ; Miss Thornton’s (reels)


Reel 4, clip 16 (59:34 to 01:00:37, from right channel)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle: Miss Langford’s (reel)


About the James W. Smith Collection

Each audio clip in this blog post is from audio file 99424_0000,  James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The sixteen audio clips above represent reel 4 from beginning to end. The audiotape is just over one hour long and contains unpublished music. Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape: abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch alterations. 

A native of Boston, James W. Smith (1929-1990) was the eldest child of Maitland Smith of Boston and Mary Monica (McDonagh) Smith of County Galway. They married in 1928 and settled in the Allston area of Boston. In the late 1950s and early 1960s James often hosted and recorded informal gatherings of Irish traditional musicians in the family home on Bayard Street. He occasionally played accordion and piano and his personal friends included flute player Gene Frain of Watertown. Smith’s collection of open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his sister, Mary Smith Duffy. Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

As we continue to learn about the Smith collection we are grateful for input received from a number of musicians including Séamus Connolly and Jimmy Noonan. Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts from the Smith collection. If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library


Sources Consulted

“Eugene Preston — Hall of Fame 2002.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/eugene-preston-hallof-fame-2005/. Accessed February 23, 2021.

“Francis G. Neylon.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_G._Neylon. Accessed February 23, 2021.

“Frank Neylon Hall of Fame 2000.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/frank-neylon-hall-of-fame-2000/. Accessed February 23, 2021.

Gedutis, Susan. See You at the Hall. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Henrik Norbek’s ABC Tunes.

“Michael McDonough — Hall of Fame 2004.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/michael-mcdonough-hall-of-fame-2004/. Accessed February 23, 2021.

“Paddy Cronin.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paddy_Cronin. Accessed February 23, 2021.

The Session.


Related Collections

Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings

Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music

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An Early Jack B. Yeats Stenciled “Broad Sheet”

Anyone who has seen one of Jack B. Yeats’s later paintings can easily recognize others. Same for his earlier watercolor work and his pen-and-ink sketches. The distinctiveness of Yeats’s style, along with his characteristic choice of subjects, have made him one of the most unmistakable and well-known Irish artists.

Yet, were average gallery-goers to encounter “A Broad Sheet,” they may not readily associate it with Yeats. The flat color fields and vaguely abstract forms, akin to scissored silhouettes, conjure up neither the cartoonist he was nor the expressionist he became. Observant viewers might nevertheless decipher the clever “JBY” monogram in the lower left corner, or take a clue from the title, both realized in reverse stencil.

Image of “A Broad Sheet” printed by Jack B. Yeats using stencils and watercolor paint
Jack B. Yeats, “A Broad Sheet,” 1901. Watercolor stencil on Japanese paper. 38 x 32cm. Box 19, Folder 1, Boston College Collection of Yeats Family Papers (MS.1986.054), John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Between 1902-1903, while living in Devonshire, Yeats produced a monthly series of broadsides, also titled A Broad Sheet, which combined verse with hand-colored woodcut illustrations, collaborating first with Pamela Colman Smith and subsequently with his wife, Mary Cottenham (“Cottie”). In 1908, Yeats helped his sisters, Susan Mary (“Lily”) and Elizabeth (“Lolly”), launch their Cuala Press in Dublin by supplying sketches and texts for a comparable periodical titled A Broadside.

Unlike those broadsides, this “Broad Sheet” and a few others like it were neither published nor sold. They seem to have been created as experiments without any particular end in view beyond the indulgence of Yeats’s ever-playful and bountiful imagination. Yeats biographer and critic Hilary Pyle (1994, p. 32) finds a reference to the project in a letter to his New York benefactor John Quinn dated 15 December 1902: “I had a weird thing called the Broad Sheet two years ago, just stencils that I used to print myself.”

Detail image of upper half of “A Broad Sheet,” printed by Jack B. Yeats.
Jack B. Yeats, “A Broad Sheet,” detail

We acquired our example from the 2017 Sotheby’s sale of the Yeats Family Collection (lot 182), and the faint, hand printed type slugs situated it within this exploratory period, offering a poetical creation date: “Midsummer 1901.”  In a cut-out space in the upper image, Yeats has penned a caption: “This Trout weighing all but half a pound was caught May 1901 ~ by a younger brother of Isaac Walton Esq”—a line cast toward a fishing fantasy mythological poem about a trout by his own brother, William Butler Yeats, “The Song of Wandering Aengus”? On the lower half of the sheet, Yeats has whimsically captioned an image of a fisherman imposed on a rough outline of northwest Ireland “The Fishman in the Orchard,” and a smiling sun on a swinging placard “The Jolly Signboard / Signboard for an Angler.”

Detail image of lower half of “A Broad Sheet,” printed by Jack B. Yeats.
Jack B. Yeats, “A Broad Sheet,” detail

Two copies of another experimental “Broad Sheet,” labeled “Number 2,” appeared in the second Yeats Family Collection sale held in 2017 (Fonsie Mealy, lot 677). Yet another example of a stenciled broadside, featuring a sailing skiff, survives at the University of Reading in the papers of Elkin Mathews, the London publisher and bookseller and friend of Yeats’s, who issued A Broad Sheet. The Yeats Archives at the National Gallery of Ireland includes an album containing numerous stencil paintings and cut-outs, as well as stenciled postcards and bookplates. Collectively, these compositional trials and ephemera witness a transitional period in Yeats’s artistic development, from line illustration through watercolor, presaging the oil paintings that have secured his enduring fame.

– Christian Dupont, Burns Librarian, John J. Burns Library

Sources consulted:

Pyle, Hilary. 2009. “Jack B. Yeats and the Stencil,” in Foley, Declan J., ed., The Only Art of Jack B. Yeats: Letters & Essays. Dublin: Lilliput Press. [ND497 .Y4 O55 2009 IRISH]

Pyle, Hilary. 1994. The Different Worlds of Jack B. Yeats: His Cartoons and Illustrations. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. [NC1479.5 .Y42 1994 IRISH]

Pyle, Hilary. 1970. Jack B. Yeats: A Biography. London: Routledge. [Accession: 12150156]

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Notes from abroad: the correspondence of Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster

I’m always on the lookout for material at Burns Library that shows different corners of the world, has an underrepresented viewpoint, or can be useful for classes. I’ve discovered travel writings can be a treasure trove when researching globalization and the interactions among different cultures. The correspondence and published writings of individual sight-seers or missionaries, with a smaller viewpoint than official government or diplomatic accounts, can reveal a lot about both the area the traveler is visiting, as well as the perceptions and prejudices of the traveler’s own culture. While I frequently reach towards the published travel writings in the Williams collection (with an introductory discussion with the students about the racism woven into most of these accounts of Europeans or Americans traveling in South America, the West Indies, and Africa), I was happy to realize we have a large manuscript travel writings collection as well.

One page handwritten letter in bound volume
The first letter in Volume 1 of Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster letters to George Dempster, MS1995-007

The Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster letters to George Dempster are 13 bound volumes filled with letters that Hawkins Dempster sent to her uncle, George Dempster, from 1864-1887. Though bound together, the letters are still the original handwritten manuscripts. The paper size varies from one letter to another, with the occasional telegram or program from a play interspersed within the volume. By the sheer volume and breadth of the correspondence, researchers can track Hawkins Dempster’s travel experiences, and what that says about both the places she visited as well as her own cultural perspective.

Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster was born in 1835 in Scotland, where she spent most of her childhood. After her father died in 1841, George Dempster, her uncle, adopted her and her siblings and became a lifelong correspondent with Hawkins Dempster. To avoid the ill effects of harsh Scottish winters, Hawkins Dempster began spending her winters in Nice, Paris, and Rome. Later, as an adult and writer, she traveled more extensively around Europe while continuing to send letters home to her uncle. After her death, her goddaughter compiled transcriptions of some of these letters into an autobiography, The Manners of My Time.

There is still a lot to be learned from the original correspondence, however, as the physicality of the letters themselves can carry additional information. Near the end of the second volume and the beginning of the third, there are a series of letters with a black border. Is this a sign of mourning? Has someone died? There’s no overt mention in the letters’ contents, but physical signs provide clues that provoke further research. In another occasion, a letter assuring George Dempster that Hawkins Dempster and her sister are well and were afraid their aunt would have been worried about them is reinforced by a telegram directly before it letting their aunt and uncle know that snow had delayed the mail for three days. Ephemera is also occasionally tucked in the letters. Ticket stubs and playbills offer glimpses into the entertainments Hawkins Dempster was pursuing in her travels. 

Handwritten letters with pasted in blue watercolor in right-hand corner
Artwork and ephemera can be found within the letters, such as this art in Volume 1 of the Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster letters to George Dempster

By being able to follow Hawkins Dempster and her travels for decades, these letters offer a research opportunity to get into the details of how a 19th century Scottish woman experienced the rest of Europe and what that reveals about both Europe and Scotland at the time. As we frequently discuss with classes, looking at a rich source such as this one and asking questions can lead into deeper research topics. Some questions that came to mind for me included:

  • What plays and music performances was Hawkins Dempster going to? 
    • What did popular culture for the well-educated Europeans look like at this time?
    • What themes (if any) can be found amongst these performances and what does that tell us about social or political dynamics this time period?
  • Health and illness, both of Hawkins Dempster and her family members, are mentioned frequently in her letters. 
    • What do these letters tell me about medical care? About social responses to illness?
    • What were common ailments in 19th century Europe?
  • What does physical travel and communication itself look like in Europe during this time period? How does it change from the beginning of Hawkins Dempster’s letters to the end? 
    • What modes of communication (telegrams, letters) are used and how/why does Hawkins-Dempster choose which mode of communication?
    • What modes of transportation are used, what are the relative speed and comfort in those modes, and how does Hawkins Dempster choose which mode of transportation?

These, and many other topics, could be explored within these sources. Other holdings in the BC Libraries could provide background and contextual information to explore the topics further, by searching for books written about 19th century European music and theater, by searching for a history of medicine, and reading more about the development of telegraph, rail and boat systems across Europe. 

To get started on this, or any other project on our holdings, you can make an appointment to view material in our reading room.

–Kathleen Monahan, Reference, Instruction & Digital Services Librarian

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Streaming Audio: James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, Reel 47

From Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives, we are excited to share music performed in the 1960s by members of the New State Ceili Band. The group’s name derived from being the resident band at Bill Fuller’s New State Ballroom at 217 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Music by the band can be heard on the audio clips from reel 47 of the James W. Smith collection. Smith’s box label lists band members Paddy Cronin, Eamon Flynn, Mike McHale, Frank Neylon, Des Regan, and George Shanley. Another regular band member, Sean McGlynn, may also have been one of the performers on the tape. The melody players are joined by guest pianist Mary Irwin; Eddie Irwin may have been another guest piano player. In addition to the full band, the tape includes members’ solos and duets, with piano accompaniment throughout.

Smith's reel tape boxes
Boxes of open reel tapes in the Smith collection (photo by Shelley Barber)

This post presents digital audio content from reel 47 of the Smith collection in seven audio clips. The open-reel audiotapes in the collection James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings primarily feature live instrumental music and song from the Boston area. Also included in the collection are dubs of published 78-rpm discs.

Smith’s labels on the reels and reel boxes were the initial source of performer information. Additional insights are based on the library’s listening work as well as on input from longtime faculty colleague and fiddle player Séamus Connolly.


Audio clips from the Smith collection, reel 47

Reel 47, clip 1 (00:00 to 27:27)

  • New State Ceili Band: reels, jigs, and marches


Reel 47, clip 2 (27:27 to 28:58)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle and Mary Irwin, piano: “Pigeon on the Gate” (reel)


Reel 47, clip 3 (28:58 to 30:52)

  • Probably Mike McHale, flute, Frank Neylon, flute, and Mary Irwin, piano: “Rattigan’s” (aka “Larry Redican’s”) (reel)


Reel 47, clip 4 (30:52 to 33:21)

  • Des Regan or Eamon Flynn, accordion and probably Mary Irwin, piano: “Mulhaire’s #9” composed by Martin Mulhaire (aka “The Rising Sun”) and “The House on the Hill” composed by Martin Mulhaire (aka “Seamus Thompson’s”) (reels)


Reel 47, clip 5 (33:21 to 36:20)

  • New State Ceili Band: “The Ash Grove” and “The Gentle Maiden” (waltzes)


Reel 47, clip 6 (36:20 to 38:54)

  • New State Ceili Band: “Paddy Kelly’s” and “King of the Clans” (reels)


Reel 47, clip 7 (38:54 to 43:00)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle and Mary Irwin, piano: “Pretty Peg,” “Pigeon on the Gate” and “Lord Gordon” (reels)


About the James W. Smith Collection

Each audio clip in this blog post is from audio file 99425_0003, James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The seven audio clips above represent reel 47 from beginning to end. The side is 43 minutes and 43 seconds long and contains unpublished music. Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape: abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch alterations.

A native of Boston, James W. Smith (1929-1990) was the eldest child of Maitland Smith of Boston and Mary Monica (McDonagh) Smith of County Galway. They married in 1928 and settled in the Allston area of Boston. In the late 1950s and early 1960s James often hosted and recorded informal gatherings of Irish traditional musicians in the family home on Bayard Street. He occasionally played accordion and piano and his personal friends included flute player Gene Frain of Watertown. Smith’s collection of open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his sister, Mary Smith Duffy. Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

As we continue to learn about the Smith collection we are grateful for input received from musicians Séamus Connolly, Tommy Sheridan, Mike McHale, Eamon Flynn, and Colin Kadis. Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts from the Smith collection. If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library


Sources Consulted

“Eamon Flynn — Hall of Fame 2005.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/eamon-flynn-hall-of-fame-2005/. Accessed January 25, 2021.

Gedutis, Susan. See You at the Hall. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Henrik Norbek’s ABC Tunes.

“Mary Irwin — Hall of Fame 2007.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/mary-irwin-hall-of-fame-2007/. Accessed January 25, 2021.

“Mike McHale.” Mid-Atlantic CCÉ Hall of Fame. https://www.cce-ma.com/mike-mchale. Accessed January 25, 2021.

“Sean McGlynn.” Mid-Atlantic CCÉ Hall of Fame. https://www.cce-ma.com/sean-mcglynn. Accessed January 25, 2021.

The Session.


Related Collections

Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings

Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music

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Community Connections: Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College records, 1875-1941

Printed in red and blue on white paper are the words Sound Instruction by Recognized Experts; Rates Low; Service Highest Grade; Open to Men and Women
Detail of a 1922 flyer advertising YMCA courses, Box 13, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
several printed tickets, each good for one string of bowling
Bowling tickets, Box 11, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

The YMCA of Boston College was not “the” YMCA, nor was it an official part of Boston College. It organized in 1875 when Boston’s Catholic newspaper, the Pilot, published a letter from Boston College President, Robert Fulton, SJ, proposing the organization and inviting the involvement of area Catholics. He intended it to be an alternative to the popular, Protestant, and evangelical Young Men’s Christian Association. With an initial membership of about 200, it provided social and educational opportunities. These included dramatic and musical productions, debates, lectures, and athletic contests. For example, during the bicycle craze of the late 19th century, it had an active cycling club known as the “Fulton Wheelmen,” after the president of both BC and the YMCA of BC.

BC’s campus – then in Boston’s South End neighborhood – consisted of two main buildings – the college building and the adjoining Church of the Immaculate Conception. Both offered spaces for YMCA members’ use, including the library, gym, meeting, and recreation rooms. The Association reciprocated over the years by raising money to provide academic prizes for students and donating funds to the school. For spiritual benefit, YMCA members all gathered annually for a retreat during Holy Week at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

The gymnasium, reproduced from “Brochure of Boston College and Its Associations,” Feb. 5, 1894, YMCA records, box 16, folder 5, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.  

Lawyer and Black activist Robert Morris (1832-1882) lived near the campus and attended the Church of the Immaculate Conception.. Morris had a lifetime membership to the YMCA, and his son, Robert Morris Jr., was among its first elected officers – Librarian. In 1895, the Morris’ books were left to the Church of the Immaculate Conception by Robert’s widow Catherine; he majority of this library is now at the Burns Library.

“Brochure of Boston College and Its Associations,” Feb. 5, 1894, YMCA records, box 16, folder 5, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. 

Eventually, “College” was dropped from its name, and the Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston moved to its new headquarters (a property provided by BC) and its numbers grew. Its annual reunion, referred to as the “college ball” was a highlight of the city’s social season for many years. The collection’s scrapbooks include ephemera from these events, including tickets and programs, which sometimes include members’ portraits and biographical sketches.

From the Association’s beginning, lectures were offered to members. Evening classes, taught by volunteers, were added in 1910, with business and vocational offerings – along with Catholic Philosophy. By 1914, there were 25 paid instructors and an enrollment of 2,600. In 1923, lay women were first admittedand earned credits toward degrees from the BC School of Education. The YMCA’s evening school was eventally well known to local Catholics for civil service test prep courses.

collage of photographic portraits of fourteen individuals with their names
“COLLEGE BALL” BEAUTY SCENE.: FIVE HUNDRED COUPLES IN GRAND MARCH. ABOUT 3000 ATTEND ANNUAL CATHOLIC REUNION. MANY HANDSOME GOWNS ADD TO EFFECT. SOME OF THE PROMINENT FIGURES IN THE COLLEGE BALL LAST EVENING.” Boston Daily Globe, Mar 03 1908, p. 1. Newspaper clipping, Box 11, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. 

Ursula Magrath (1875-1930), an East Boston native, was affiliated with the YMCA as an instructor for over 20 years. At the time of her death, she supervised civil service and grammar classes. Magrathwas also the first woman to earn a degree at BC – a master of arts in 1926. 

The collection consists of meeting minutes, scrapbooks, publications, and ephemera, dating from 1874-1941. Included with the publications are the programs and ephemera of the annual College Ball, including information about YMCA officers and members, along with material about courses, and career and trade preparation. To use the collection, visit Burns Library,  see our access plan for details.

A group of 26 men and women, posing on the steps of the YMCA.
Ursula Magrath, pictured with the YMCA Board of Government and Instruction Staff, Box 11, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
  • Shelley Barber, Reference & Archives Specialist, John J. Burns Library

List of works consulted:

15th Annual Reunion (pamphlet), Mechanics Building, Entitled: “Brochure of Boston College and its Associations”, 1894 February 5, box 16, folder 5, Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.  

Davis, Laurel, and Bilder, Mary Sarah. The Library of Robert Morris, Antebellum Civil Rights Lawyer & Activist, Law Library Journal 111, no.4 (2019): 461-508. 

https://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/l6ucgu/bc_law_commonslsfp-2158

Dunigan, David R. A History of Boston College. Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co., 1947

https://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/l6ucgu/ALMA-BC21331562780001021.

Fulton, Robert J. to the Pilot concerning the formation of a Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston, and Pilot article transcriptions, 1875, Box 1, Folder 6, Robert Fulton, SJ, President’s Office Records, BC1986-020B, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

https://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/l6ucgu/ALMA-BC21331143280001021

“FUNERAL OF VETERAN BOSTON TEACHER: ASSOCIATES PAY TRIBUTE TO MISS URSULA MAGRATH.” Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960), Oct 08 1930, p. 11. ProQuest. Web. 22 Dec. 2020.

O’Sullivan, Joseph F. “The Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston,” The Stylus, vol. 19, no. 5, 6 Febraury 1906, pp.8-11. newspapers.bc.edu.

“URSULA MAGRATH, 30 YEARS TEACHER, DEAD: ON STAFF OF EAST BOSTON HIGH 20 YEARS LATER FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF PRACTICE AND TRAINING.” Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960), Oct 04 1930, p. 2. ProQuest. Web. 22 Dec. 2020.

“Young Men’s Catholic Association, ‘A harmless recreation,’” p. 40-43. Birnbaum, Ben, Meehan, Seth, author, and Gilbert, Gary Wayne, illustrator. The Heights: an Illustrated History of Boston College, 1863-2013. Chestnut Hill, Mass.: Linden Lane Press at Boston College, 2014.

https://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/l6ucgu/ALMA-BC21439786030001021

Young Men’s Catholic Association of Boston College Records, BC2001-074, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

https://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/l6ucgu/ALMA-BC21313146000001021

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Streaming Audio: Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, Reel 9, Side 2

Photo of reel-to-reel tape recorderFor all our readers and researchers eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, we continue a series of blog posts featuring audio from the Joe Lamont collection. The open-reel audiotapes in Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings are a mix of live instrumental music—much of it from New York City’s Irish music clubs of the 1950s and 1960s—along with dubs of both published and unpublished 78-rpm discs. Compiled by fiddle player Joe Lamont (1905-1974), the collection is now digitized and is part of Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives.

This blog post presents the entire content of reel 9, side 2 in eleven audio clips. Where possible, the corresponding portion of Lamont’s typed tracklist appears below each audio clip.

Lamont's tracklist for reel 9, side 2

Lamont’s tracklist for reel 9 side 2, Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 1 (00:00 to 01:15)

  • Sean Quinn, fiddle
    • The Lark in the Clear Air (slow air)

Lamont's notes for audio clip 1


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 2 (01:15 to 04:53)

  • Louis Quinn, fiddle and Sean Quinn, fiddle
    • The High Level; The Banks (hornpipes)

Lamont's notes for audio clip 2


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 3 (04:53 to 06:50)

  • Louis Quinn, fiddle
    • The Silver Vale; Unidentified tune (jigs) 

reel9-side2-track3


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 4 (06:50 to 12:08)

  • Sean McGuire, fiddle and probably Eileen Lane, piano 
    • Paddy O’Carroll’s (aka Brennan’s Favourite); The Idle Road (aka Falls Road) (jigs) (Copley CEP9-20)
    • McDermott’s; Mason’s Apron (reels) (Copley CEP9-20)

reel9-side2-track4


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 5 (12:08 to 14:07)

  • Unknown musician, accordion
    • Garrett Barry’s (jig)
    • The Yellow Tinker (reel)

reel9-side2-track5-sansname


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 6 (14:07 to 15:12)

  • Paddy Killoran, fiddle
    • Down the Broom (reel)

reel9-side2-track6-rev


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 7 (15:12 to 16:25)

  • Unknown musician, accordion
    • The Yellow Tinker (reel)

Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 8 (16:25 to 17:33)

  • Paddy Killoran, fiddle and either Louis or Sean Quinn, fiddle
    • Farrel O’Gara’s (reel)

reel9-side2-track8


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 9 (17:33 to 24:50)

  • Probably Paddy Killoran Club, various instruments
    • The Frieze Breeches (jig)
    • The Plains of Boyle (hornpipe)
    • The Maid Behind the Bar (reel)
    • The Newport Lass (aka The Trip to Athlone) (jig)
    • Gannon’s (hornpipe)

reel9-side2-track9


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 10 (24:50 to 26:49)

  • Pete Reilly, whistle
    • The Skylark; The Fermoy Lasses (aka The Humours of Mackin) (reels)

reel9-side2-track10


Reel 9, side 2, audio clip 11 (26:49 to 31:12)

  • Probably Paddy Bán O’Sullivan, fiddle
    • Paddy on the Turnpike; George White’s Favorite (reels)
    • Seán sa Cheo (aka Jack in the Fog) (reel)

reel9-side2-track11


About the Joe Lamont Collection

Each audio clip in this blog post is from Audio file 99570_0001 (reel 9), Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The eleven audio clips above represent reel 9, side 2 from beginning to end. The side is 31 minutes and 12 seconds long and primarily contains unpublished music. The library-assigned reel number (in this case, “9”) is in the upper right corner of the tracklist.

Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape: abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch alterations.

An emigrant from Co. Derry, Lamont began working for the New York City Transit Authority in 1927. As a fiddle player he was actively involved in establishing clubs for Irish musicians in his adopted city. He brought his reel-to-reel tape recorder to live events; he also used it to dub sound discs onto reels. His personal collection of 60 open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his nephew James Lowney.  Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts about the Joe Lamont collection.  If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

— Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library

Sources Consulted

  • Dalton, Ciarán. “The Sullivans of Baltygarron, Spa, County Kerry.” In Ardfert by the Sea: A Memoir of Traditional Music, Musicians and Dance from Ardfert, County Kerry, c. 1900-2000, 32-39. Fenit, Co. Kerry: Caherard Publications, 2009.
  • Henrik Norbeck’s ABC Tunes
  • Lamont, Joe. Spoken remarks to Ciarán Mac Mathúna, circa 1962.  Box 29, Folder 76, Séamus Connolly Papers, Series II.A, IM.M064.1999, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
  • O’Sullivan, Paddy.  Spoken remarks to Ciarán Mac Mathúna, circa 1962. Box 29, Folder 76, Séamus Connolly Papers, Series II.A, IM.M064.1999, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
  • The Session
  • McGraw, Ted. “Sean Maguire – 45 EP’s” (accessed November 17, 2020), http://www.tedmcgraw.com/Maguire_45s.html
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Meaningful symbols from a new Burns class format

In early October, Burns Library hosted our first hybrid class, Prof. Lisa Kessler’s Introduction to Digital Art, which normally meets synchronously online. Some local students volunteered to come in person and work with original format materials, and we paired them with other students working remotely with scans of the same materials. We are happy to report that this led to some of the most engaged partner work we’ve experienced as Burns Library instructors, as the students needed to work together to figure out what they were looking for and at. After a few distanced – and very quiet – classes, the chatter brought back a sense of normalcy to our session.

To facilitate students’ introduction to symbolism, we focused on the wide variety of bookplates available in Burns’ collections in a range of images and styles of illustrations. After introducing the history and function of bookplates, we helped them recognize symbols in the bookplate illustrations and think about how those symbols might work to communicate concepts.

After working with volumes, bookplates, and woodblocks with us in Burns Library, the students went to Bapst Art Library to review reference works about symbols. Prof. Kessler asked them to capture 20 intriguing symbols from various sources in anticipation of writing their design proposals for two tarot cards that incorporate symbolism and visual references in order to convey a complex meaning or tell a story.

In a new twist to showcasing this class’s student artwork, we also have most of their proposal language telling us a bit more about the reasoning behind the design. We really enjoyed seeing how their initial ideas became reality, and think you’ll enjoy them as well!

–Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services and Engagement, Burns Library

ANN ZHANG

Wheel of Fortune (left):

The Eight-Diagram tactics represents a tool for ancient Chinese augury. It is surrounded by the 12 Chinese zodiac animal patterns since prophet will ask his/her guest about their zodiac symbol to predict the future. There is also a yin yang symbol in the middle which represents Chinese philosophy of dualism, meaning that different and contradictory things are interrelated and give rise to each other. The whole picture is the wheel of fortune, it’s mysterious and unpredictable. 

The Homesicker (right)

Chinese mid-autumn festival is the day when family members gather together. This is a self-portrait while I was feeling homesick and couldn’t go back home due to COVID-19 and travel restriction. I was hoping that a rabbit will come down from the moon and use its magic to take me home. Rabbit is a spirit animal for mid-autumn festival and is also my zodiac sign. It is the sign of luck for me. 

DAVID SHEN ‘22

“The Hanged Man” (left) represents a figure viewing the world from a different, and possibly more correct, perspective than everyone else; the triangles on the border represent the change, while the main subject is the only one with open eyes, suggesting that the subject has a unique insight.

“The Tinkerer” (right) uses the symbol of spirals as a representation of creation, as well as the spider in the corner to symbolize creativity and growth. The paper cranes, a symbol of good fortune and happiness, foreshadows the coming joy and success after the figure has persisted through failing so many times.

WENYING (ELEANOR) TAO ‘21

The Magician (Right) & The Companion (Left)

The traditional Chinese style of representing the magician and companionship. Left, the background showing Chinese symbols of four seasons, representing the seasonal changes and persistence of the relationship. 

Right representing the connection between earth and heaven. Five basic elements on the bottom represent the earth in Daoism (fire, bamboo, water, gold, soil). Heaven in Daoism is emptiness; so the white represents the ultimate emptiness in heaven. 

GREG BORMES ‘21

The Hanged Man tarot card (left) transports hanging as corporal punishment into a 21st-century American context, where mass incarceration has made the spirit, rather than the body, the object of punishment. Specific symbols include a thin blue line to represent the American policing system, an inverted American flag formed by the bars of the cell, and handcuffs that frame the image. 

The Soul Searcher tarot card (right) represents the process of looking inward to identify the aspects of oneself to portray in a self portrait. The main figure is looking inside a shape inspired by a Sierpiński triangle. I used Celtic and Norse symbolism to represent different aspects of myself, including a Celtic ailm, Celtic knot, Norse valknut, and an eagle. 

JULIA KRAUS ‘21

I took inspiration from the many easily-identifiable symbols representing death and academics. I love incorporating bright colors in my work. So, particularly with the death card, I worked to meld my own personal aesthetic with the traditional meaning of the death tarot card. 

MARIANA FERREIRA ‘21

I chose to create two tarot cards based on my real life-understandings of two concepts: “The Older Sister,” (left) and “The Hermit.” (right) The hermit I created embodies a more modern rendition of “a hermit” that aligns closely with younger generations’ attachment to social media and technological devices, and the resulting detachment from the outside world and from natural imagination. 
“The Older Sister” comes from a very personal understanding of what it means for me to be an older sister to my two siblings, each of us rooted in our same heritage, yet particular in our own ways as we continue to grow into ourselves.” 

MARIANA JIMENEZ MUNOZ ‘21

Butterfly tarot card (left)

Butterflies are very powerful as they represent life and transition. They are a metaphorical representation of rebirth and this is why there is a baby behind the butterfly. 

After the butterfly is born, it grows as a beautiful animal and represents beauty and hope. This is also why the butterfly has a beautiful blue color. 

Fool Tarot card (right)

The fool for me represents humans and how they believe they are at the center of the universe. 

They are foolish as they think that nothing will ever happen to them and they see themselves as on top of the world. Because of this, the human is lying down on a very top hill without acknowledging that they might fall. 

Sarah Al-Mayahi ‘21

The World  (left)

The World is often portrayed as one woman, but in this Tarot card, the World is comprised of three women. They are all physically and spiritually intertwined in an attempt to represent the beauty and love the world emanates.  

The Balance (right)

This self-portrait aims to describe the characteristics of a Libra. The Libra is both level-headed and indecisive, and has a love for nature. There is both order and disorder, which is exactly what the Libra encapsulates. 

SOPHIA MILLER ‘23

In the Fool (left), the fool’s hat and the elephant balancing on the ball represents goofiness and entertainment. In the Heritage (right), the crane symbolizes happiness and youth, the cherry blossoms represent renewal, and Mount Fuji is just a classic representation of Japan.

HAOYI WANG ‘23

The symbolism I incorporated into my two tarot cards are quite different. For my self-portrait, “The Musician,” (left) I wanted the symbols to be a representation of me and of music. I used music notes as symbols to represent the flow of music. The spiral symbol on the music stand represents my growth as a person through music. For “The Lover,”(right) I used masks as a representation of the pandemic and how the pandemic has affected love and the demonstration of love.

CAREL CHOK ‘24

ALEXANDRA KREBS ‘21

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