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Release date: Feb. 15, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or

"Roots And Branches" Concert A Highlight Of Emory Scots-Irish Symposium

WHO Northern Irish ensemble Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra, folk band the Georgia Mudcats, traditional mountain folk group Nonesuch, fiddler Maggie Holtzberg
WHAT A concert "Roots and Branches: The Scots-Irish Heritage in Music, Song and Dance"
WHEN 8:15 p.m. Saturday, March 3
WHERE Cannon Chapel, 515 Kilgo Circle, Emory
COST $12.50 general admission in advance, $15 at door, $5 for symposium registrants and students with i.d. Tickets go on sale Friday, Feb. 16. For more information or to order tickets, call 404-727-5050.

The most noted musicians in Northern Ireland’s Ulster Scot tradition will share the stage with some of Georgia’s finest traditional performers in a March 3 concert closing a day-long Emory University public program on Scots-Irish history and culture. "Roots and Branches: The Scots-Irish Heritage in Music, Song and Dance" will be presented by the W.B. Yeats Foundation of Emory University at 8:15 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.

The concert will cap the Yeats Foundation’s program, "Ulster Roots/Southern Branches: A Symposium on the Scots-Irish Heritage of Northern Ireland and the American South." The symposium will present several of the most eminent scholars in Scots-Irish studies from both sides of the Atlantic, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Emory’s Miller-Ward Alumni House, located at 815 Houston Mill Rd., on the Emory campus. The concert will illustrate the symposium’s theme of indigenous cultural continuity between Ulster and the Southern United States. For more information on the symposium, call the W.B. Yeats Foundation at 404-727-6180.

From Northern Ireland, members of the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra will perform a sampling of poetry, music and song from the Ulster Scot tradition. Featured will be John Trotter (fiddle, accordion, Highland bagpipes, vocals), Willie Drennan (fiddle, tin whistle, bodhran, wee Lambeg, vocals), Laura Sinnerton (viola, fiddle, unaccompanied singing), Eleesha Drennan (fiddle), Alan Niblock (double bass), and Bob Speers (folksinger/songwriter/guitarist).

The Georgia Mudcats, a band hailing from the north Georgia mountains, will further demonstrate how the traditional music and song of Ulster folk were preserved in modified forms by their descendants in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Mudcats Lisa Deaton, Joel Cordle, Tom Ryan, Patrick Shields, and David Swanson play fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and bass fiddle. Their recordings are played on American radio stations and on Northern Ireland’s BBC network, where they also performed a live concert during their 1999 tour of Ireland.

Other performers in the concert will include Nonesuch, a traditional mountain folk group headed by Atlanta fiddler/singer Barbara Panter, and Celtic fiddle virtuoso Maggie Holtzberg, director of folklife programs for the Massachusetts Council for the Arts and one of the symposium scholars.

The Ulster Scots are the descendants of mostly Protestant Scottish people enticed by King James I to settle in the north of Ireland during the Ulster Plantation period starting in the early 1600s, thus sparking centuries of conflict with the displaced Catholic native Irish. Beginning in the early 1800’s, hundreds of thousands of the Ulster Scots’ progeny immigrated to America, where they are known today as the "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish."

Until recently in Ireland not much attention was given to their music traditions. That seems to be changing. "Ulster Scots music has been going through a tremendous revival in Northern Ireland in recent years," says Willie Drennan. The recently formed Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra is taking this musical expression to a more professional level. "There is a growing curiosity throughout the island of Ireland in Ulster Scots tradition," Drennan says. "The orchestra has been booked for a festival in Limerick in late March."

The symposium and concert provide a cultural bridge between Ireland and the United States, according to Drennan. "Along with the growing interest in Ulster, of our roots, comes a greater awareness of the important role that the Scotch-Irish have played in the formation of the USA," says Drennan. "We’re certain that our involvement in this Scotch-Irish symposium will open many doors that will lead to a greater musical understanding of Ulster-American cultural links. This will create an ideal platform to explore the common emotions in the music and to examine how the differing styles have evolved."

The program receives financial support from Emory University, the Georgia Humanities Council, the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Ulster-Scots Agency.

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