Welcome to Furls of Music, a digital exhibition based on sound recordings made by Leitrim flute player, Michael McNamara from 1959 to the mid-1990s.

In 2019 Michael McNamara generously donated his field recording collection, 83 audio reel-to-reels and 46 audio cassettes to ITMA, to be digitised, preserved and shared with the traditional music community. Furls of Music is a celebration of Michael’s generosity, and how digital technology is ensuring the work of early field recording pioneers is shared, and safely preserved for future generations.

From the 83 audio reel-to-reels and 46 audio cassettes, we have selected 70 sound recordings which highlight the richness of the collection. Michael’s home-place in Carrickavoher, Aughavas, Co. Leitrim sits in a heartland of traditional music, song, and storytelling, so neighbours and friends from south Leitrim feature prominently in the exhibition. Of special note are recordings of John Blessing, the noted flute player and neighbour of Michael’s who was to play a significant role as a musician and friend.

In 1956 a new musical world opened up to Michael and his sister Josephine. Success for the young flute player and singer at fleadhanna brought invitations to perform nationally and to join bands. Furls of Music reflects this aspect of Michael’s life with recordings of some of the bands in which he played, songs from his highly-respected sister Josephine, and other musicians he encountered during his music-filled life in Ireland and abroad. 

Of course Michael’s influence on his own family is part of our story. Michael and his late wife Mary had five children, Brian, Ray, Ciaran, Enda and Deirdre, all of whom play music. 

We are especially indebted to Brian McNamara who has worked enthusiastically with ITMA to curate this project, and provided much of the text and information you will read throughout the exhibition. 

The aims of the Irish Traditional Music Archive are to collect, preserve, organise and make accessible the materials of Irish traditional music. In 2018 ITMA was awarded a grant from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to develop a new long-term digital preservation strategy for its sound collections. Thanks to this funding, The Michael McNamara Sound Collection will be preserved and accessible to future generations of the McNamara family, the people of Leitrim and traditional music communities at home and abroad. 

Furls of music

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Furls of Music, speech in English / Michael McNamara, speech in English